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The EAS Congress 2009 Ministerial Forum: Carrying the Torch of Climate Change Adaptation

Last modified November 16, 2009

The phenomenon of climate change is now an urgent global environmental issue, with East Asia bearing the brunt of its adverse impacts. Studies reveal that developing countries in the region, with large amounts of their population living along the coasts and low-lying islands and depending mainly on agriculture and marine resources for sustenance, are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate extremes.

At the same time, these countries play a crucial role in combating climate change impacts, as outcomes of their rapid economic growth such as urbanization, land-use change and deforestation continue to take a toll on the environment.

These, and numerous other issues on the climate change phenomenon will be taken up in the Third Ministerial Forum of the 2009 East Asian Seas (EAS) Congress, to be held this November in Manila, the Philippines. With the theme Adaptation to Climate Change through Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management, the Forum will focus on ways and means of enhancing social, economic and ecosystem resiliency to climate change through adaptation programs.

2003 and 2006 Ministerial Forums

The First Ministerial Forum of the inaugural EAS Congress of 2003 was marked by the adoption of the Putrajaya Declaration of Regional Cooperation for the Development Strategy for the Seas of East Asia (SDS-SEA), a common platform for regional cooperation inb addressing transboundary issues and a framework for policy and programme development and implementation at the national and local levels.

In 2006, the Second Ministerial Forum saw the signing of the Haikou Partnership Agreement on the Implementation of the SDS-SEA and the accompanying Operating Arrangements. These have assigned the Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) as a fully-fledged regional partnership.

This year, the Third Ministerial Forum will aim to provide policy direction for the SDS-SEA’s improvement and strengthening. New targets for its continuing implementation through 2012 will also be presented and agreed on.

Integrated Coastal Management

The Forum will hold a special discussion on how the integrated coastal management (ICM) program can be systematically applied in addressing adaptation to climate change, including the formulation of a policy and the endorsement of a regional action agenda to scale up ICM programs as an on-the-ground approach to climate change adaptation, particularly among the region’s local governments.

The ICM approach recognizes that water knows no national boundaries, and is thus unique because it focuses on coastal environmental and resource problems and management issues that go beyond legal, administrative and jurisdictional barriers. This offers a major breakaway from the traditional sectoral management approach of the past, as the ICM approach aims to develop management framework, mechanisms and processes that encourage participation among various stakeholders in formulating policies and decisions.

Implementation of the ICM approach will reduce poverty, improve people’s livelihood and reduce vulnerability to natural hazards and overall, will lead to sustainable development.

In the Philippines, Executive Order 533, declaring ICM as the national strategy and policy framework for sustainable development of the coastal and marine resources, was signed by the President on June 2006.

The Third Ministerial Forum will be attended by various representatives and stakeholders from the East Asian region and around the world, including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Indonesia, Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), Malaysia, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The Third Ministerial Forum of the EAS Congress 2009 is hosted by the Philippine Government and co-organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the PEMSEA, and supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and the Coastal Management Center (CMC).

To know more about the Forum and other events of the 2009 East Asian Seas Congress, contact the Secretariat at congress@pemsea.org or visit www.pemsea.org/eascongress.