Hue Thu Nguyen
Building multi-stakeholder collaboration for marine conservation.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Efforts to conserve the marine environment are often stymied by the presence of multiple powerful stakeholders who hold competing goals. In Vietnam, the country’s long coastline has long been an important driver for the economy and a home for communities who make their living on fishing and other natural resources. But the coast is also increasingly important for tourism and business. All too often, aggressive economic development projects take over the land, sometimes forcing vulnerable citizens to move and adapt to a different ecosystem, endangering their livelihoods, and threatening the long-term health of the coastal ecosystem.
MCD leads collaborative solutions that allow local economies to benefit from tourism and business while supporting the livelihood of residents and the future of the environment. Over 1-3 years of a regular project cycle, MCD works with a given community to understand the environmental pressures and challenges. They foster dialogue and collaboration between local decision makers, citizens, government entities, and companies, helping stakeholders contribute their own self-interest to design solutions that leave everyone better off. Along the way, they equip community member champions to become “Marine Ambassadors” who continue to lead conservation efforts after the project has finished. MCD’s early success in preserving Trao Reef, a local marine protected area, has been replicated in other provinces, and their work has led to broad recognition of the role of community members, including their legal right to co-manage fisheries. MCD’s approach serves as a model for navigating the human-centered complexities of environmental conservation.
“In 2011, we got a collaborative project through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), which encourages partners from Sweden and Vietnam to work together on development issues. The project aims to pilot Ecological Risk Assessment (ERA) at biosphere reserves in Vietnam. SIDA only funds programming, not other costs such as personnel and overhead. So, we collaborated with Oxfam for financial support. We have been implementing successful programs for three years now.”