26.05.2017 - UNESCO Office in Jakarta

Legal Aspects of Protected Areas and UNESCO Sites: environmental law as a tool for sustainable development

UNESCO Jakarta organized a workshop on “Comparative Legal Analysis of Protected Areas including Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites” on 23-24 May 2017 in Medan, North Sumatra. The workshop, attended by around 60 participants, aimed to facilitate discussion on how law can be an effective tool to enhance the protection and management of protected areas and how the local, regional and national laws could be strengthen to protect these internationally recognized sites.

This workshop is the last in its series of activities under the project “Building a Resilient Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra (TRHS) for Climate Change Mitigation and Biodiversity Conservation”. The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra or TRHS is a cluster natural World Heritage property in Indonesia and was enlisted in the World Heritage in Danger list due to the long standing threats to the integrity of its Outstanding Universal Values (OUV).

UNESCO Jakarta, with the support from the Indonesian Funds-in-Trust, has coordinated the development of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the cumulative effects of road development plans in TRHS, in order to identify transport options for the region that do not adversely impact on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV). This project is in response to the World Heritage Committee request to, under the Decision 34COM 7B, the Government of Indonesia to conduct an SEA of the cumulative effects of all road development plans in TRHS as part of the findings from the reactive monitoring mission by IUCN and World Heritage Centre to TRHS.
One of the three baseline studies used for the SEA was a legal assessment conducted by the Faculty of Law, University of North Sumatra (USU), which identified the laws and regulations affecting the national parks forming TRHS, and the existing gaps in the legal status of TRHS. The legal issues and its implications for conservation of protected areas and development of local populations have been raised repeatedly during the development of the study, leading to the organization of the present workshop in Medan.

The meeting was officially opened by Prof. Shahbaz Khan, Director of the UNESCO Office Jakarta, who briefed the participants about the different features and governance systems of UNESCO sites with special designations, including Biosphere Reserves, World Heritage sites, UNESCO Global Geoparks, but also HELP river basins and Sustainability Science sites. He also stated that the workshop was organized so that stakeholders of TRHS all over Sumatra have to opportunity to learn from each other, to be aware of what has been done within the issue of protected areas globally by bringing international experience into the discussion and encourages participants to contribute to a better governance of the internationally recognized sites.

The technical sessions included presentations from international and Indonesian speakers as follows:

  • Prof. Donna Craig, Western Sydney University, on “International and national approaches to harmonize legislative and policy approaches to World Heritage protected areas and UNESCO Biosphere Reserves”;
  • Dr Toshinori Tanaka, University of Tokyo, on “National implementation of Biosphere Reserves and the World Heritage sites in Japan: legal and institutional perspectives”;
  • Mr Ardi Risman, Directorate General of Law Enforcement on Environment and Forestry, Ministry of Environment and Forestry Indonesia, on “Law Enforcement on Environment and Forestry in Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra”;
  • Prof. Syamsul Arifin, University of North Sumatra, on “Legal Study on Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra”;
  • Ms Chandrasa Sjamsudin, UNESCO Office Jakarta, on “Strategic Environmental Assessment of the cumulative effect of road development plans in TRHS”.

Participants of the workshop, consisting of lecturers and students on environmental law and international law, investigators from local offices of environment and forestry, as well as judges, were actively engaged in the discussions where the situations between Indonesia, Australia and Japan were compared. The issues raised included gaps and conflicts between national and international laws, inclusion of public participation and local and indigenous rights, payment for ecosystem services and incentives for conservation, illegal activities and law enforcement, funding mechanisms in protected areas, capacity building on international laws for governments, or the gaps between law and practice in different countries.

One of the main conclusions of the workshop was that, since the protection of environment and natural resources is one of the pillars for achieving sustainable development, international designations for protected areas should serve as enhancement for environment conservation law as well as new opportunities for peoples’ development.

For more information please contact Mr Shahbaz Khan, s.khan(at)unesco.org.

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