“A transboundary problem is an environmental problem that is transboundary in scale – In other words, it is an environmental problem originating in, or contributed by, one or more countries and affecting (or impacting) another,” said Matthew Fox, the Regional Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) Specialist.

Considering developments in the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS) region over the past 10 years, the TDA updating aims to review and confirm or update the priority transboundary issues in the region since the first TDA was completed in 2011. This will provide the basis for updating the regional Strategic Action Program (SAP) and supporting National Action Programs (NAPs) for addressing the priority transboundary problems identified in the TDA, which were initially developed in 2012. The regional inception workshop for the TDA updating was held virtually in February 2021, followed by several online national and regional meetings in July 2022 to progress the preparation of Country Synthesis Reports, which will serve as references in updating the TDA.

For its first major regional event after the easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions, the GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA Arafura and Timor Seas Ecosystem Action Phase 2 (ATSEA-2) Project brought together key project participants from the ATS countries in Bali, Indonesia, for the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) Updating Workshop on 09 August 2022. 

The workshop in Bali was joined by a total of 37 participants, which included the Regional and National TDA consultants, National Project Directors (NPDs) and TDA-SAP National Working Group (NWG) representatives from Indonesia and Timor-Leste, as well as members of the ATSEA-2 Regional Project Management Unit (RPMU) and National Coordination Unit (NCU) Coordinators, while representatives from Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Australia, as well as NCU PNG joined via zoom. 

“The value of the TDA updating process in the overall 5-year target of the ATSEA-2 project, as it will serve as key basis in the subsequent updating of the SAP and NAPs which are targeted to be adopted through a Ministerial Declaration by 2024 to guide longer term collaboration in the region,” said Dr. Handoko Adi Susanto, ATSEA-2 Regional Project Manager, in his opening remarks. He also highlighted the importance of the TDA Updating Workshop to help ensure that all countries are properly guided as they proceed with the consultations and completion of the Country Synthesis Reports. 

Building on the progress and camaraderie from the virtual meetings, the workshop aimed to review the draft country synthesis reports for Indonesia, PNG and Timor-Leste; discuss potential transboundary issues emerging from the reports; review and update the timeline for the TDA updating process; plan for succeeding TDA national and regional consultation workshops; and identify potential members of the ATS-TDA Regional Working Group (RWG) which will provide advice and technical inputs on regional transboundary issues.

The Workshop opened with welcoming messages from the National Project Director of Indonesia (Mrs. Yayan Hikmayani, Director of Center for Fisheries Research, Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries/MMAF), and representatives from Timor-Leste (Mr. Celestino Da Cunha Barreto, National Director, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries/MAF), and PNG (Mr. Rickson Lis, National Fisheries  Authority/NFA), and the National Focal Point from Australia (Dr. Andrew Chek, Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water/DCCEEW). The country messages highlighted country support for the TDA updating objectives and process, particularly in providing a basis and understanding of the most updated status of the ATS region and guiding further national and regional planning in the coming years.

With the facilitation of Mr. Matthew Fox, Regional TDA Specialist, the National TDA Consultants summarized key points from the country synthesis reports, including highlights, points of interest, information likely to be new (since the last TDA 10 years ago), emerging priority trans-boundary issues, key data sources used, critical information gaps or challenges, and plans for addressing gaps and completing the report. The presentations were delivered by the team leaders of the National TDA Consultant teams, namely, Dr. Yonvitner, Director of the Center for Coastal and Marine Resources Studies – IPB University, Indonesia, Prof. Ralph Mana of the University of Papua New Guinea, and Dr. Abilio da Fonseca of the National University of Timor-Leste.

The discussions also raised some key points for consideration in the updating of the TDA, including the political and cultural dimensions of transboundary issues, gender aspects and involvement of women in the coastal economy and marine resource management, and country positions and plans in relation to existing and upcoming international targets (e.g. 30 by 30 target on biodiversity, etc.).

(By Cristine Ingrid Narcise)