The first step was taken in 2000, when Rili was the country director for The Nature Conservancy’s Indonesia Marine Program. The Coral Triangle Center was founded under the auspices of TNC, an international environmental organization that also works on land and freshwater conservation all over the world. The idea was to establish a new organization with a narrower scope to concentrate on the region’s reefs. Another aim was to encourage ever closer relations with people and organizations in the Coral Triangle countries, and ultimately to harness the tremendous knowledge, potential, and vitality of those who live and work in the region.
It was not difficult to find others who shared this vision. An early champion was George Tahija, at the time a member of TNC’s advisory board for Indonesia. Mr Tahija crucially shared the conviction that the strengths of modern marine management and scientific approaches needed to be transferred to local actors. He was also one of those who recognized the need for CTC’s autonomy, when it became apparent that its goals could be better accomplished as an independent, local organization. Mr Tahija was joined by Mr Hasyim Djalal, who for many years served Indonesia as a diplomat, and Mr Made Subadia, a top Indonesian conservation official. Scientists of international renown and representatives of all six Coral Triangle nations were drafted into the new foundation’s board. This step towards independence was fully supported by The Nature Conservancy, who provided foundational funding support and transitional periods to enable CTC to become an independent organization.
Even before its life as a new organization officially started, CTC worked towards one of the most significant developments in the area: the six nation agreement called The Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security (CTI-CFF). Mr Johannes Subijanto, our deputy executive director at the time, worked alongside Rili and others from across different organizations in the Coral Triangle countries to bring about this unprecedented partnership, which launched just one year before CTC itself. Five years later, in 2014, CTC became the CTI-CFF’s first new partner since its launch, the only locally-based organization to join international giants such as Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy, and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature.
Our work for the Coral Triangle Initiative reflects the main goals of our activities: building local capacity, covening an active network of women leaders and local government executives who are championing marine conservation in their countries, and sharing lessons learned and best practices in ensuring that the Coral Triangle’s marine protecteda areas are effectively managed.
As CTC moves into our second decade of operation, we are building up our projects and programs, amplifying our impact across the region. We have trained more than 5,000 marine practitioners from across the Coral Triangle, and have designed training courses that are customized to the needs of various geographies and participants. We have connected people, communities, and organizations to share issues, solutions, and knowledge. We have spoken to people and organizations with no interest in coral reefs and transformed them into active allies working for reef health.
Meanwhile, we have launched our CTC Center for Marine Conservation in 2017, becoming a hub for people from across the world. We aim to engage with people from diverse backgrounds through art, science and culture, bringing marine conservation to the wider public. Our Center is expanding on our successes, and will be the base around which CTC grows.
In 2010, when we began as an independent entity, we had just five employees. In 2020 we have over 40 staff, and protected 387,000 hectares of critical marine habitats and built a a strong network of hundreds of collaborators from the Coral Triangle and beyond. We have worked with governments, academic institutions, communities and community organizations, local and international businesses, and NGOs. It is this aspect of our work that gives us hope for the future: since our work started, we have witnessed the power and beauty of human resilience, enthusiasm, and the strength of people connected by the desire to serve the sea that is the very foundation of life on our planet.