Global NGOs Seek to Scale Up Marine Ecosystem ProjectsCatch of the Week
With billions of dollars already invested in a variety of water resource programs in the Asia and Pacific region, particularly in Southeast Asia, organizations involved in these projects now aim to build a resource of learnings that would allow successful water resource projects to be replicated in other locations across the region.
Many of these projects were established by organizations such as the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Partnerships in Environment Management for the Seas of Southeast Asia (PEMSEA), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), and the World Bank (WB).
Several organizations recently met at the GEF regional workshop on “Transforming Good Practices from Demonstration Projects into Scaled-Up Investments and Financing in Integrated Water Resources and Coastal Management,” which took place last 10 March to 15 March 2014 in Manila.
The discussions looked into long-term sustainable projects that can be replicated across the region.
One topic that arose during the 3-day discussions was about bringing in private sector participation. Private investments in large marine ecosystems (LME) and integrated coastal management (ICM) projects could be pivotal in long-term sustainability. More than for the sake of environmental responsibility, the private sector, composed mainly of commercial industries, can also benefit extensively from these projects. In fact, it was stated during the GEF that investing in water resources management is “just good business.”
“Water resource projects sustainability and the elements of their success go far beyond government management and the assistance they get from international organizations. The private sector has as much involvement in maintaining the environment, particularly water resource,” according to Mishal Hardenberg Hamid, GEF Project Manager for the International Waters: Learning Exchange and Resource Network (IW:LEARN).
“Just about every industry needs water; in agriculture, fisheries, manufacturing, energy production, even tourism. Protecting this valuable resource would provide a good supply of water and other materials, which are important economic benefits. These investments would also build partnerships that will bring other organizations to be part of these long-term sustainability projects.”
Nancy Bermas, Senior Country Program Manager for PEMSEA underscored the benefits of having private sector engagement and investment into water resources management. In her report, most of PEMSEA’s ICM projects have been successfully implemented, particularly in the Philippines.
Some of these locations were started under a public–private partnership (PPP) that had corporations investing as part of their combined corporate social responsibility initiative and business asset continuity.
Two of these successful PPP partnerships are the Batangas Coastal Resources Management Foundation (BCRMF) that was supported by First Gen and Malampaya Foundation. This particular project engaged in artificial reef monitoring, mangrove rehabilitation, marine protected area management, and biodiversity conservation.
Another successful PPP-led project is the Bataan Coastal Care Foundation (BCCF), which had the support of Ayala Land, Petron, San Miguel, and the Philippine Ports Authority, among others.
Like the BCRMF, the BCCF also engaged in coastal governance and environmental management of Bataan’s coastline.
In these cases, the companies also had direct benefits because the areas they are supporting are also where they have some of their business assets located. As such, the core benefits of protecting these coastal areas also extend to their business as well.
According to Bermas, one of the goals of the PEMSEA is to bring together companies with corporate social responsibility programs, organizing them to distribute the support they can give to coastal ecosystems that need management.
Meanwhile, private organizations engaged in coastal management programs are also in the best position to improve the overall management skills of local government executives and community leaders who are the actual targets of these programs. Corporate implementers have skilled people who can also provide direct, onsite training to partner institutions as well as local residents.
Directly involving these skilled implementers can improve the capabilities of local leaders and residents to implement the projects on their own as well.
Khristine Custodio, project manager and ICT specialist for GEF IW:LEARN, said there are high-tech, software-based tools that can improve the management skills of project implementers. These tools can help locals provide accurate statistical data that improve information management capabilities within a given project area.
IW:LEARN’s online applications provide visual tools, website hosting, and technical support, as well as a community collaboration platform specific to water resource management and information exchange network.
“We’ve worked with ADB and the WB in having these tools utilized by water resource project planners and managers. We’ve not had any implementations of these ICT tools with the private institutions yet but we’re now in discussion with a major IT company for project monitoring and assessment,” Custodio said.
According to GEF’s Hamid, the recent forum has already encouraged the LME and ICM project managers to look into bigger partnerships with private organizations. These collaborations would be crucial to replicate successful water resource management projects in other areas across the Asia Pacific and the Southeast Asian region.
“It’s all about how people would benefit from these programs from clean water, food security, and just about anything about global environmental benefits. People can also learn from these engagements and have better understanding about the advantages of having a protected environmental ecosystem to people’s way of life,” Hamid said.