Mangroves on the Move

A major international initiative to channel support into coastal ecosystem projects has taken a crucial step forward with the first meeting of the six countries and numerous international organisations involved in a new initiative entitled the “Mangroves for the Future” (MFF). The meeting took place at the UNDP headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand.

Despite the name, the initiative is targeted at all coastal ecosystems, not just mangroves, and seeks to improve the sustainability of people’s interactions with them.

Chaired by IUCN and UNDP the initiative is being supported by the Clinton Foundation, UNEP, CARE, Wetlands International, FAO, other agencies and organisations from the six participating countries.

Although international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were involved in the meeting, Nature Seychelles was the only national NGO from any of the participating countries represented, with Mathew Harper, the organisation’s communication and education coordinator, in attendance.

“The voice of national NGOs in all of the relevant countries is crucial to the success of the initiative. There needs to be a huge bottom-up drive by non-state actors to transfer intent into real actions. Governments can facilitate and provide the enabling environment but the tipping point for change is usually generated by civil society” said Nature Seychelles’ CEO Nirmal Shah.

Involvement in the initiative marks a geographical about-face for Nature Seychelles and the rest of the country’s stakeholders, as the new partnerships being formed focus on the eastern Indian Ocean, rather than Seychelles’ more usual partners on the ocean’s west coast. But the Asian aspect of the Mangroves for the Future initiative is not likely to preclude liaisons with traditional partners in the western Indian Ocean islands and on the African mainland.

“Our involvement at the initial, formative stages of this important international project will allow us to act as a testing ground for expansion of the initiative into the East African region,” said Mathew Harper. The islands will serve as a demonstration site which could later be replicated in other Indian Ocean islands or the African mainland.

The meeting also provided a forum for the establishment of new links for the organisation, in a region of the world previously outside Nature Seychelles’ focus.

“Talking to other country representatives at the meeting proved both that there is very limited knowledge about Seychelles in that area of the world, but also that there is a definite interest to learn more about the country and the work of Seychelles’ environmental organisations,” said Matthew Harper.

The MFF initiative received large amounts of international press and public attention at the time of its launch in 2005 by former US President Bill Clinton. The international spotlight has now moved on to actual implementation. One of the first tasks ahead of the MFF participants will be to raise the profile of post-tsunami coastal rehabilitation work.

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