The first ever pan-Asia gathering on the region’s national parks and protected areas concluded with a pledge for stronger collaboration that will capture the energy of the current Asia boom to ensure protected areas contribute to human progress while also conserving the region's rich biodiversity.
The Sendai Charter for Asia’s Protected Areas is the result of more than 800 delegates from 46 countries coming together in Sendai, Japan to help chart a future for protected areas and their contributions to human well-being in the world’s fastest growing region.
The Charter supports two other meeting outcomes – a youth declaration on protected areas and a message to next year’s IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, calling for action on some of Asia and the world’s most pressing challenges including disaster risk reduction and recovery, human health, sustainable economic development and climate change.
“Protected areas are much more than just beautiful places,” says Scott Perkin, Head of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Programme, Asia. “They conserve biodiversity, store carbon, buffer us from natural hazards, provide food, water and fibres, and stimulate local economies. It is our hope that the Sendai Charter and the other important calls to action resulting from the Congress will help to raise the profile of protected areas in the region and highlight the vital role they play in supporting human well-being.”
The Congress, which was hosted by the Ministry of the Environment Japan and organized by IUCN and the Ministry, focussed in part on Sanriku Fukko (fukko is “reconstruction” in Japanese) National Park, a new protected area that has risen from the devastation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that is seeding hope for local people and communities. The project is Japan’s most ambitious “Green Reconstruction Project” – a philosophy of revitalization for the rugged and scenic north-eastern Japanese coast. Sanriku Fukko is not only rehabilitating natural areas, but also providing opportunities for local culture, lifestyles and businesses to thrive. The park’s rise is emblematic of protected areas’ potential to support both successful conservation and sustainable development.
The Congress wrapped up with agreement from delegates to take the example of Sanriku Fukko, in addition to the Sendai Pledge and other outcomes, forward to the IUCN World Parks Congress. Held only once every 10 years, the IUCN World Parks Congress is the premier event for protected areas, and sets the agenda for their conservation for the decade to come. Next year’s theme, Parks, People, Planet – Inspiring Solutions, will build on the Asia Parks Congress to further articulate the vital role that protected areas play in conserving nature while also delivering essential ecosystem services and contributing to the goals of economic and community well-being in the post-2015 development agenda.
“We are confident these important outcomes will further connect Asia to the world, and to next year’s worldwide event – the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014,” says Yoshitaka Kumagai, Dean of International Collaboration and Director of the Center for Regional Sustainability Initiatives at Akita International University in Japan, and Regional Vice-chair for East Asia for IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas.
“The Sendai Charter captures the diversity and dynamic nature of Asia’s protected areas and its people, and concludes that parks and communities here can take a leading role in conserving nature while also promoting sustainable development. This important pledge will inform and enlighten the IUCN World Parks Congress and the protected areas agenda for years to come.”