Nature-positive Interventions in Asia’s Wetlands Pushed, More Investments on Adaptation and Resilience Crucial in Post-pandemic Growth

The wetlands in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAA Flyway) provide crucial habitats for over 50 million waterbirds and support livelihoods of millions of local people. Yet, these Asia’s wetlands are under immense pressure from unsustainable development. Finance for nature-based solutions for sustainable wetlands management is critical to growth and recovery, especially in a future that sees more climate challenges and pandemics.With this in mind, the Asian Development Bank in partnership with BirdLife International and the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP), recently launched the Regional Flyway Initiative (RFI). Targeted to mobilize large-scale financing for the protection of coastal wetlands in the Flyway and develop investment-ready projects in priority wetland sites, it is seen as the first initiative of its kind in the region and likely in the world.

The unique approach ensures strategic implementation of viable projects and programs with long-term nature-positive financing, enhancing wetland biodiversity conservation and optimizing climate and other co-benefits including livelihood.

To deepen the engagement of stakeholders, the RFI partners hosted an Inception Workshop from 6 to 7 December. With more than 150 stakeholders present from different sectors, the Workshop gathered significant inputs toward the development of the site selection framework and understanding of key capacity needs for the management, and protection of wetlands as well as assessment of ecosystem services. The Workshop aimed to:

  1. Update on key project deliverables, and its implementation and timeline.
  2. Discuss with stakeholders on a framework to identify priority wetland sites in the countries of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway (EAA Flyway)
  3. Consult stakeholders on key capacity needs for the management and protection of wetlands, and the assessment of ecosystem services

<Day 1>

Day 1 workshop started with welcoming remarks from representatives of three co-hosts, Mr. Bruno Carrasco, Director General of Sustainable Development & Climate Change Department at Asian Development Bank, Ms. Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International, and Mr. Robb Kaler, Chair of EAAFP.  Under Session 1 “Capacity Needs for Sustainable Wetland Management in the EAA Flyway” presentations were made covering human-driven threats and knowledge gaps in evidence-based conservation, case sharing of Thailand’s implementation on the conservation of migratory birds, perspective on RFI linking with tackling climate change, to fulfill commitments of Ramsar parties and sustainable development goals, capacity and needs of local communities, and challenges in site managements. Dr. Taej Mundkur, Senior Technical Officer of Wetlands International, presented the evidence-based approach to management and restoration of coastal wetlands with a case study of the North Manila Bay in the Philippines.

All participants were then divided into breakout groups according to their background (public, non-profit and private sectors) to discuss key capacity gaps for wetland protection and priority actions to fill these gaps. After the breakout group reporting, Mr. Duncan Lang from ADB and Dr. Gary Allport from BirdLife International summarized the key takeaways from Day 1 and finished the first day of the workshop.

<Day 2>

The second day commenced with Session 2. “Developing a Framework for Prioritizing Wetland sites in the EAA Flyway”. The session presentations covered technical issues, including Paulson Institute’s presentation on the Blueprint for sustainable wetlands management, and RFI site selection framework and key considerations in the selection of priority wetlands sites.

Session 3 “Measuring the co-benefits from wetland ecosystem services” started with a study on remote-sensing and spatial analyses of the loss of coastal wetlands in Asia, followed by introduction of Toolkit for Ecosystem Service Site-based Assessment (TESSA) for measuring the ecosystem services of wetlands.

Another breakout session brought participants together to discuss the extent of knowledge of wetland ecosystem services in countries, share success stories in how knowledge of ecosystem services has guided management practices and discussed challenges and ways to overcome these challenges. After the breakout reporting, Ms. Patricia Zurita, CEO of BirdLife International, gave the final presentation on the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) as a good model in guiding the development of the sustainable financing mechanism of the RFI.

Mr. Duncan Lang summarized the workshop and introduced the next steps of the RFI. The workshop ended with closing remarks from Dr. Qingfeng Zhang, Chief of Rural Development & Food Security (Agriculture) Thematic Group & OIC-Chief, Environment Thematic Group at Asian Development Bank, Dr. Nick Davidson, Chair of EAAFP Technical Sub-committee, and Mr. Vinayagan Dharmarajah from BirdLife International.

The RFI was unveiled barely about a month ago at two important United Nations environmental conferences: Convention on Biological Diversity COP 15 (11-15 Oct 2021 & 25 Apr-8 May 2022, Kunming PRC) and UNFCCC’s COP26 (31 Oct-12 Nov, Glasgow UK), allowing key ideas and momentum to feed into the Inception Workshop. This sets the ground for knowledge sharing and building of partnerships for the sustainable management of key wetlands in Asia, which are necessary in shaping our shared future.

The Workshop carried the dialogues forward with the support of ADB’s developing member countries and stakeholders,  hopefully leading to: (i) strategic data-gathering; (ii) robust analytical work particularly in estimating co-benefits (if possible, with verifiable economic valuation); (iii) meaningful and action-oriented engagement of stakeholders (including potential investment partners); and (iv) innovative and inspiring messaging and knowledge sharing.

For more details on the workshop and copies of the presentations, please refer to [Workshop Programme].

[RFI Inception Workshop Day 1]

[RFI Inception Workshop Day 2]

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