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Seminar | The Salween Peace Park: An indigenous response to the climate crisis | Paul Sein Twa

June 3 @ 11:00 - 13:00

Taking the Salween Peace Park as a case study, the talk unpacks key foundations of Karen indigenous approach to environmental governance and climate crisis. Focusing on Karen communities’ kaw governance system, it illustrates and analyzes how the system serves as one of the key foundations for Karen’s cultural preservation, political self-determination, and environmental governance.

The kaw system affirms Karen communities’ access to their ancestral lands. Unlike individual land titles and ownership, the kaw governance system does not stand in isolation from wider natural resource governance. Rather, it integrates and maintains the related ecosystem, reflecting the way Karen indigenous communities relate to their environment.

The kaw system can be understood in multiple ways; as a management and governing system, an institutional unit, a social framework, and/or as spiritual and physical territory, depending on context. It is both a physical area and a social institution for land and natural resource governance. It is a complex communal arrangement that integrates indigenous ecological knowledge, protected wildlife areas, rotational farming fields, and peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms.


Saw Paul Sein Twa is a founding member and director of the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), based in Thai-Myanmar border. He has over 20 years of experience working in natural resource governance and conflict transformation in Karen State, Myanmar. His work focuses on strengthening the rights and livelihoods of local communities, protecting and conserving biodiversity, and strengthening of indigenous Karen rights and cultural traditions. Starting out as a refuge in a camp in Thailand, Paul has worked to strengthen Karen governing policy, fighting to ensure that it is transparent, equitable, and accountable to grassroots communities. He has co-founded many Karen and ethnic civil society organizations, including the Karen Rivers Watch, Karen Peace Support Network, and Burma Environmental Working Group, among others. Alongside his position as director of KESAN, Paul serves as the chairperson of the Salween Peace Park General Assembly, a position he was popularly elected to in 2018. The Salween Peace Park spanning more than 5,400 square kilometres of globally significant biodiversity. Under his leadership, the Salween Peace Park received the Equator Prize 2020 and Paul was subsequently awarded the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize.


Diana Suhardiman is director of KITLV and professor of Natural Resource Governance, Climate and Equity at Leiden University. Her research looks at natural resource governance and development with particular focus on equity and inclusion.

Format, date, time & venue

This seminar is a hybrid event and will be held in the new conference room of KITLV (Herta Mohr Building, Witte Singel 27A, 2311 BG Leiden) and online via Zoom, on Monday 3 June from 11.00 AM– 13.00 PM (CET).


1. On location: if you want to join this seminar on location, please register via: [email protected].

2. Online: if you wish to join this webinar online, please register here.


Salween Peace Park. Photo by KESAN.


June 3
11:00 - 13:00
Event Category:




KITLV, Herta Mohr Building (Leiden University)
Witte Singel 27A
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