In most countries, synergy and coherence among existing biodiversity policies has been identified as a serious gap in the implementation of the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). The creation of an integrated approach, underpinned by strong institutions and good governance, can be an essential step for countries to effectively achieve their biodiversity goals and targets.

Timor-Leste, as one of the participating countries in the ATSEA Programme, is preparing to establish a National Inter-Ministerial Committee. The Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr. Pedro dos Reis, underscored the importance of all ministries working together with local governments to carry out tasks successfully, thereby bringing benefits to communities.

“The Ministry [of Agriculture and Fisheries] has an obligation to take this opportunity and collaborate. We have to prioritise national priorities and learn from each other to better understand the key challenges, and break the silos for improving marine and coastal management and biodiversity conservation in Timor-Leste,” said the Minister during the inauguration of the National Inter-Ministerial Committee (NIMC) meeting at Hotel Timor, Dili, on 16 June 2022.

The GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA ATSEA-2 Project is supporting the establishment and functioning of the NIMC, which will play an important role in bridging the Arafura and Timor Seas (ATS) priorities with those of the beneficiary countries. It will serve as a central mechanism for developing and implementing a coordinated approach across different ministries and stakeholder groups for the implementation of the Strategic Action Programme (SAP) and National Action Programme (NAP).

“The NIMC will also promote synergies and linkages in implementing the SAP/NAP, NBSAP, and other plans addressing national priorities and pertinent regional and international conventions and declarations concerning marine and coastal and fisheries management,” stated Dr. Handoko Adi Susanto, ATSEA-2 Regional Project Manager.

Chaired by the Director General for Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the NIMC meeting resulted with a declaration of agreement to expedite the development of a Terms of Reference (ToR) outlining the NIMC objective, operational plan and roles and responsibilities of the members. This ToR will be incorporated into the updated ATS NAP, to be endorsed by the NIMC and National Project Board by the end of the project. The declaration was signed by officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation,Ministry of State Administration, Ministry of Petroleum and Minerals, Ministry of Interior, Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa’e, Non-Government Organizations, and UNDP Timor-Leste as the National Coordinating Unit of ATSEA-2 Project in Timor-Leste.

“In the near future, MAF will prepare a legal document for the joint ministerial diploma. Any other Department or expert as required may be invited by the chair,” stated Mr. Acacio Gutteres, who is the Director General of Fisheries of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Earlier in 2021, a task force for ATSEA-2 Project coordination was established, with key inputs from the MAF Minister’s Secretariat and the Directorate General of Fisheries. This development built on the progress of an earlier inter-ministerial meeting, conducted in 2020 regarding the establishment of the NIMC and a draft ToR. The task force is composed of eight members (three women and five men) from the National Directorate for Aquaculture, the National Directorate of Fisheries Inspection, and the National Directorate for Planning and Management of Marine Resources. Serving in an advisory capacity, the task force follows up on activities related to the establishment of the NIMC.

(By Dwi Aryo Tjiptohandono)