Other Effective Area Conservation (OECM) is understood as “A defined geographical area that is not a protected area (PA), which is governed and managed in ways that help achieve the desired actively and sustainably outcomes in terms of internal conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services that accompany, and in some cases, help preserve cultural values, spiritual, socioeconomic and other local values” (IUCN-WCPA Task Force on OECMs, 2019). OECMs are an opportunity both to recognize and contribute to the conservation of biodiversity outside of PAs and to motivate conservation outside of PAs through the identification and support of OECMs (IUCN, 2020).
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has set Achi Target 11 which defines: “By 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial and inland waters and 10% of marine and coastal areas, especially areas is of particular importance for ecosystem services and biodiversity, conserved through an efficient and equitable management system, representing ecosystems, linking within the system of protected areas and other effective area conservation measures, integrated with broader terrestrial and marine landscapes”. To achieve this goal, CBD recommends member countries to implement OECM, one of the solutions to increase the efficiency of internal biodiversity conservation, preserving the values of nature.
Over the past time, Việt Nam has made efforts to achieve a number of national goals on nature conservation (NC) and biodiversity. But as a member state of the CBD, Việt Nam needs to make great efforts to achieve Achi Target 11. Meanwhile, the increasing pressure of socio-economic development is a barrier that makes it difficult for Việt Nam to achieve the goal on expansion of the NC system. Therefore, OECM is an effective solution for Việt Nam.
Planning biodiversity corridors to effectively conserve precious and rare species
1. Potential OECMs in Việt Nam
With a total forest area of 14,609,220 hectares, reaching a coverage of 41.89%, of which 2,161,661 hectares are special-use forests for conservation, 4,646,138 hectares of protection forests and 4,263,935 hectares of product forests as natural forests (Ministry of Agriculture Rurals and Development, 2020), Việt Nam has great potential for biodiversity conservation outside of protected areas. In addition, Việt Nam also has many valuable natural landscapes that need to be conserved in terms of biodiversity conservation value (living habitat, conservation of genetic resources); environmental and ecological values; scientific value (keeping ecological cycle, natural ecological succession, vestiges of natural development...); aesthetic value, entertainment; cultural values… This is the great potential to implement OECM in Việt Nam.
According to IUCN guidelines (IUCN-WCPA Task Force on OECMs, 2019), the criteria for determining OECMs include: Areas that are delimited for conservation but are not protected areas; those areas must be managed; achieve long-term effects on biodiversity conservation and contribute to in-situ conservation; have linked ecological functions, have service, cultural, spiritual, socio-economic values for the locality. OECM is divided into 3 types and is completely outside the PA system, specifically: Type 1 OECM group is the area where conservation is essential (Primary conservation), these areas have the potential to become PAs. OECM type 2 is the area where conservation is secondary (Secondary conservation). Group 3 OECM is an area where conservation issues are by-product of management (Ancillary conservation).
According to the above guidance, potential OECM objects in Việt Nam can be identified as:
- Potential OECM group type 1: High biodiversity areas located outside the PA system belong to protection forests, buffer zones of NCs, production forests are natural forests....; The natural heritages established and recognized according to the provisions of point c, Clause 1, Article 20 of the Law on Environmental Protection (LEP) in 2020. In addition, important bird areas outside the NC can also be followed and do not overlap with above mentioned areas.
- Group of potential OECMs category 2: Important wetlands (wetlands) outside the NC system, biodiversity corridors. Currently, the list of important wetland areas including the above areas is being developed by Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONCE) based on synthesis from the proposals of localities. There are 33 BD corridors planned nationwide, of which 3 BD corridors have been established, connecting the Sông Thanh - Sao La - Elephant NCs of Quảng Nam; Đắk Krông - Bắc Hướng Hóa of Quảng Trị and Sao La - Phong Điền of Thừa Thiên - Huế.
