A BIOPAMA knowledge café at the recent International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC) attracted stakeholders and interested parties to help identify inspiring solutions to address capacity development needs for marine protected areas. IMPAC brings together major marine protected areas and maritime stakeholders from around the globe to assist in the conservation and sustainable development of marine biodiversity. This year’s event, IMPAC 3, was held 20-25 October in Marseille, France and was followed by a high level political meeting in Corsica on 26-27 October.
The BIOPAMA gathering provided an opportunity for participants to share common experiences and to identify capacity building priorities and approaches that will inspire better decisions and improve management of marine protected areas.
The participants, representatives of public management and planning agencies, research institutions, non-governmental organizations, and coastal communities, debated the meaning of capacity and capacity building, the prioritization of capacity building needs, and the actors that need to be involved in the process of decision making and implementation related to capacity building actions. Political support at national and local levels for capacity building actions was a recurring subject of the discussions. Decision makers have a key role to play, and therefore must be well-informed and influenced based on clear messages from topics that protected areas practitioners address. Engaging local communities, the use of visualization and winning public opinion can be very powerful tools to support political decisions.
Identifying inspiring people, the right networks, and people who can eliminate obstacles and get across key messages, were identified as inspiring solutions which could address capacity building challenges. Peer-to-peer experiences can help break through cultural differences and the personal approach can be a powerful tool to motivate stakeholder involvement. Regional approaches were identified a capacity building need, especially if they create ‘healthy competition’ which results in progress.
Further questions remain, however: how do we move to implementation, once the political commitment is obtained? How do we measure the success of our capacity building initiatives? How do we effectively engage stakeholders at local and individual levels in MPA management? These questions will continue to be addressed in the context of BIOPAMA, with specific cases investigated in the BIOPAMA programme regions of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.