GMS Cooperation on Transboundary Biodiversity Conservation

Border areas have historically been a source of conflict and strife in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Nowadays, with over 20 years of continuing peace and growing prosperity, border areas are focus points for countries in the subregion to work together. To this end, governments and their development partners are working hard to better connect the GMS through transport infrastructure, customs procedures, and border management.

Biodiversity conservation collaboration is also focused on border areas. Most of the GMS’s pristine forests and its richest biodiversity is found in mountainous, isolated areas that straddle the subregion’s countries. South–South cooperation on biodiversity conservation has significantly increased in recent years with the support of CEP and other partners, including Flora and Fauna International and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). 

The PRC has taken a lead role in this effort. The country often uses its own financial resources to share its experiences on transboundary conservation and find areas for collaboration with neighbors such as the Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam. For a decade, regular exchange visits have taken place between environment officials in Yunnan Province with their counterparts in the northern provinces of the Lao PDR. Guangxi officials have done the same with their counterparts over the border in Cao Bang, Viet Nam. This collaboration has been greatly strengthened by recent memorandums of understanding on transboundary conservation for more active on-the-ground interventions.

In the Sino–Viet Nam Karst landscape, collaboration between Guangxi and Cao Bang is focusing on animal species, and particularly the Cao-vit gibbon, whose entire global population is only found in a small area of forest along the border. Both are working together to learn about this critically endangered animal, and have developed a joint protection strategy with the support of Flora and Fauna International. Under a 2015 memorandum of understanding, the two provinces plan to collaborate more on biodiversity conservation research, training, monitoring, and awareness-raising.

In the Mekong Headwaters landscape, the Lao PDR and Yunnan Province are working closely in the 200,000-hectare Sino–Lao Joint Protected Area. This collaboration includes joint patrols and monitoring, and shared training events and public awareness activities. In 2014, officials and experts from both sides conducted surveys of Asian elephant populations living in their border areas, and they are finalizing a joint elephant protection plan.

On 1 Feb 2018, Cambodia and Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on adjoining areas of the Eastern Forest Complex and the Cardamom Mountains. Both countries are also exploring the potential for establishing a transboundary biodiversity corridor.

As GMS countries pool their resources and deepen their collaboration on transboundary conservation, the outlook for many endangered animal species and forest ecosystems in these areas is looking up, though they still face many threats.

“The environment has no boundary and therefore we must collaborate to protect the biodiversity in these landscapes.”
-- Sao Sopheap, Director of Cabinet, Ministry of Environment, Cambodia

Publish Date: 8th March 2018

Last Updated: 8th March 2018

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