- Potential OECM category 3: Important Ecological Landscape and Private Conservation Facility. Important ecological landscapes can be understood as natural landscapes with major environmental and ecological values, which may contain other values: aesthetics, entertainment, culture.... These objects are located outside the protected areas, providing the main services for tourism activities and environmental and ecological values for human life but good support for conservation. Currently, in Việt Nam, there have been a number of private conservation facilities established with the main purpose of exploiting recreational services such as: Vườn Xoài (Mango Garden) Ecotourism Area Co., Ltd. (Đồng Nai), Vinpearl Land Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center (Vinpearl land Co., Ltd.) (Khánh Hòa), FLC Wildlife Park (Faros Zoo Investment and Development Joint Stock Company) (Bình Định), Mỹ Quỳnh Zoo (Long An), Phú Quốc Safari (Kiên Giang), Ninh Bình Bear Conservation Facility (Ninh Bình), Đồng Tâm Snake Farm (Tiền Giang).
2. Legal regulations related to OECM in Việt Nam
Current status of legal regulations related to OECM in Việt Nam
The legal provisions related to OECM in Việt Nam are currently concentrated in a number of Laws and documents under the Law: Law on Biodiversity 2008, Law on Natural Resources and Environment of sea and islands in 2015, Law on Forestry 2017, Law on Planning 2017, Law on Fisheries 2017, LEP in 2020. The detailed legal regulations to identify OECMs in Việt Nam are concentrated in the Law on Forestry 2017 and the Law on Biodiversity 2008. In addition, the OECM is also subject to the scope of the Laws: Natural resources and environment of sea and islands in 2015, Fisheries in 2017, Planning in 2017 and Environmental protection in 2020, specifically:
- Potential OECMs are areas of high biodiversity, important ecological landscapes and biodiversity corridors that are the subject of national biodiversity conservation planning. These subjects are specified at Point c, Clause 5, Article 25 of the Planning Law 2017 and Article 26 of Decree No. 37/2019/ND-CP on 7/5/2019 of the Government detailing the implementation of a number of Article of the Law on Planning. Biodiversity corridor is defined in the Law on Biodiversity. However, there are no detailed regulations on the criteria for determining this object in practice.
- Potential OECMs are important wetlands outside the NC, with detailed regulations in Decree No. 66/2019/ND-CP on conservation and sustainable use of wetlands; Circular No. 07/2020/TT-BTNMT dated August 31st, 2020, detailing the contents at Point c, Clause 1, Article 31 of the Government's Decree No. 66/2019/ND-CP dated July 29th, 2019, on conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
- Potential OECMs are Natural Heritage established and recognized under the provisions of Point c, Clause 1, Article 20 of the LEP 2020. The criteria for identification are specified in clause 2, Article 20 of the Law. Currently, detailed regulations on criteria, order, procedures and authority to establish and recognize natural heritage are being developed and are expected to be promulgated in the Decree guiding the implementation of the LEP 2020.
- The remaining potential OECMs, there are currently no specific legal regulations for these subjects.
In addition, potential OECMs belonging to protection forests, natural production forests, and buffer zones of protected areas need to comply with the provisions of the Law and sub-law documents of: Law on Forestry 2017, Law on Fisheries of 2017.
Legal gaps to promote OECM implementation in Việt Nam
- Basically, there are regulations to identify OECMs in Việt Nam. However, there are not yet uniform, detailed and specific regulations and guidelines to identify OECM according to CBD recommendations and IUCN guidelines. In addition, there are many potential OECM objects that do not have regulations to identify.
- Lack of uniform regulations, in general, can promote the implementation of OECM in Vietnam. These objects fall under the scope of many laws and sub-law documents that have not yet been unified. This can lead to overlap, difficult to delineate and complicated when implementing OECM in Việt Nam.
- Implement OECM effectively if the role and contribution of the private sector is promoted. However, at present, Việt Nam still lacks specific legal regulations, mechanisms and policies to encourage the participation of the private sector in NC and biodiversity.
- Financial mechanism, sustainable revenue is the key issue for sustainable development of OECM. Although there are some regulations, this is still a big gap in the legal regulation in Việt Nam.
3. Recommendations on some issues to promote the implementation of OECM in Việt Nam
Develop a set of criteria and methods to determine OECM suitable for Việt Nam
From the results of the review of potential OECMs in Việt Nam based on IUCN guidelines globally, it is clear that there are many specificities for Việt Nam if it wants to form an effective network of OECMs. Therefore, it is necessary to develop a detailed technical guide to identify OECMs in Việt Nam. This guide focuses on the following topics:
- Methodology to identify OECMs: in fact, potential OECMs are being regulated by relevant policies, so it is necessary to show methods and approaches to harmonize the purposes that the area is implementing. performance and goals of an OECM.
