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Dialogue on Haze

October 27, 2010

The Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) Chairman, Professor Simon Tay SC, called for a meeting via an email sent over the weekend to all the various stakeholders in Singapore to have a dialogue on the recent haze issue to be held earlier today.

First off, the session was opened by Prof Simon and followed up by the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) on what are the factual information that has happened over the past few days. Many question were raised to clarify the facts that were presented and then we plunged deep into a dialogue session.

It was quite an insightful session with alot of local and international organisation, media partners, corporate entities, as well as individual resource people  (such as professors and celebrities) sharing their inputs.

Well, I haven’t had too much to say and perhaps I may have said something that was either out of line or totally irrelevant. However, after moving off from the session, the thoughts and idea came in later (yeah….I’m kinda slow) and so crafted an email directly back to Prof Simon Tay.

Take a read below and perhaps, you could share some of your views as well on this matter.

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From: Wilson Ang
Date: Thu, Oct 28, 2010 at 12:19 AM
Subject: Follow up: Dialog on haze – My humble Opinions
To: Simon Tay

Dear Prof Simon,

Thank  you for convening the meeting earlier today.

It was insightful to hear the factual reporting by ASMC, but also the view points of the various partners who were present.

Pardon me for perhaps looking very lost during the discussion or for not contributing too much because I was. Instead I shared some of the things I do in hope to shed some some light what was happening on the ground through my personal experience in the past couple of years.

Wasn’t sure if this was aligned with what you had in mind, but I hope this email would be able to share some of my additional opinions and suggestions that may (or may not) be useful for your findings.

Opinions:

1. Improving Governmental Partnership + Stronger Environmental Governance

–  It seems like a one sided relationship from our end. The Indonesian government doesn’t seem to be too open about their process or perhaps I am not too well informed via the limited media platforms I have access to.

– Decentralisation of control perhaps is one area that needs to be overcome. It was kept being mentioned about who has the main control and such. The fact is, there is no main control or at least there will not be any in the near future (from my point of view). We should be wary not go in and try to change the way they govern their country but work around it, while still providing continuous support to help them improve their governing system.

– Corruption or Culture? What I personally found useful is to work with district or local governments. And at some instances, with even local chief to build strong lasting relationship on tangible projects. We go in as “we are equal” and not “you need my help” mindset and this does help a great deal.

– There are alot of good initiatives as there are bad ones. However, these are not strategically mapped out. Nature Society Singapore, WWF, CI and many others (and humbly our own) do have localized project in Indonesia. Perhaps mapping it together may help to consolidate best practices for others to learn in our small “successes” collectively.

– Perhaps what is missing would be the to have some measurement of where were we, where have we done and what next. A better measurement system would be great to chart how we have progress and a tangible direction to show how we have progressed.

2. Providing tangible options of livelihood (with corporates, social enterprises and NGOs)

– FACT: The local do not have an option of other livelihood and it take times to implement any change of options for them.

– Example in Borneo where we’ve got to wok with local hunters to catch illegal loggers. We were surprised to learn that while the intend was good to prevent such matters, but we did not have other option but to burn the confiscated logs! This is because it was too heavy to move it out of the forest. We tried to salvage a few to build mini pit stops in the Borneo site where we confiscated them, so that would eventually be part of our eco tourism package. This is to show participants how was illegal logging conducted locally. But we can only salvage that much and train limited amount of eco guides from the illegal loggers for an alternate livelihood.

– Another example was in Aceh where the local farmers do in fact has their own land. But they chose otherwise to go out and get their money because they did not have skill to grow a livelihood crop. Hence, what we did was working with the village chief, through a local partner, to develop space for local consumers and another area for exporting organic Cocoa. This prove to be somewhat successful when we start to help them to “sell” through Singapore to the larger MNCs who would buy in bulk. thus, providing some kind of continued income for them.

– Carbon Financing should not end up as “Carbon Colonisation”. It all sees fine and dainty but often, it becomes an opportunity for countries or companies to oust the original land owners. These land owners/farmers should continue to own their space and not be seen as it belongs to a specific corporation and be bought over to “slave” for any specific company.

3. Consumer Empowerment

– Education is important but there should be some kind of basic standards that allow educators, NGOs and public to have simplified information. We are living in the age of information overload and we do not need too many such “noise” clutter us any further.

– Corporate self initiated labeling to occur. And when there is such of a labeling, it should be aware that this should not be too much of an additional costs to consumers because most consumer would not pay more than 5% for such things. Perhaps this is why fair trade labeling are more popular among overseas instead of local. Important to look into the implementation scheme.

– Am supportive with boycotting certain companies when we have now clear evidence of which company are directly related or be the cause of the burning of these spaces. And this message has to be sent out to the larger audience to be aware why this is being done.

Suggestions:

1. Push for localized government accountability/ ownership
– So they would be penalized or rewarded in the amount of hot spot in their management
– This will facilitate them to take initiative to reduce slash and burn issue by looking out for organisation to partner

2. Explore a larger scheme of providing livelihood through investment to these local farmers such as REDD (plus) without “Carbon Colonising” them.
– Work with NGOs, Social Enterprises, Institutions and various grassroots organisation to make it happen (perhaps even through micro financing).
– By putting together what have been done and work with local government what can be done further elsewhere

3. Pinpoint and do investigative studies to highlight companies who are at directly at fault.
– Will give sufficient evidence to do a proper “boycott”
– Could be used as an opportunity to work with the company to improve their current state of play
– Would require a closer working relationship with Indonesian government on what happens after the monitoring successfully points out the exact location of the hot spots and who it belongs to.

Thank you for your time reading this.

Warm Regards,
Wilson Ang (Mr.)
Founder / President
Environmental Challenge Organisation (Singapore)
http://www.eco-singapore.org
T: +65 6333 5543
F: +65 6333 5537

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