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The inception workshop for the Our Protected Planet: Strengthening the Information Base in Asia project was held over two days at the Lotte City Hotel in the Mapo District of Seoul, Republic of Korea from the 28th to the 29th of March 2012. Representatives attended from various ministries in China, the Republic of Korea and Japan, from IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and Secretariat, and from UNEP-WCMC. The meeting was conducted in English and was chaired by Charles Besançon from UNEP-WCMC.
DAY 1: DEVELOPING A COMMON UNDERSTANDING
The first day focused on developing a common understanding of the conservation standards, the WDPA, the current situation in Asia, and the protected areas within each of the three countries, through a series of presentations by participants.
DAY 2: NATIONAL ACTION PLANNING
The second day involved reviewing the work plan of the project and discussion of the national process in each country, through country representatives beginning to formulate their national action plans. The potential to roll the project out of other ongoing commitments, the key challenges and next steps, were also discussed.
The workshop represented a key way to bring together the different countries and key partners involved in the project, developed a common understanding of the project and protected areas in the region, and initiated project implementation. The workshop highlighted that the current information in the WDPA for China, Japan and the Republic of Korea has significant gaps both in terms of the number of protected areas and missing information. The project therefore is needed to rectify this situation, with the WDPA acknowledged to represent a common language for protected areas information.
Countries recognised that the project and this workshop enables them to bring problems to the attention of their countries, and improve both their national databases and the use of conservation standards. It also represents an opportunity for in-country agencies to work together, which is often not occurring within the countries.
From the workshop participants were able to learn about each other’s protected area systems, and while countries have their own characteristics, there are essentially the same challenges to solve, and all the countries have issues. Communicating and sharing information on how these issues can or have been overcome is important. Many of the issues that were raised both for countries and for the WDPA are similar to ten years ago, and thus it is hoped that this project can assist in actually overcoming some of these. The project also enables countries to consult with IUCN Asia on how to solve these issues. The national workshops will be a key place for solutions to the main challenges to be identified and overcome.
The project was agreed to be a good opportunity for Asian countries to strengthen their partnerships, and Japan in particular expressed that it hoped that the Asia Parks Congress in 2013 will further strengthen and expand these partnerships to the whole Asian region. IUCN affirmed that the Asia Parks Congress continues to grow in strengthen and will be a key event, as well as the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju in September 2012.
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