As the date for the launch of the one-year countdown to the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 approaches, 35 leaders from the Congress Streams and Cross-cutting Themes came together for a preparatory meeting held in Charles Town, West Virginia, USA from 13-16 October 2013. The meeting set out to create synergies among Congress organizers, trigger creative ideas for the programme, and initiate the legacy that will guide the future of protected areas.
“People see Parks in the Centers of their Lives”, “A Global Movement of Protected Areas Supporters Comes to Life” and “Protected Areas bring Solutions to the Challenges of our Planet” – participants were not short of ideas when imagining the headlines they would like to see in the news after the Congress next year. Together with the IUCN World Parks Congress Management Committee, as well as the co-hosts Parks Australia and New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service, the Stream and Cross-cutting Theme leaders agreed that Sydney will be the turning point for a shift in protected area thinking. Echoing the theme of the Congress, a change in three steps will need to take place:
- For parks – achieving quality conservation
- For people – connecting people with nature
- For the planet – fulfilling our aspirations and improving overall wellbeing
To achieve this vision, the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 will pursue broader engagement of all sectors, particularly those outside of traditional conservation circles, such as business and youth, and will place protected areas within the broader goals of economic and community well-being.
The collaboration resulted in not only an action plan, but an abundance of new contacts and connections. Equipped with new tools and new associations, the participants emerged ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead during the next year as Congress preparations heat up.