Published papers on biodiversity are fewer than may be expected. This plainly illustrates the dearth of information that exists, resulting to low public awareness on the values of biodiversity and conservation. Resources accorded to conservation efforts is limited, translating into a lack of critical information, education and communication resources – ranging from posters and brochures to documentaries, commercials, and other awareness-raising media – intended for the general public.
When the ASEAN Member States signed as Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, they “committed to: (a) promote and encourage the understanding of, the importance of, and the measures required for the conservation of biological diversity, as well as its propagation through media and inclusion in educational programs; and (b) cooperate, as appropriate, with other States and international organizations in developing educational and public awareness programs, with respect to conservation and the sustainable use of biological diversity.”
While there is no doubt that the ASEAN Member States are committed to implementing their own public awareness programs, the level of support and availability of resources among the countries vary significantly – from countries which have sufficient resources, to those without even the basic resources to launch public information campaigns. For many ASEAN countries, the chronic budgetary shortage for public awareness is exacerbated by the multi-sectoral nature of biodiversity issues, often leading to the fragmented development of programs and plans.
The ACB, through its Communication and Public Awareness (CPA) Unit, continues to enhance public and leadership awareness of the values of biodiversity and the need for conservation and sustainable management through the implementation of a communication strategy; production and dissemination of various information materials, including its website; advocacy and public information initiatives; and media and public relations activities.
The Centre focuses on popularizing biodiversity information, issues and concerns by engaging non-environment sectors in advocacy for biodiversity conservation and sustainable management; expanding the network of communication practitioners from various sectors who act as partners of ACB in communicating biodiversity; forging strategic partnerships and leveraging communication resources with partners; and documenting good biodiversity communication, advocacy and conservation practices and promoting them as models to encourage greater participation in biodiversity conservation.
- ASEAN Champions of Biodiversity – is designed to recognize individuals or groups from the Youth, Media, and Business sectors who have made significant contributions to the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity in the ASEAN region. Persons may nominate themselves, their own organizations, or a third party whom they believe should receive recognition. A publication of best practices will also be produced based on the stories of the finalists and winners.
- Zooming in on Biodiversity – an ASEAN-wide photo contest that aims to capture the beauty, richness, and values of our biodiversity through vivid pictures of living creatures and their habitats.
- Communication, Education, and Public Awareness Workshop – a regional workshop to brief the ASEAN Member States on the importance of meeting Aichi Target No. 1 which states that, “by 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably”
- Biodiversity School Forum Series – a series of biodiversity lectures on different primary and secondary schools in the ASEAN Member States that aims to educate the youth on the actions they can take to help conserve biodiversity.
The ASEAN Communication, Education and Public Awareness and Media Network for Biodiversity (CEPA-Net)
What is the ASEAN CEPA and Media Network for Biodiversity?
The ASEAN CEPA and Media Network for Biodiversity (CEPA-Net) is a knowledge network composed of media practitioners, government and non-government information officers, and communication experts from the ASEAN Member States (AMS) who are committed to help promote the importance of biodiversity conservation in the region.
The group was organized during the “Sub-Regional Capacity Development Workshop for ASEAN Countries on Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) and Media Relations” in 2009 held in Jakarta, Indonesia. The workshop was organized by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) and the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), with support from the Government of Indonesia, the Government of the Netherlands, and the European Commission.
The network further expanded as new members were recruited during “ASEAN CEPA Workshop: Streamlining National CEPA Strategies in Support of Aichi Target No. 1” organized by ACB and the ACB-GIZ Biodiversity and Climate Change Project held in November 2014. More members were added during the Biodiversity Reporting 101 workshop series in the Philippines in 2015 to 2016. The workshop series was supported by the Embassy of the United States in the Philippines through the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.
What are CEPA-Net’s objectives?
CEPA-Net seeks to promote the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the work of the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity by:
- Facilitating knowledge exchange and learning among civil servants responsible for CEPA activities on biodiversity and media practitioners who report on biodiversity.
- Increase the government and NGO information officers’ awareness of the importance of, and improving skills in, dealing with the media.
- Informing media practitioners on biodiversity conservation issues and encouraging them to become partners in conservation advocacy.
- Promoting a better understanding of the role of CEPA in strategic communication and change management.
- Enhancing the CEPA strategies of ASEAN Member States.
Why is there a need for CEPA-Net?
The region’s capacity to reduce biodiversity loss is constrained by several roadblocks, including the dire lack of awareness and knowledge on the values of biodiversity. Increased public and leadership awareness is needed to create a groundswell that will catalyze all sectors of society to promote the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity resources. Communication, education, public awareness and media play a crucial role in this challenge.
Communicating biodiversity is a daunting task. CEPA-Net hopes to provide a venue for the exchange of knowledge and best practices, as well as proposed solutions to challenges faced by communicators.
What are CEPA-Net’s proposed activities?
Among the network’s planned activities are forums on biodiversity conservation, regular exchange of best practices on effective communication techniques for biodiversity, sharing of success stories, media advocacy programmes, capacity building activities, and in the long term, the establishment of national CEPA-Net chapters in all Southeast Asian countries.
Who can join CEPA-Net?
Media practitioners, government and NGO information officers, students, professors, and civil society organizations are welcome to join CEPA-Net.
Who will I contact if I wish to join?
Those who want to join may contact ACB’s Communication and Public Affairs Unit, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background on CEPA
Article 13 (Public Education and Awareness) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) states that Contracting Parties shall:
- Promote and encourage understanding of the importance of, and the measures required for, the conservation of biological diversity, as well as its propagation through media, and the inclusion of these topics in educational programmes.
- Cooperate, as appropriate, with other States and international organizations in developing educational and public awareness programmes, with respect to conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
Aichi Target No. 1 of the CBD also states that “By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.”
As parties to the CBD, the ASEAN Member States are tasked with mobilizing all relevant stakeholders to address the primary drivers of biodiversity loss.
While there is no doubt that AMS are committed to CEPA, the level of support and availability of resources among the countries significantly vary, from those that have sufficient resources to those that do not have the basic resources to even launch public information campaigns. For many ASEAN Member States, the chronic shortage of budget for CEPA is exacerbated by the multi-sectoral nature of biodiversity issues often leading to the fragmented development of programmes and plans.
Clearly, any complementary effort that supports ASEAN Member States to further promote CEPA beyond the current levels of resources allocated will be a welcome intervention.
Who is the lead organization for CEPA-related activities?
The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) leads the implementation of CEPA initiatives all over the world.
The Secretariat believes that implementing the Convention and realizing its core objectives requires the involvement of an active and informed citizenry, who are educated as to the relevance of biodiversity to their lives. In this respect, communication, education and public awareness are core components of any national and international implementation strategy. Given the complex nature of biodiversity science and policy, the task is to find elegant and straightforward explanations on the relevance of biodiversity, and the work of the Convention, to the daily lives of citizens and stakeholders around the world.
What is the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity’s role in CEPA?
The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity is a major partner of the SCBD in ASEAN. It recognizes challenges related to communication for biodiversity and looks at enhancing its strategic role by pursuing regional CEPA endeavors aimed at increasing understanding of biodiversity conservation while at the same time culturing advocacy champions who can mobilize support of leaders and critical stakeholders in promoting the biodiversity agenda at all levels of the society.
For more information on CEPA, visit http://www.cbd.int/cepa.
Earl Paulo L. Diaz
Head, Communication and Public Affairs