ILC Asia's cross-country initiative on ecosystem restoration has kicked off with the objective to strengthen the partnership between ILC members and gain a deeper understanding of the issue. On 26 March, 16 ILC member organisations representing seven countries in South, Southeast, and Central Asia, held a virtual inception workshop to launch the regional platform and develop a work plan for the year.
ILC's platform on locally-managed ecosystems is a response to the growing climate crisis and the socio-economic challenges that may have arisen from the crisis. Using community- and ecosystem-based methods fosters a community's environmental and social resilience and prepares it to respond to natural disasters as well. However, such methods can also transform local politics, especially when inequitable vulnerabilities and access to power are coupled with jurisdictional and land tenure issues.
ILC members agreed that the platform's shared goal is to strengthen the tenurial security of communities as a way to ensure and recognise their efforts in ecosystem management. This will be done by documenting case studies and advocating government policies and programs through people-centered land governance.
Bridging partnerships towards a common goal
Participants emphasised that in order to achieve the common goal, one key strategy that the platform must pursue was to expand its network and engage with international partners such as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, IFAD, FAO, ICCA Consortium, and many more. On this note, ILC members KAFLU and RDF gave the example of their recent involvement with local communities in Kyrgyzstan in managing biodiversity-rich forests, particularly the walnut forests, which are home to those that depend on the forest for their livelihoods.
As part of the platform's key activities, RDF further proposed an idea to document the experience of the resilience of local communities in Asia in managing ecosystems during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, the lack of an eco-sustainable local community model (eco-circular economy) has led to an economic and political crisis, psycho-emotional and physical degradation of the indigenous population in Asia. The pandemic, while temporarily yields a positive impact on natural ecosystems due to the decreased emissions caused by lockdowns, has however affected the livelihoods of local communities in many ways such as income loss, business impacts, and health concerns.
The project is expected to explore decision-making and response mechanisms to emergencies at the local community level in the region. It aims to highlight the intergenerational and traditional knowledge of community survival during calamities, while document the capacities, infrastructure, and resources available to ensure community resilience in times of disasters.
In conclusion, participants agreed that the vitality and diversity of Earth’s ecosystems are the basis of human prosperity and well-being. In order to pursue policy recommendations that uphold community-led ecosystem restoration at the national level, ILC members emphasised the need to use ILC's three pillars in pursuing a common goal: connect, mobilise, and influence. By connecting with local communities and regional allies, building the capacity of ILC members and documenting good practices, the platform can play a key role in placing conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems at the heart of decision-making.