USAID Promotes Biodiversity in Vietnam
Through its Bangkok-based Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA), USAID supports Vietnam's efforts to address sustainable financing for biodiversity conservation, illegal logging and wildlife trafficking. RDMA biodiversity activities help establish the enabling conditions for improved governance by supporting policy and market/trade incentives; strengthening environmental law enforcement capacity; and increasing access to sustainable financing. Together these will result in behavior changes that ultimately lead to measurable improvements in biodiversity conservation, natural resources management, livelihoods, and climate change mitigation and adaptation. These activities include:
Asia Regional Biodiversity Conservation Program (ARBCP)
The goal of RDMA's Asia Regional Biodiversity Conservation Program (ARBCP) is to improve the management of natural resources and biodiversity in Vietnam, the Greater Mekong Subregion, and outlying Southeast Asian countries. ARBCP implements activities to support four key objectives: restoring and maintaining ecosystem connectivity in biodiversity corridors and across landscapes; promoting sustainable financing for biodiversity and natural resource conservation; improving the livelihoods of the rural poor; and strengthening environmental governance and institutions.
Working with Vietnamese authorities, the ARBCP established a pilot site in the Dong Nai River Basin in southern Vietnam and has generated significant incentives-based support for the activities implemented there at the local, district, provincial, and national levels. To date, the project has generated a revenue stream of over $3 million a year from Vietnamese public and private sector sources to support biodiversity conservation and environmental services outcomes in Lam Dong and Son La Provinces. Vietnam's most significant achievement with assistances from the project is the development of a landmark Pilot Payment for Forest Environmental Services Policy (Decision 380 QD-TTg), the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. After the legislation was signed by Vietnam's Prime Minister in 2009, the ARBCP supported the on-going implementation of the pilot policy in Lam Dong Province which expects to conserve 220,000 hectares of forest and benefit 4,500 households.
Responsible Asia Forestry and Trade (RAFT)
The RAFT Program is an alliance of private-sector companies, inter-governmental agencies, and NGOs that address the shared problems of illegal logging and conversion of forests with high biodiversity value. The goal of the RAFT program (www.raftprogram.org) is to improve both the quality and extent of sustainably managed forest resources and biodiversity across Asia. The program's four objectives are: (1) to increase regional timber trade from legal sources; (2) to measurably improve sustainability of forest management on the ground; (3) to strengthen regional cooperation on forest management and trade; and (4) contribute to climate change abatement by reducing CO2 emissions from forest loss and degradation and enhancing regional capacity for sustainable forest management through the emerging international REDD frameworks.
In Vietnam, the RAFT Program has supported around 100,000 hectares of forest land with step wise approaches leading to certification on both natural and plantation forests in the central region of the country (Quang Binh, Gai Lai and Quang Tri Provinces). The RAFT approach is in line with, and contributes to, Vietnam's 2020 Forestry Strategy for certified forests. In addition, the Program has provided conflict management training to Vietnamese representatives from the government, corporate, and civil society sectors and engages participants in a larger regional learning and sharing network on forest related topics.
ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) Support Program
RDMA's ASEAN-WEN Support Program promotes implementation of existing national wildlife protection laws and international species protection agreements (e.g. CITES) among ASEAN countries to combat illegal wildlife trafficking. Illegal wildlife trade is a multi-billion-dollar criminal enterprise threatening biodiversity worldwide. Organized crime has moved into trafficking, and today thousands of endangered species are being shipped across borders daily. ASEAN-WEN activities in Vietnam include needs assessments, training workshops, public awareness campaigns, and assistance for task force and network development.
On March 20, 2010, Vietnamese officials discovered 33 live pangolins (scaly anteaters) at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat Airport. A day later, Vietnamese police seized 100 kilograms of ivory near its border with China.
In 2009, Vietnam's Forest Protection Department reported 1,042 cases of wildlife smuggling, including the seizure of hundreds of kilograms of ivory, much of it from Kenya. In 2008, more than 20 tons of pangolins and their scales were seized in Vietnam as they were being trafficked from Indonesia to China.
Another important achievement includes raising awareness of environmental crime issues among the Judiciary. During the Judiciary Workshop in mid 2008, 65 participants from the Vietnam Supreme Court, Ministry of Trade and Industry, and various Vietnamese law enforcement agencies were introduced to the illegal wildlife trade on a global scale, briefed on the national level situation of the trade, loopholes in Vietnamese laws, and case studies. As a conclusion to the workshop, the Ministry of Justice committed to push for revisions in Vietnam's law to ensure penalties are commensurate with the seriousness of crimes committed.