Cooperation with UNDP is a necessity

01 Jan 2011

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One of the partners in “Enhancing Forest Protected Areas Management System in Turkey” project, where UNDP is the implementing partner, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature Turkey (WWF-Turkey) Conservation Director Sedat Kalem answered the project team’s questions for New Horizons.

New Horizons - WWF-Turkey is an active partner in “Enhancing Forest Protected Areas Management System in Turkey” project. What is the importance of this project? Can you briefly tell us about your role in the project?

Fighting against degradation of natural areas and severe effects of climate change, the number of protected areas, which are the safety nets of life on earth, are still not enough. To top this off, it is still not possible to say that effective nature conservation mechanisms are in place in many countries of the world. With its protected areas remaining at 6 percent and lacking effective management, Turkey is among these countries. The Convetinon on Biodiversity, Conference of Parties organized this year in Nagoya set higher targets for countries. Under these circumstances, one of WWF strategic goals is to increase the number of protected areas on earth and to contribute to the effective management of these areas.

With “Enhancing Forest Protected Areas Management System in Turkey” project carried out with the support of the Global Environment Fund (GEF) in partnership with UNDP and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, is one of the most important tools in reaching this target.

In short, the most important role we take on in the scope of the project is developing local capacities for effective nature conservation and ensuring technical support for the national park to be part of the PAN Parks system. To serve this objective, a series of activities like preparing a sustainable tourism strategy for the national park, biodiversity and nature conservation training programmes for engineers and forest rangers, establishing a local volunteer system and preparing communication, awareness and advocacy strategies are carried out by WWF-Turkey.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is also a project partner. What can you say about your partnership with UNDP?

After Küre Mountains were declared a national park in the year 2000, the first and foremost assignment for the Ministry and WWF-Turkey as well as for other interest groups was to realize a series of targets on paper. This long list included forming the administrative infrastructure with adequate number of personnel, necessary equipment and visitor’s services, for the effective protection of the national park; the promotion of the site; developing ecotourism and alternative sources of income for the local people; establishing a system for biodiversity research and monitoring and increasing environmental awareness.

Undoubtedly, the opportunities presented by a project with resource and time limitations may not be enough to realize these ambitious objectives listed above. Still, the project has an important role in contributing to the initial milestones for these goals. We came to this point, the point of implementing this project, through many rough paths. There is great effort behind this project.

UNDP Turkey’s immense contribution has brought the project to the implementation stage. We are aware that UNDP Turkey’s trust in all project partners, including WWF-Turkey has an important role to play in the organization’s decisive attitude in this path. This is why, we are trying our best to carry out our role within the scope of the project, we also benefit from our own resources and the global WWF network to reach our common goals.

Programme of Work on Protected Areas was translated into Turkish and the Protected Areas and Climate Change Draft National Strategy was prepared with project partners in this scope are important examples of these benefits. Our cooperation with UNDP is not limited to the Küre Mountains. We owe the realization of the Black Sea Toolkit to this cooperation in the scope of “Every Drop Matters” initiative run with the support of Coca-Cola. With this project which aims to increase awareness among primary school children about the Black Sea’s biological assets and ecological challenges, we have trained over 500 teachers. Our goal is to reach two thousand teachers and hundreds of thousands of students.

As biodiversity loss and global climate change move towards points of no return, cooperation between important actors like UNDP and WWF is not only an expression of goodwill but an inevitable necessity.

Like UNDP, WWF-Turkey has been working in the Küre Mountains National Park and buffer zone for quite a while. Can you please tell us a little bit about the work you are doing in the region?

Above all else, Küre Mountains has an important place in WWF’s nature conservation strategy. Our interest in the region dates back to the 1990s. During the period when we were carrying out projects like “Important Plant Areas” and “Important Bird Areas” across Turkey, the phenemonal landscapes as well as the intactness, wilderness, biological richness and rare and endangered species and habitats in the Küre Mountains caught our attention.

We also proposed the Küre Mountains as one of “European Forest Hotspots” in the scope of WWF’s international campaign “The Living Planet”, launched a thousand days before the new millennium in 1997. As a result, Küre Mountains was chosen one of Turkey’s nine hotspots. During the same period, we were not only a loyal ally in the scope of a project run in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNDP and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry in the process of declaring the area a national park using an innovative and participatory approach.

The Küre Mountains were also one of the best places to watch the solar eclipse on 11 August 1999. An international media trip to the site and the Minister’s declaration of the area as a national park to be followed by other hotspots, were some of the milestones in this process. In an international ceremony held in the UK, Küre Mountains were chosen as “Turkey’s Gift to the Earth” by WWF in the scope of the “Living Planet” campaign.

