Conservation International (CI) closed its Papua New Guinea (PNG) office on the 30th of June 2016, to make way for Eco Custodian Advocates (ECA), a new national NGO, which opened in its place. This begins a new chapter of locally-led conservation to directly empower the people of PNG in sustainable development, as a part of CI’s overall commitment to supporting local environmental custodianship.
ECA will build upon decades of conservation experience, strong established partnerships in PNG, and continued guidance from CI to deliver on its new and inspired vision—to ensure that the each of the peoples of PNG have a belonging to place, as custodians of the environment and with an appreciation of their cultural ties to it.
Established and formally registered as a fully independent local entity, ECA will be managed directly in PNG. The staff, who have transitioned from CI to ECA, will continue to be based in Alotau, the capital of Milne Bay Province.
The new NGO will build upon CI’s achievements through ongoing collaboration with local communities and government with a particular focus on further empowering community partners in Milne Bay Province, the largest maritime province in the nation, containing one third of its coral reefs.
ECA will help to guide environmental policy, marine management and sustainable development initiatives for local communities. The NGO will also focus on engaging stakeholders to value and protect their environment, raise awareness for empowered decision-making and facilitate sustainable natural resource management at different levels of governance in alignment with social, cultural and economic aspirations.
CI in PNG
CI has worked in PNG for more than two decades. In this time, we have developed trusted relationships with local communities, empowering them to engage in sustainable natural resource management and policy decisions, and to better understand and participate in biodiversity conservation.
There have been many accomplishments along the way including the creation of the YUS Conservation Area in 2009, the first legally protected area of its kind in PNG, home over 12,000 people and essential habitat for the tree kangaroo, an important cultural icon. In 2014, the community-based NGO, the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program-PNG, who collectively manages the area, were awarded one of the international conservation community’s most prestigious achievements, the Equator Prize, for this cutting edge approach to conservation and sustainable livelihood development.
CI led several biological surveys in the country, helping to improve scientific understanding of the outstanding biodiversity the nation holds, such as the 200 new species to science that were announced following our Rapid Assessment program in the country’s Muller Mountains in 2010.
More recently, a new project called ‘Spreading the Reach’ in Milne Bay Province was established to conserve the nation’s vast and vibrant coral reefs that are under threat from destructive fishing, overfishing and climate change. Through this project, CI has been working hand-in-hand with island communities, helping them to acquire the skills and knowledge to monitor, manage and protect their coral reefs themselves.
Through these efforts CI and our partners have raised the profile of PNG’s biological diversity and its importance, both among the nation’s own citizens and globally, and have fostered conservation initiatives that we believe will endure for generations.
CI looks forward to continuing our support as a partner to ECA and through their great vision will continue to empower the people of PNG to care for the nature that they depend upon.
David Mitchell, Director, Eco Custodian Advocates
Emmeline Johansen, Regional Communications Manager, Asia Pacific Field Division, Conservation International