Webinar Advances New Regional Flyway Initiative to Support Biodiversity Conservation and Livelihoods in East and Southeast Asia

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) cohosted a webinar on 16 October to facilitate the development of a new regional initiative to support biodiversity conservation and livelihoods, focused on the wetlands of East and Southeast Asia.

The Regional Flyway Initiative under early development aims to focus international support on the most threatened wetlands of East and Southeast Asia. Bringing together global experts, the webinar hosted presentations on the threats and challenges facing wetland biodiversity in the region, case studies by international development agencies, and perspectives from national agencies. A highlight of the webinar was the interactive question-and-answer session, which facilitated feedback and suggestions to develop the initiative.

Opening the webinar, Director General of ADB’s East Asia Department James P. Lynch and Director General of ADB’s Southeast Asia Department Ramesh Subramaniam emphasized the timely opportunity to build on the global awareness and momentum for green economic recovery that has resulted from the coronavirus pandemic. “For ADB, this includes a growing effort to incorporate biodiversity conservation in operations and, at the same time, support livelihoods for a greener and more sustainable future,” said Mr. Lynch.

“Regional flyways and wetlands are well suited to support from development agencies, due to the potential for large-scale, multi-sector approaches involving biodiversity conservation, livelihoods, and sustainable development,” said Mr. Subramaniam. He noted that the initiative will directly support implementation of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Core Environment Program Strategic Framework and Action Plan endorsed by the GMS Environment Ministers in 2018. He stressed that nature-based solutions should be central to the post-pandemic economic recovery plans of GMS countries.

Many of Asia’s wetlands are under severe threat from agriculture, economic development, climate change, and other factors, and this is also threatening the resources needed by people, participants heard. The wetlands of East and Southeast Asia support some of the highest biodiversity values in the world, as well as essential resources for millions of people. These wetlands lie within the East Asian–Australasian Flyway, a vast migration route extending across more than 20 countries from the Arctic Circle in the north to Australia and New Zealand in the south, which provides seasonal stopover sites for over 50 million waterbirds (ducks, geese, cranes, and shorebirds) of more than 200 species. Wetlands also provide food and water for communities and maintain ecosystem services such as flood regulation and carbon sequestration.

International development agencies have traditionally had a relatively small role in biodiversity conservation, but this is quickly changing, especially with the global drive toward “nature-positive” approaches for sustainable development.

“To scale up our operations in these areas, we recognize the urgent need to further strengthen our partnerships for wetland and biodiversity conservation across Asia,” said Director General of ADB’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Woochong Um.

ADB aims to launch the Regional Flyway Initiative with partners at the 15th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity to be held in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 2021. The Regional Flyway Initiative forms part of ADB’s growing portfolio for nature-positive approaches and green development. ADB’s first “biodiversity road map” is under preparation and will aim to scale up biodiversity conservation in ADB operations. ADB is also planning to expand support for biodiversity conservation in its operations in the PRC.

The webinar was jointly organized with the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership Secretariat and Center for East Asian-Australasian Flyway Studies. Taking part in the event were leading experts from civil society organizations, including BirdLife International, International Crane Foundation, and Wetlands International, representatives from government agencies, and the development agencies Agence Française de Développement (AFD), and KfW.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.