However, the real work started after all of this. In this process, together with local units of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, local administrators, local associations and villagers, I believe we created one of the best examples in cooperation and partnership on nature conservation. The most important issues were local capacity building in nature conservation and ecotourism development. The mansion in Pınarbaşı and 20 nature guides who have been trained are some of the most concrete examples. New ones are added to these every day.

New visitor centers were established by Provincial Directorates of Environment and Forestry. Azdavay Yanık Ali Mansion ve Zümrüt Village are products of Küre Mountains Ecotourism Association, a real grassroot organization born and bred in our hands, grown and now standing on its own.

The Küre Mountains are now known by more people both in Turkey and around the world compared to 10-15 years ago and there is an increased desire to visit the place. The mountains draw interest not just because of their natural beauty but also because of exemplary works in the field of nature conservation. I must however, draw attention to keeping the balance in not exceeding the carrying capacity of the area and protection of the site.

From here on, our common vision together with our partners is to get a “PAN Parks” certificate. Similar to “blue flag beaches” but more than that, cleaner, better protected, maintaining wilderness, providing good accomodation and guidance services for visitors and contributing the welfare of the local communities. Our main aim is to ensure that the Küre Mountains National Park become a part of Europe’s elite national parks.

What is the importance of civil society organizations in the conservation of Turkey’s nature and in sustainable resource use? What is your take on the ongoing efforts?

Located in a junction of three continents, we have a rich biological heritage in which we take much pride. Against increasing extensive threats and pressures, this rich heritage also imposes a great responsibility on us. We have a lot of work to do, our opponents are strong but our capacity and means are limited. Civil society organizations in our country and the community that supports them is at a much lower level compared to that of developed countries.

In these circumstances, the development of civil society organizations to be more important players in nature conservation and sustainable resource use is of critical importance. In this respect, CSOs need to be more effective and public institutions need to be more willing to share. As part of an international nature conservation network, the role we took upon ourselves as WWF-Turkey, is to offer knowledge and experiences from around the world to Turkey through innovative methods and approaches. We do this by executing best practices in protected area management in Küre Mountains and Kaş-Kekova, sustainable water use in the Konya Basin, protecting sea turtles in Çıralı and Akyatan, and by contributing to the development and formulation of national strategies and policies.

On the other hand, local CSOs and local communities in particular, are increasingly raising their voices in favour of these threats and pressures. This is really important progress. In a geography where threats are extensive and multi-dimensional, a more comprehensive and integral nature conservation can be ensured if all individuals and local CSOs play an active role in maintaining sustainable resource use in their own communities.

To make sure that necessary conditions are set, meaning that they are supported by adequate tools, is the job of international organisations like WWF-Turkey. The recently launched “Turkey’s Life” (“Türkiye’nin Canı”) campaign aims to do just that. We invite interested individuals to visit our website at: www.turkiyenincani.org

You are one of the experienced civil society organizations in Turkey in the field of nature conservation. You have a plethora of creative campaigns. Can you provide brief information about WWF-Turkey’s mission and activities at the international and national levels?

We are the Turkish national organization of the world’s leading nature conservation institution, the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF). “For a living planet” being its motto, WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. We do this by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the sustainable use of renewable natural resources, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. We try to be effective in a wide range of topics from international and national policy making to sectoral practices, from social awareness to best practices.

The paths of WWF, founded in Switzerland in 1961, and Society for the Protection of Nature, founded in Turkey in 1975 and known for its efforts to protect northern bald ibises, sea turtles and wetlands, crossed in the 1980s. The association’s several nature conservation projects are supported by WWF. The relationship which continues with the association becoming a member of WWF in the 90s, results in the establishment of the Fund for the Protection of Nature in 1996 and the foundation taking on the name of WWF-Turkey in 2001.

Today, WWF-Turkey which is part of a global network with over five million supporters, over 40 national and regional offices, running more than a thousand projects in 100 countries worldwide, follows worldwide progress in biological diversity, climate change and sustainable resource use, introduces new concepts such as “RAPPAM”, “PAN Parks”, “Ecological Footprints” and the knowledge and experiences of the worldwide network to the benefit of our country. We try to act as a bridge between the universal and the local, by carrying our lessons learned to the world. In doing so, our approach is to cooperate openly and constructively with governmental institutions, the private sector and local communities. After all, we embarked on this journey in the interest of our own country, our world and future generations.

For more information, please visit www.wwf.org.tr.