The Yunnan Initiative
The successful implementation of Yunnan’s policy, as imaginative as it is, is a huge challenge to any government in the world today. Yunnan’s culture and environment have been, and continue to be, threatened by the perceived need for rapid economic development for the purpose of poverty alleviation, which can readily lead to the degradation of culture and the environment. Therefore, the following issues must be given special attention:
- In selecting development projects, shortsighted and strictly profit-motivated projects should be astutely avoided as they are often more destructive than constructive. In addition, the planning and implementation of these projects should proceed incrementally to prevent damage to the culture, ecology, economy, and society.
- When planning a project, the most socially responsible, economically just, and scientifically sound approach should be employed. In addition, those most affected must be invited to participate fully in the decision-making processes.
- The voices of the nationalities and the communities must be heard; the people must have ownership of their cultural legacy and resources; the material gains due them must be guaranteed; knowledge generated from efforts must be shared with the communities; and the rights of women, children, and the elderly must be protected.
- Inadequacy in law and regulations as well as in their implementation must be removed; properly trained professionals and administrators must be cultivated. Strict protection for the environment, biodeversity, as well as sacred sites, mountains, and forests must be effectively enforced; protection for cultural relics, historic buildings, and other structures must be equally enforced.
- While there exists Environmental Impact Assessment legislation, its provisions and implementation need to be strengthened and there is also a need to integrate Social Impact Assessment into development planning as an essential component; an assessment of the cultural impact in development planning should be included as well. Moreover, the indigenous understanding of the interaction between humanity and nature should be respected.
- As acknowledged in the newly adopted Yunnan policy, tourism is a major engine for driving economic development in the Province. Unregulated and uncontrolled tourism should be avoided. The Province, therefore, needs to develop mechanisms for forms of tourism that will enhance cultural and ecology and provide direct economic and social benefits to the local people.
- Community initiated public education on cultural and environmental values as well as professional training for local specialists must be a priority. A keen awareness of the importance of cultural and environmental conservation must be cultivated in all sectors of the society. Community-based cultural studies, mentorship, conservation, and tourism, already being developed, should be encouraged and promoted.
- Traditional knowledge, particularly that of the nationalities and the communities, should be utilized wherever appropriate in conservation and development efforts as has been practiced in some cases.
- Cultural and ecological diversity are the primary capital for sustainable economic and social development in Yunnan. They must be cherished, protected, and cultivated. Considerations in nationalities heritage and biodiversity must be central in all economic and social development planning.
- The Province needs to learn from mistakes that have been made throughout the world.
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