Environmental issues have always been close to Difa Shafira’s heart. A recent graduate from the law faculty of the University of Indonesia, Shafira spent her university days avoiding the use of private transport. ‘My friends used to call me the queen of public transport’, she said.

In her third year of university, she was requested to choose her field of specialisation, and decided to focus on environmental law. During one of her environmental law classes, she learnt about the various legal instruments available to improve peatland management and conservation. ‘My professor talked about the danger of drying peatland and how according to the Indonesian legal system, it is considered an abnormally dangerous activity.’

Shafira now works for the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL), an independent non-governmental organisation working with different stakeholders to develop good environmental governance practices in Indonesia.

Good environmental governance is one of the key pillars of peatland conservation, which is why ICEL was invited to participate in a webinar focusing on peatland conservation and livelihoods in response to COVID-19. The webinar which took place on 26 November 2020 was organised and facilitated by Component 1 of the Sustainable Use of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN (SUPA) programme, a jointly funded initiative by the EU and the German government.

‘I realized how multifaceted the issue of peatland management and conservation is’, Shafira said.

‘We all just need to do our part and together, we can make a difference’.

The opening remarks for the webinar were provided by the Deputy Head of Mission of the EU Mission to ASEAN, Lukas Gajdos and the First Secretary of Climate and Environment of the German Embassy to Indonesia, Warthane Puvanarajah.

For Shafira, the topic of whether ASEAN will go greener in response to COVID-19, presented by journalist Johanna Son from Reporting ASEAN, was particularly interesting. ‘This was a really eye-opening session for me’, Shafira said. ‘It was the first time I had really thought of the impacts of COVID-19 on the environment and migrant workers, for example.’

The webinar also included presentations from Maria Nuutinen from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as well as Sonya Dewi and Telly Kurniasari from World Agroforestry (ICRAF). The speakers focused on peatland livelihoods and sustainable peatland management methods in ASEAN during the pandemic.

The public webinar attracted close to 200 participants, in addition to 3,200 people on Facebook live.

According to Berthold Haasler, Principal Advisor of Component 1 of the SUPA programme, successful peatland management and conservation depends on the commitment of all stakeholders, especially in the wake of the global pandemic. ‘We have to promote sustainable peatland management, biodiversity and conservation to strengthen resilience in response to global pandemics—now and in the future.’

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