Inputs to the SAP
NECESSITY OF REGIONAL CO-OPERATION
The environment continues to degrade despite actions taken to date
Legal obligations under the MEAs
State of the environment
Transboundary problems and impacts
Prevent waste of scarce financial resources by preventing duplication of actions
Ensure co-ordinated and effective approaches
Regional co-operative instruments and mechanisms for marine environment protection need to be strengthened in order to reverse environmental degradation trends in the South China Sea. Until recently, instruments and mechanisms for regional marine environmental co-operation in the South China Sea area have neither been extensive nor well developed. At the present, a number of sub-regional agreements or soft laws have been developed and numerous bi-lateral agreements have been entered into force, but there exists no overarching regional agreement or convention governing the marine environmental management in the South China Sea.
The necessity to strengthen regional co-operation in marine environmental management in the South China Sea derives from both ecological consideration and legal obligations under global environmental conventions. Ecologically, the region is an interdependent ecological system, with indivisible ecological wholeness. Fish and other migratory species do not recognise national boundaries, and the loss of endangered species in one area has not only regional but global significance. Due to the inherent conflict between the indivisible ecological system and man-made national boundaries, countries must co-operate to meet challenges to protect and manage the shared ecological system. Legally and politically speaking, countries bordering the South China Sea have ratified numerous global conventions with relevance to marine environmental management. These conventions specify member countries obligations to participate in or strengthen regional co-operation in addressing common environmental problems.
From the results of the second national consultation workshops convened under the UNEP/GEF South China Sea Project, the majority view is that existing regional co-operative mechanisms are not adequate to deal with transboundary environmental problems in the South China Sea. Consequently, there is a clear consensus that all countries agree on the necessity to strengthen formal inter-governmental regional co-operation.
OBSTACLES TO REGIONAL CO-OPERATION AND PROPOSED SOLUTIONS
Despite the necessity to promote formal inter-governmental regional co-operation, the national consultation identified some common obstacles to strengthen existing mechanisms or forge new mechanisms for regional co-operation. These identified obstacles include:
financial constraints; continued long-term financing;
lack of understanding of the root causes of regional marine environmental problems;
Lack of consideration of long-term impacts;
inability to predict the impacts of future threats;
lack of a regional and global perspective;
lack of respect and recognition of regional expertise among some high-level decision-makers;
lack of a regional political consensus;
lack of a regional network and mechanism for action;
lack of understanding of the benefits of regional co-operation
A FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT
Statements of general principles and policies
Strategic Action Programme
Sub-regional and bi-lateral agreements
Characteristics and Elements for Inclusion
The recommended framework instrument must be functional and effective in resolving environmental problems and fostering strong regional cooperation and coordination of appropriate cost-effective actions. The framework instrument must include, inter alia:
Sound science. The use of sound science must be incorporated into policy-making processes and underpin decisions to foster ecological and economic soundness.
Ecologically effective actions. It is increasingly recognised that many laws, policies and actions are ineffective in terms of ecological improvements. Ecological ineffectiveness also results in waste of scarce financial resources. Ecologically effective actions must be based on sound science and not on perceptions or political considerations.
Cost effective actions.
Economic valuation. Economic valuation of environmental goods and services as a tool for sound development planning.
Knowledge-based decision-making. This entails gathering all relevant information for the purpose of making effective decisions. Studies indicate that working toward a consensual knowledge-base for decision-making purposes improves the effectiveness of decisions and it also improves cooperation.
Consensual knowledge-base. Promoting and building a consensual knowledge base (a base of information that the parties agree is applicable) facilitates cooperation and decision-making processes. This is particularly true where progress on regional cooperation is stalled or slowed due to complexities or uncertainty surrounding the issue.
Communication. The lack of effective vertical and horizontal communication has been identified as a serious impediment to effective cooperation.
Periodic assessment and review and revision or instruments or actions as required. Significant amounts of money and valuable resources are wasted due to the failure to assess or review laws, policies, mechanisms and measures to ensure they are effective or even implemented. Where assessments indicate problems, it is imperative that revisions are undertaken.
Adaptive management. This provides a flexible approach that allows for the inclusion of new information.
Areas for co-operation
Areas of cooperation: data & information management and exchange; sharing experience, including pilot activities
1. Establishment and management of regional database
2. to identify and collect data & information in the areas of:
marine and coastal legislation, regulation and institutional arrangement and coordination related to the analyse of the contents of the Draft National Action Plan from the Perspective of the Regional Strategic Action Programme
ratified international and regional conventions & agreements on marine and coastal issues to find out the similarities and differences of all countries involved for Regional Cooperation perspectives
scientific and technical data and information, including monitoring data, economic data related to marine and coastal environment
experts and institutions in the region
experience of each country, including pilot projects that can serve as models
3. Exchange of data, information and experience
4. Regional prioritisation of environmental issues
The coastal States should cooperate on a sub-regional or regional basis to identify and prioritize regional and transboundary environmental issues. States shall co-operate with each other in addressing the prioritized marine environmental issues in the South China Sea.
Each Party shall mobilize necessary resources, capacities and services, as well as develop legal, financial and economic arrangements, including the adoption of a strategic plan for the management and conservation of coastal and marine resource to reach the targets stated in the South China Sea SAP.
5. Public Awareness and Education
Public awareness should be raised at the regional, national, and local community levels, especially those living along the coastlines, on the following issues:
Ecological unity of the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand:
Social, economic and environmental benefits possibly arising from the proper exploitation, management and conservation of marine resources of the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand;
Social, economic and environmental adverse impacts possibly arising from the degradation of the ecosystems of the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand; and
Necessity of regional cooperation on the exploitation, management and conservation of the marine resources of the South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand.
Public awareness can be raised through countries education systems, campaigns and other activities.
A management framework that:
restricts the membership of the policy/decision making body to government representatives only, and limits observers from regional and international agencies and institutions;
includes a high level scientific and technical body that serves: a) as a forum for reconciling both sectoral and national interests and priorities; and, b) as the source of independent scientific and technical advice to the policy making body;
ensures and maintains a clear separation between discussions of scientific and technical matters from discussions dealing with policy and principles at both the national and regional levels;
facilitates and ensures the incorporation of sound scientific and technical advice and information into politically based decision-making;
emphasises the use of experts and consultants from the participating countries, having regional knowledge and perspectives;
fosters the establishment of epistemic communities within the region and utilises effectively their advice and experience;
permits and encourages networking and interactions among and between specialist epistemic communities;
emphasises and fosters networking at all levels and amongst all stakeholders;
fosters and strengthens both horizontal (inter-country) and vertical (intra-country) interactions and networking between individuals at all levels of SAP implementation and execution;
encourages adaptive management and is not a rigid unchanging structure;
is developed through a process of detailed planning and consultation that ensures consensus regarding the final, agreed management framework; and,
is managed and operated by a small and effective group of committed, experienced, independent, and full-time professionals.