Asian Network Project

Mt Fuji located on Honshu Island is a symbol of local and national identity. The highest mountain of Japan features in poetry and paintings and is visited by millions of people every year an climbed by hundreds of thousands. As part of the Asian Sacred Natural Sites Programme a group of delegates went on a study trip to learn about the sacredness of Mt. Fuji after the Asian Parks Congress. Mr. Ono and Mr. Hongo from the Yamanashi Institute of Environmental Sciences showed the participants of the excursion how early Shinto beliefs fused with different strands of Buddhism and how this affected the various practices of worship on and around the mountain.

    In Asia, the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative works with the Biodiversity Network Japan and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas-Japan. The aim of the work is improving recognition and conservation of sacred natural sites in Asia. The work is the work is possible due to a grant from the Keidanren Nature Conservation Fund for which the Initiative is grateful . The fund and its partners operate by and promote the Keidanren Declaration for Biodiversity.

    Sacred Natural Sites in Asia
    Sacred natural sites are key features in Asian landscapes having supported an indigenous Asian philosophy of conservation and community-based protected areas for many generations. The aims of the project are to:
    1. Develop the understanding, recognition and capacity to support sacred natural sites by protected area managers and conservation practitioners,
    2. Create an informal network of experts and practitioners that includes protected area managers and conservation practitioners,
    3. Develop and publish learning materials, that include as series of Asia specific case studies that test the application of the IUCN UNESCO Guidelines, and share these and lessons learned with the wider protected areas community

    Copies of the Japanese IUCN UNESCO Sacred Natural Sites Guidelines on display at the side event where group work took place. (Source: APC)

    IUCN UNESCO Guidelines and beyond:
    A key element of the project is to work with the sacred natural sites guidelines, to critically review them, to apply them in the field and to share lessons learned. The IUCN UNESCO Guidelines, already available in Korean and Japanese have been specifically developed to assist protected area managers to help recognise and better manage sacred natural sites that have been incorporated into protected areas as well as those located in the wider land and sea scape especially because these are often threatened by development projects.

    Building recognition and improving conservation
    The Asian Parks Congress (Japan November 2013) and the World Parks Congress (Australia, November 2014) are the ideal venues for presenting, sharing and promoting the work underway in the project. The project is designed over three years and consolidated into several conservation products and processes on Asian sacred natural sites:

    Phase one includes case studies from the Asian region are presented at the Asia Parks Congress and also online with the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative. Workshops at the Asian Parks Congress help generate support for the outcomes of the congress specifically on sacred natural sites. Interest is scoped for the development of a regional Asian network on sacred natural sites.

    Phase two focuses on expansion of Asian online case studies into chapters that will be bundled into a book presenting the lessons learned as well as the challenges in policy and practice in the region. The book will be presented at the World Parks Congress (WPC). At WPC the Asian sacred Natural Sites Network will collaborate on workshops in support of the development of a training module. The network will also support a first regional workshop and support mission to the Himalayan region. A start will be made on supporting translations of the essential IUCN UNESCO Guidelines into regional languages and the development of Country Profiles on sacred natural sites.

    Phase three is largely under development and meant to create an e-learning module and a training or workshop module. In country workshops and trainings will be held for protected area managers, conservationists and custodians.

    “An Asian Philosophy of Protected Areas” was the title of the keynote presentation from Professor Amran Hamza, from Malaysia at the opening session of APC.
    (Source: Bas Verschuuren.)
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