The Indo-Pacific Conservation Alliance is dedicated to the study and conservation of the native ecosystems of the tropical Indo-Pacific region and support for traditional peoples in their stewardship of these globally significant natural resources.
IPCA was formed in December 1998 in collaborative association with scientists at the Bishop Museum, Smithsonian Institution, World Bank, and other leading institutions. We were established with the aim of doing conservation with as little overhead as possible in order to focus resources into the field where they are urgently needed. IPCA is geared to act in alliance with and to work through existing in-country institutions as much as possible in order to reduce costs and build local capacity.
Originally based in Washington, DC, IPCA re-located in early 2004 to our current base at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawai’i. IPCA’s Executive Director and co-founder, John Burke Burnett, is also Executive Secretary of the Pacific Science Association, a regional scientific body that facilitates and coordinates international and multidisciplinary scientific research focusing on the Asia-Pacific region.
IPCA takes a slightly different approach to conservation. Rather than externally devising a conservation strategy and then seeking support among local communities, we work as facilitators to local communities who request our help in conserving their natural resources. We work closely with communities from the outset to understand local perceived needs and to identify and support shared goals, thereby establishing a strong emphasis on self-reliance and community initiative in project work.
This partnership with local peoples is essential to establish community-owned and community-driven conservation. The dialogue we establish helps communities identify their own priorities for conservation and appropriate development. This approach of long-term technical assistance and training to community organizations without imposing an outside model of conservation or sustainable development is critical to avoid creating dependencies on external support that have sometimes impacted similar efforts elsewhere.
"IPCA’s approach is to always work in ways that are both culturally appropriate
and strategically essential to create truly ‘bottom-up’ conservation."
IPCA provides information, training, equipment and other support to local stakeholders to help them conserve and manage their natural resources. We facilitate iterative strategic planning and management training exercises to help them determine a concrete agenda and to build institutional capacity. This approach is important in establishing transparency essential to successful projects.
In discussions with local stakeholders, we are clear about what we can and cannot assist with in terms of our own institutional mission and capacity. At the same time, we make clear our commitment to work with communities in implementing a broader vision for sustainable development, and leveraging roles for other external partners for work that we are not positioned to carry out, including improvements in educational resources, community health and enhancing opportunities for sustainable rural livelihoods (ex. microenterprise development).
"Protected areas or managed landscapes cannot be effectively managed unless
local communities agree to conserve them and benefits from doing so."
Conservation is complicated but achievable. In many cases, however, parks and protected areas ― though vital ― are not enough to conserve the entire scope of important species and ecosystems. IPCA believes in a ‘living landscape’ approach that understands the rights of local peoples to benefit from the richness of their landscape without damaging it, ensuring that forests, rivers, and seas and the species within them remain intact for future generations.
Since many of the terrestrial and coastal resources in the islands of the Indo-Pacific are under some form of traditional tenure, conservation projects have faced the challenge of how to integrate conservation with development. In many areas of the Pacific such as New Guinea, establishing a national park or protected area is not an appropriate benchmark for conservation success. Rather, the goal should be community-managed landscapes that incorporate conservation and resource management principles.
IPCA’s strategy is based on recognition that local communities (rather than, say, park guards) are often the most effective and appropriate “enforcement points” to bring about and ensure the realization of conservation objectives. We work with local stakeholders and other partners to implement activities that support shared objectives for conservation and appropriate development. Activities typically involve consensus-building exercises, capacity-training, environmental education, participatory community habitat mapping, monitoring of outside resource use, and documentation of biotic resources and their social importance.
IPCA carries out programs using an “adaptive management” framework that builds flexibility into the strategy and implementation of joint activities. Given the complex nature of the activities, IPCA Team members are given as much flexibility as feasible in carrying out projects, while tasked with responsibility to ensure progress and results. This continual refinement/adjustment of our management strategy helps ensure that the program is optimally geared to producing demonstrable results, and that our local partners are receiving the kind of support that they need to be effective.
IPCA develops quantitative and qualitative goals at the outset of each project in order to facilitate monitoring and evaluation of project progress. The training, monitoring, and education methods we use thus facilitate maximum effectiveness in terms of outputs, monitoring, and reporting.