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The Lower Mekong River Region


Second regional workshop

Phnom Penh, 17/18 October 2002


Closing comments
Busabong Thephasdin, Director of Environment Division, Mekong River Commission

This has been a very rich and fruitful meeting of the PAD review teams. In fact it completes a very exciting and productive twelve months of intensive activities in our four countries reviewing PAD issues. For me the concept of PAD or "Protected Areas and Development" provides us with an essential bridge between our economic and conservation aspirations. And the idea of a PAD partnership emphasises the linkages and relationship between the two.

The PAD review has been concerned with bringing our national systems of protected area in from the dark - and having them recognised as vital development assets, to be properly and fully valued in economic planning. Only in that way is their future assured. The benefits protected areas provide to the development sectors must be understood and recognised. Only then will they receive appropriate levels of investment for their conservation.

The eight PAD reports will be coming out by the end of this year. The four national reports will then enter government for further consideration and implementation.

I would urge each of the four governments to work out now the arrangements for having your report properly followed up. I like the idea being discussed in Vietnam of a special inter-sectoral PAD task force for the purpose. In Cambodia, I know that the PAD core group convened regularly by the Ministry of Environment has been very active and would be the appropriate vehicle for taking their report further. The key will be to continue the involvement of the economic planning body in each country and the main development sectors.

The reports have recommended strategies for each sector. So, ways will need to be found of working with each sector to help them express these recommendations within their own programs and budgets.

It will be the responsibility of the MRC to pick up the regional report and fold it into the Basin Development Plan process. I can see that will require a commitment to continue these very valuable regional technical meetings of protected area specialists so that you can have an ongoing role in shaping the Plan. It is also very important that the report be taken on board as part of Greater Mekong Development Planning. Myanmar and China have been observers in the PAD review meetings, and I believe that all of the PAD issues and strategies are as relevant to them as they are to the four countries of the Lower Mekong.

So each government and various regional organisations will need to ensure that the PAD concept and the review recommendations do not fade away. I think it is of special importance to our development over the next decade or so that we build on the review and continue to promote the principles it has defined.

I also think that the partnership formed for the purposes of the review should continue. It is that productive chemistry between bilateral and multilateral development agencies, the leading international conservation organisations and the governments, which has been led to such practical and innovative results. We should ensure that a range of priority activities are continued under the banner of the PAD partnership over the next few years.

To finish, I would like to make three suggestions on what should go into that PAD program:

First, I would like to see the series of economic valuations studies covering high priority groups of protected areas continue. These studies are of special value as a training ground, as a mechanism for bring the PA and economic planners together in the field, and as a way of producing economic information on PAs which can influence the development planning process.

Second, I would like to see a number of demonstration or pilot projects mounted in each of the four countries to test a landscape approach to PA planning and management within their development context. Those pilots would focus on high priority groups of PAs and their surrounding landscape. The Western Complex of PAs in Thailand and the Southwest cluster of PAs in Cambodia are two locations where these demonstration projects could be located. I like the idea of a trust fund being established for each complex or cluster to help fuel the process and to get appropriate planning and management arrangements in place.

Third, at least one key sector in each country should be supported in preparing and implementing a plan which defines its approach to protected areas. This might be fisheries, water resources or tourism, for example. The plans would be based on the PAD review findings and directions. These sector initiatives would also be a form of demonstration activity for applications throughout government.

Finally, regional exchange and consultation on PAD issues and on integrating PAD concerns into the Basin Development Plan need to receive continuing support. As director of the MRC environment division, I regard the PAD review as one of our most important activities over the past year, and I want to see it continue.

So they are just a few ideas based on your rich discussions.

I would like to thank all the international organisations for their strong technical and financial support in helping the governments and the MRC in undertaking the review.

I thank you for your hard work and look forward to our meeting again soon as part of another phase of the PAD program.