The Indo-Pacific region is the one of the most biologically rich regions of the planet. It is home to one of the world’s largest hotspots of marine & terrestrial biodiversity. However, various activities such as illegal logging, forest conversion for agriculture and overexploitation of marine and terrestrial resources present a serious and increasing threat to the Indo-Pacific’s rich biological diversity.
India and France are two nations of the Indo-Pacific region. France’s Indo-Pacific Strategy announced in 2018 and the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) announced by India in November 2019 advocate a collaborative approach to key questions in the Indo-Pacific region, including biodiversity protection. As part of IPOI, France and India have already taken the lead on the Maritime Resources and Maritime Security pillars.
India and France underscore that in the last few decades, the protected areas’ objectives have shifted from strict conservation to a larger approach, including sustainable use of natural resources and cultural, ecological and scientific benefits to society. Although protected areas provide opportunities for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, numerous challenges related to their effective management need to be addressed.
In pursuit of tapping eco-system services, the human-wildlife conflicts and poaching of wildlife pose a major constraint for the conservation and sustainable use of protected areas.
India and France acknowledge that National parks, Marine protected areas and wildlife sanctuaries contribute to tourism (both national and international) which is increasingly linked for environmental degradation. In this regard, the lack of resources and instruments for effective tourist management is also a gap area which needs to be addressed.
They are aware that the Indo-Pacific region also faces “high level trafficking of wildlife” on land and at sea.
In view of the above, France and India, both members of the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, have developed a strong, innovative and multi-dimensional partnership aiming to promote a sustainable approach in the Indo-Pacific region through the development of protected areas and natural parks: the Indo-Pacific Parks Partnership or I3P.
The key objective of the I3P is to build capacities in the Indo-Pacific region in terms of sustainable management of protected areas, by gathering and sharing the experiences and expertise that exist in the Region. The partnership aims to bring together key Indo-Pacific public & private natural park managers to unlock knowledge, to share best practices and to highlight the innovative experiences which can further ensure a more sustainable, inclusive and efficient natural resources preservation.
The key components of the I3P would revolve around the following themes:
• Biodiversity conservation, mainly through sharing of tools and techniques for diagnosis and inventory of endangered species + strategies for preservation and restoration + anti-poaching or illegal logging efforts (with special focus on high-level trafficking).
• Sustainable tourism development and reinforcement of local economic activities, through local designs of sustainable touristic itineraries, building of a sustainable tourism development strategy, building of basic visitor management strategy, and activities of communication and awareness raising.
• Governance reinforcement : the initiative could lead to the definition of local regulation / charter and the implementation of an integrated management platform for territorial monitoring of natural disasters, fires or tourist flows.
This Partnership will be implemented in two phases:
• A first phase focusing on terrestrial biodiversity, mobilizing Indian and French support with the participation of the parks of the Indo-Pacific region with a set of activities focused on the governance of parks, the sustainable management of biodiversity and sustainable tourism. For this pilot phase, France has already committed a grant to support a partnership between French National Forest Office-International (ONFI) and the Forest Department of the State of Assam, which will be formalized by the signature of a memorandum of understanding among the said parties.
• A second phase, enlarged to include marine biodiversity, involving interested parks in the Indo-Pacific region, based on the concrete results of the first phase, with an extended set of proposed activities and new potential themes. Based on the lesson learnt and outputs from the pilot phase, this second phase will be designed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), India and the French Development Agency (AFD), France with relevant stakeholders on both sides. European financial & technical support, either directly from the EU or through European partners’ initiatives, will be contemplated in addition to the technical & financial support mobilized by the Government of India.
With the French & Indian [technical & financial] support, the initiative will facilitate partnership activities for interested natural parks of the Indo-Pacific region:
• Site visits for Indo-Pacific Region parks managers, on biodiversity conservation, wildlife management, engagement with local communities and anti-poaching policies;
• Organization of regional workshops to capitalize experience and disseminate good practices;
• Mobilization of French & Indian expertise on wildlife and nature conservation.
Through these dialogues, visits and technical exchanges, France and India are committed to:
• Promote a regional benchmark of best practices on biodiversity conservation with a focus on marine and terrestrial conservation, sustainable tourism and the governance of protected areas;
• Identify of areas of mutual learnings among the parks and marine protected areas of the Indo-Pacific region;
• Create a framework for organizing training modules and implementing pilot initiatives which could assist the park authorities in better management of its protected areas.
All like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region wishing to contribute to these commitments are invited to join this Indo-French initiative. By building on their strong bilateral cooperation in the field of biodiversity conservation, Indian expertise and French developmental assistance, India and France hope to reinforce efforts aimed at biodiversity conservation in the Indo-Pacific region.