Bali, Indonesia - The Arafura and Timor Seas form a major part of the maritime boundary between Australia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea. It is of significant economic and environmental importance for the countries. Available data indicates that much of the marine environment in the region face increasing pressure through expanding shipping and fishing activity, urban and industrial development including mining, port expansion, oil and gas exploration and production, changing land use in catchments, and tourism. These activities are affecting water and sediment quality, habitats and marine biodiversity. The coastal and marine environments of the ATS region are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Building on the achievements and lessons from the GEF/UNDP Project on Arafura Timor Seas Ecosystem Action Programme (2010-2015), a second phase of the project was launched focusing on the Implementation of the Arafura and Timor Seas Regional and National Strategic Action Programs (ATSEA2).
To formally initiate the ATSEA2 Project, the Project Inception Workshop and First Regional Steering Committee Meeting was organized and conducted in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia last November 18 and 19, 2019. The Government of Indonesia through the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (MAFF) hosted the events. Representatives from Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Australia, and the new country partner Papua New Guinea were present together with representatives from the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub and respective Country Offices. Stakeholder partners from Indonesian Seas Large Marine Ecosystem (ISLME), Coral Triangle Center (CTC), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Indonesia, and Yayakan Conservasi Alam Nusantara (YKAN) were also present. The Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of East Asia (PEMSEA) Resource Facility serving as UNDP’s Regional Implementing Partner for the Project served as the Secretariat for the meeting.
With a view to facilitate shared understanding, ownership of the project’s goals of "promoting sustainable development of ATS region to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants through the restoration, conservation and sustainable management of marine-coastal ecosystems", its environmental and governance objectives and project results, the Inception Workshop reviewed and confirmed the project’s vision, goals, structure, strategic results framework, and target outcomes. Partners were also apprised on the monitoring and evaluation requirements for the Project in line with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UNDP procedures.
One of the key highlights of the Workshop was the open discussion with country partners, UNDP, PEMSEA, and stakeholder partners on how to develop an effective mechanism that would further widen multi-stakeholder participation and partnerships into ATSEA2 project implementation. The workshop also provided a venue for the stakeholder and country partners to share possible areas of collaboration.
Outcomes of the Inception Workshop were also reflected at the discussions during the First Regional Steering Committee Meeting, which was exclusive to the country partners (Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and Australia), UNDP and PEMSEA. The first Regional Steering Committee (RSC) firmed out the proposed Work Plans and Budgets both at the national and regional components of the Project for the year 2020. The RSC also reviewed and adopted the Terms of Reference of the RSC, and provided suggestions to guide the development of the TOR for the National Project Boards. Throughout the discussions, the meeting emphasized the importance of strong in-country and cross-country collaboration to achieving the regional goals and targets set by the project. The Meeting expressed hope for ATSEA2, given its strong country components, to effect more meaningful impacts on the ground.
The next Regional Steering Committee Meeting in 2020 is tentatively set in October or November 2020 in Timor-Leste, subject to formal confirmation from the Government of Timor-Leste through the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF).