First regional workshop
7 May 2002
Closing speech by Joern Kristensen, Chief Executive Officer, Mekong
Ladies and Gentlemen
This has been an intensive and rich meeting, reporting on six months of
work. The presentations of the field studies and national assessments
of experience have been very impressive indeed. The discussions and working
groups have produced a wide range of useful ideas and suggestions, which
will add greatly to the review outputs.
In fact, so much ground has been covered that it is difficult to summarise
all issues. However, I have identified some points, which stood out in
As I mentioned in my opening speech, this meeting on protected areas
is as much about development as it is about conservation, and it is clear
that protected areas, already recognised as conservation assets, are becoming
a part of the development strategies for all countries in the region.
A fundamental shift is taking place from viewing these areas as isolated
pockets of rare and endangered species, to see them as centres of development
- which provide services and products essential to the growing economies.
A second point is that we need to understand and express these values
in economic terms. They need to be promoted and marketed, since this is
the only way they can effectively be integrated in the national accounts
and socio-economic development plans.
While we want to increase demand for protected areas products and services,
we need to ensure that the uses of them are sustainable and appropriate.
To do this we must conserve, maintain and enhance the natural capital
held in protected areas, as this will bring the greatest development returns
over the long term.
To achieve this, higher levels of investment are needed following the
guiding principle of "let the user pay". Whether users are government
sector, private sector or even local communities - if they use protected
area services or products, they should pay for the privilege.
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Vision for the development of the Mekong River Basin is an "Economically
Prosperous, Socially Just and Environmentally Sound Basin". Considering
this goal we are rightly worried about what happens to local communities
in this new business of protected areas management. We must avoid a situation
in which those least able to compete become the losers. We need to have
systems of support, subsidies and compensation to local communities living
around protected areas. Revenue going to manage and safeguard protected
areas must also safeguard and enhance the well being of the people in
It was concluded that it is especially difficult to apply the "user
pays" principle in upstream - downstream relationships between those
managing natural assets and users. For example, where rural communities
conserve watersheds so urban centres downstream are supplied with clean
and reliable water. The further away from a protected area the user is,
the more difficult it is to get them to pay up for the benefits they receive.
But, this is changing and it requires both regulation and economic incentives
to work. In international situations, it requires commitment to international
agreements. The Kyoto Protocol on climate changes was mentioned as an
example, and the potential for trading in carbon storage.
Finally, the existing protected areas systems require comprehensive national
policy and legal frameworks that clearly define responsibilities, categories
and uses, and the linkages with development sectors. Equally important
is the need to adjust those systems to ensure they fulfil their purpose
in covering representative and viable samples of all our natural systems
and habitats. This will require all sectors embracing regimes of protection
as an essential part of their own development strategies.
These were but a few of the many important issues, which I gained from
your presentations and discussion. They provide a framework and philosophy
to guide the review.
Where do we go from here? As explained this morning, the next steps involve
the preparation of national reports setting out policy options for consideration
by governments; a second round of national meetings, and a second regional
workshop. As I mentioned when opening this meeting, the analysis and the
final regional report will feed into the MRC Basin Development Planning
process, and will be important in helping to shape Basin Development Plan.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I can say without hesitation that this first regional workshop has been
a success. I thank you for your hard work and congratulate you on such
a productive outcome. I look forward with great interest to the national
review consultations, but most important, I look forward with pleasure
to seeing you again at the second regional workshop to consider the regional
On this note I have the honour to close this first regional workshop
on "Review of Protected areas and development in the Lower Mekong
Thank you for your kind attention.
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Review of protected areas and their role in socio-economic development
in the four countries of the lower Mekong River region
page updated: 29/05/02