The Alliance adding value to regional work
The Alliance is developing the capacities of local agencies that have a mandate to promote sustainable development and reduce poverty. Developing capacity increases the opportunities for addressing poverty in a sustainable way. Local partners who can engage communities in a participatory approach are more likely to be addressing the underlying causes of poverty and inequity and stand a greater chance of finding sustainable solutions—solutions that local communities fully support. By building capacity, as opposed to engaging directly with local communities through projects, the Alliance is developing a basis for long-term support for development and poverty reduction. Through scaling-up and scaling-out, local partners can apply their newly gained capacities to other areas and sectors of development.
However, taking advantage of the regional character and approach of the Alliance these individual local activities will be supported by complementary regional engagement, that encompasses several (or all) geographic focus areas and several (or all) regional and local partners and importantly the dialogue partners and other regional agencies.
While the focus of the Wetlands Alliance is on supporting local activities, such wider, regional engagement is critical to the Alliance mandate. An important basis for the rational to establishing the Alliance was to complement and provide inputs to the regional initiatives of the dialogue partners, which was a direct result of the extensive scoping and consultation undertaken prior to the start of the establishment phase (Jan 2006-Jun 2009).
Using regional knowledge sharing and policy platforms such as the Sustainable Mekong Research Network (Sumernet), the Mekong Program on Water Environment and Resilience (M-POWER), the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Knowledge Platform for Asia, IUCN’s Mekong Water Dialogues (MWD) and others, the Alliance was asked (or mandated) to “add value” to the collective thrust of regional programs with similar objectives, by creating and facilitating local-regional linkages. Such a regional platform from which to do this has now been established and the Alliance continues to develop the linkages between local and regional initiatives. Experiences from the first phase of the Alliance and available current knowledge demonstrate that aspects of poverty and its relation with wetlands and aquatic resources exhibit complex dynamics. The proposed regional engagement is designed to foster a sound understanding of these dynamics to support sustainable local development and improve overall knowledge of local-regional-global linkages that are manifest in the various dimensions of poverty and unsustainable use of wetlands and aquatic resources.The Alliance partners have local level examples of what works and what does not and can help in moving on from the “abstract” discussions to one based on tools and methods for building capacity and examples of ways in which the Alliance can link local partners with dialogue partners.
The Alliance’s regional activities also seek to directly address the differences in poverty alleviation and wetland management capacities in the various geographic focal areas. The Alliance, through its approach at working at the local level, is also able to make significant impact on the development of trans-boundary collaboration. Many of the Alliance’s dialogue partners have difficulties in getting to grips with actual action on transboundary issues, often because of the way they have been formally mandated to work. By addressing local issues simultaneously on each side of a boundary with a common regional framework the Alliance can have significant impact on developing local-local collaboration. Examples of this are the Northeast Thai/Lao and Kampot (Cambodia) and Phu Quoc (Viet Nam) transboundary collaboration.
The Alliance is looking to engage in initiatives that deal with regional issues such as trade and value chain, and/or labor migration. For example, understanding barriers to poor farmers/fishers’ access to market or how to improve value chain (not only for fish and fish products but other agriculture commodities) in the Mekong region. Food and food security is central to poverty alleviation and the Alliance can contribute to this not only through productivity increases and diversification of livelihoods but also through focusing on rights. The right to food is central, as is a commitment to reducing hunger. Right to food also means a right to land, inputs and markets and so unlocking the potential of agricultural development will require explicitly addressing policy challenges and institutional arrangements at a regional scale in these areas. Although there are already a number of actors engaged in this the Alliance is committed to contribute to their work and ensure that the issues are covered in the areas of intervention.