Seeking synergy between community and state-based governance for biodiversity conservation: The role of Indigenous and Community-Conserved Areas in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo



Sabah in Malaysian Borneo contains a range of diverse ecosystems and some of the richest concentrations of biodiversity in the world. Yet the state's existing protected area network is too fragmented and of insufficient size to safeguard biodiversity in the long term. Experts have emphasised the need for a landscape level approach to shore up conservation areas through the creation of ecological corridors of compatible mixed use. In light of the 2003 Durban Accord which signalled a shift towards greater levels of community participation in conservation, this article features the efforts made by the state to explore the potential role of Indigenous and Community-Conserved Areas (ICCAs) in strengthening biodiversity conservation. Selected case studies are used to showcase some of the ways ICCAs are already making important contributions to safeguarding ecological services and maintaining habitat connectivity in the state. Recognising the role of indigenous and local communities in sustaining Sabah's unique biocultural landscapes is a critical component of a long-term approach to sustaining irreplaceable natural heritage. Sabah's legal framework actually contains sufficient provision for greater synergy between community and state-based governance of biodiversity areas, yet aspects of Sabah's political economy must be addressed before this ideal can be realised.