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Interview Questions for Charles Duncan
for manomet magazine

Charles DuncanCharles Duncan is the director of Manomet's Shorebird Recovery Project and is based in Portland, Maine. We spoke to him in late 2011 about how international cooperation can benefit shorebird conservation.

1) You recently attended the Global Flyways Workshop in Seosan, South Korea. Please tell us how this meeting came to be.

In summer of 2007, as we were about to launch the Shorebird Recovery Project at Manomet, Dr. Jeffrey Parrish, then Manomet's Vice-president for Science, convened experts in migratory bird conservation from around the world at a retreat in Essex, Massachusetts. The idea was to vet our strategy with them, with other Manomet staff, and with a few trustees to make sure we were on the right track. After dinner one evening, several of us who work in different flyways around the world realized how much we had to learn from one another, and how seldom we had the opportunity to meet. We also were reminded how energizing and fun it was to work with people with similar responsibilities and worldviews!


Dr. Nick Davidson, Deputy Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and Dr. Vicky Jones, BirdLife International's Flyway Officer were part of that retreat and introduced a successful resolution to create just such opportunities to Ramsar's 10th "Conference of the Parties" (all the member nations) in 2008. Subsequently, the notion of a Global Flyways meeting was supported by the Convention on Migratory Species.

2) Who attended?

The organizers invited about two dozen leaders in flyway scale conservation from all sectors: multi-lateral treaty organizations, national governments, and non-profits such as ourselves. There were also nine "observers" mostly from our host organizations in the Republic of Korea. Only four people working in the Americas participated, so we were honored by the invitation.

3) Why was the meeting held in Seosan?

Seosan is a city of about 165,000 on Cheonsu Bay, an Important Bird Area that hosts staggering numbers of migratory waterbirds of many sorts. The city's forwardthinking leaders have embraced this natural wealth as a feature worth protecting and promoting. They have supported previous meetings on Asian migratory waterbirds, and were most generous hosts. The mayor and deputy mayor joined us for dinner one evening, and even came to our lodging very early the last morning to see us off. A logistical advantage of Seosan is that it is only 2 hours from Incheon, South Korea, and the headquarters of the East-Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership, our sister organization in that part of the world.

4) Manomet is proud of its ability to organize and support a broad spectrum of partners. How was Manomet's leadership on shorebird conservation helpful to other participants at the workshop?

ConferenceFor better or for worse, our reputation preceded us. I was asked to give more talks (six) over the four days than anyone else, all on various aspects of the [Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network]'s structure and approach. One of the things that resonated most with the other participants was our many successes in achieving lasting conservation at our network sites through an entirely voluntary mechanism. Remember that many participants represented very legalistic multilateral treaties that operate with formalities like resolutions "recognizing that..., and aware that ... and whereas..." with legally binding commitments and reporting requirements from the signatories, so some were pretty surprised at what can be achieved in the absence of that legal framework.

Participants also connected immediately with the wisdom of our "4-S" strategy that conservation requires 1). building the Science foundation for action, 2). Site-based conservation action, and 3). explicit Success measures to monitor progress, all set in matrix of 4) Stakeholders—the people involved in each of these endeavors. In fact, late in the day I presented that approach, Nick Davidson, the meeting co-chair, sent an e-mail to all participants asking them to reply with what their organization was doing in each of the four "S's".

The concept and vocabulary of "Collective Impact" that has become a theme of Manomet's work under John Hagan's leadership was both immediately familiar to participants and entirely novel. The very nature of working at the enormous geographic scale demanded by conservation of highly migratory species means that we all are inherently doing collective impact projects. Flywayscale conservation is just way too big and way too complex for any one organization to address by itself. The participants in the Global Flyways Workshop are among the best in the world in approaching their work through this lens. But none had thought quite so analytically about their approach, as expert in it as they may be, and none had heard the terms "Collective Impact" and "backbone organization." It was like holding up a mirror to their work that helped them see themselves and their approach in a new light.

5) What did you learn from other workshop participants that will help Manomet's mission?

[Laughing] I am notoriously and often embarrassingly slow to realize what I have learned so you might want to ask me again in six months. But I think for me there were take-homes in three big areas that made it invaluable to have been part of this Workshop.

ConferenceThe first thing I "learned" is the new people I connected with. It should be obvious that the point of a "meeting" is to meet people, but funders and government agencies sometimes think they are a waste of budgets. In this case, I have no doubt that my new relationships with colleagues from the African-European Waterbird Agreement, the East-Asian Australasian Flyway Partnership and the International Crane Foundation will be invaluable—they all share Manomet's approach to conservation that benefits wildlife and people.

I also learned how positively our work is viewed around the world. Since its inception 25 years ago—well before my time with it—WHSRN has been innovative and trailblazing. But that means there's not been a trail to follow! The Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, wrote: Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar ["Walker—there isn't any road. You make the road by walking."] and that's what our work often feels like. It was validating and encouraging to see that others think we're on the right path.

A more specific lesson that will help us came from participant, Angus Middleton, CEO of a European non-profit that represents some 700,000 hunters dedicated to conservation in the European Union. The recent shooting of two Whimbrels wearing satellite tags has brought attention and pressure to regulate shorebird hunts in Guadeloupe and other parts of the Flyway where it is legal and to enforce laws where it is not. Presentations and discussions at the Workshop have helped us understand how best to work with the many stakeholders in this issue, where we could be seen an interfering outsiders if not handled carefully.

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