The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog

Transboundary Cooperation for Conservation in the Heart of Borneo: Case Study of the Border between Indonesia and Malaysia

Posted in ASEAN-Canada Partnership by NTSblog on May 18, 2014

Ecosystems should not be divided by administrative or political boundaries, given their interconnected links amongst each other. Without careful consideration of these interconnectivities, policies and interventions on natural resources may bring about unintended consequences at both the domestic and international levels. In light of these circumstances, my research examines transboundary cooperation for conservation in West-Kalimantan, Indonesia and Sarawak, Malaysia. The cooperation is not only important for conserving biodiversity but also in potentially improving local livelihoods and economic growth in the region. That said, however, varying institutional and social-economic conditions between the two countries could hinder the progress of cooperation.

Transboundary cooperation in West Kalimantan and Sarawak came into formal existence in 1993 when the two governments agreed on “Joint Cooperation in Developing a Transfrontier Reserve”. The cooperation has also been supported mainly from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). In 1993 for instance, ITTO initiated a project and provided grant assistance for establishing the transfrontier reserve along the border of Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2001, ITTO along with Indonesia Ministry of Forestry and the World Wild Fund (WWF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the involvement of community on transboundary management.

However, promoting conservation and development in border areas is not an easy task. Priorities, funding and management capacity vary between the partner nations. Government agencies and private sector companies in both Malaysia and Indonesia, for instance, have different scenarios on the expansion of protected areas, continued logging, large-scale agricultural development, increased smallholder agriculture and also infrastructure and ecotourism development. These problems have obstructed efforts to enhance the level of cooperation. Cultural differences have sometimes also made cooperation more complicated.

Identifying further challenges and opportunities, as well as understanding stakeholders’ interests in the area would help to foster and strengthen transboundary cooperation. As the case study indicates, the transboundary conservation effort involves several strategies such as ecotourism and joint task force. Since it operates at the regional, national, and local levels, implementation of these strategiesneed to consider multiple levels of policy.

This blog post has been written by Ali Muhyidin.  Ali is a PhD candidate at the University of Tokyo, associate lecturer at University of Indonesia and Binus University, and Junior Fellow (2013-2014) under the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership. For more information on the ASEAN-Canada Research Partnership, please click here.


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