- Detailed screening criteria for each type of object include protection forest, natural production forest, biodiversity corridor, NC buffer zone, important wetlands and others. In the case of overlapping or multiple choices, the selection method is effective, for example, in the BD corridor with protection forests and natural production forests, selecting BD corridors or selecting areas of protection forests and natural production forests separately; or areas with mixed ecosystems…
- Technical issues: defining the boundaries of OECMs; management status (currently in Vietnam, there are many subjects involved in management, so it is necessary to check which ones are effective and which ones are ineffective and need to be converted, for example, whether forest owners who are socio-political organizations can ensure the requirements of OECM); identification and management of biodiversity values in the OECM area; evaluating and exploiting eco-service values, cultural, historical and tourist values of OECMs.
Landscape approach in defining and implementing OECM
Landscape approach is an integrated approach, which tends to be widely applied in NC and biodiversity in the world, especially in Europe and North America. This approach is considered appropriate to solve the current problem of biodiversity conservation. From a scientific point of view, the landscape approach is synthetic, considering the systematicity, integrity and correlation of the components. This approach is effective in determining the boundaries of the objects to be conserved to ensure the systematicity, integrity, maintain important ecological functions, promote the conservation value of the natural object. This approach will be effective in defining and implementing OECM.
- At a small scale, the landscape approach promotes advantages in defining the boundaries of OECMs. The landscape approach is an integrated approach that includes conservation goals in harmony with the development that is true to the nature of the OECMs. This is a suitable approach to identify OECMs such as: high biodiversity areas outside the NC, biodiversity corridors, other important natural landscapes with conservation value...
- On a large scale, it is possible to form NC and biodiversity systems with component units being protected areas and OECMs. In this system, established NCs act as hubs connecting with OECMs which are areas of high biodiversity outside the NC by biodiversity corridors. This model will help to solve some difficult problems at present, which are: Need to expand the habitat for species while increasing the area and expanding the established protected areas is difficult; Strengthen the exchange and connection of populations of species and habitats divided by socio-economic development and global climate change; Ensure the integrity of landscapes and habitats to maintain important ecological functions, increase the efficiency of NC and biodiversity.
Proposing mechanisms and policies to promote the implementation of OECM in Việt Nam
To promote the implementation of OECM in Việt Nam, the most necessary and urgent activity at the moment is to perfect the legal system and create favorable mechanisms and policies to help promote the development of OECM in Việt Nam. Focus on some following specific issues:
- Specifying criteria and issuing technical guidelines to determine OECM appropriate to the Vietnamese context: IUCN has issued guidelines globally based on CBD's recommendations; however, Việt Nam needs internalize and issue guidelines appropriate to the national context.
- Establishing a sustainable development mode for OECMs: For effective and long-term development, it is necessary to establish a sustainable development mode for OECMs according to each specific OECM hierarchy (3 types of OECMs according to the IUCN guidelines). The OECMs are natural ecosystems, it is necessary to establish a sustainable development regime according to the provisions of Article 34 of the Law on Biodiversity 2008. Other OECMs need to have appropriate mechanisms and policies in the future to promote development.
- Application of payment for natural ecosystem services to OECMs: Regulations on payment for ecosystem services have been promulgated in Article 138 of the LEP. These regulations are a solid legal basis, which can promote the implementation of the payment for ecosystem services provided by OECM. Applying the payment for ecosystem services will create a sustainable source of income and promote the implementation of OECM in Việt Nam.
- Mechanisms and policies to encourage the private sector and the community to participate in OECM: Because most of the OECMs are not under the state management system but owned by the private sector and the community. Therefore, it is necessary to develop incentive policies to strengthen the role and participation of the community and the private sector in the work of NC and biodiversity through promoting the implementation of OECM.
Dr. Dương Thanh An, Dr. Phạm Hạnh Nguyên
Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Agency, VEA
(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition II - 2021)