The far-reaching targets now agreed in the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 rely heavily on successful protected area systems on land and sea, that are effectively managed and equitably governed in every country and in areas beyond national jurisdictions. A key task is to address the gaps in knowledge and capacity and to put protected area systems and institutions to work in addressing the challenges faced by our planet.
Convened by IUCN, the World Parks Congresses have been held at approximately 10 year intervals since 1962, and have been instrumental in facilitating progressive change in the way in which the world has viewed and managed systems of protected areas through its history. Some impacts of this series have been:
- 1962: definitions and standards for representative systems leading to the UN list of PAs;
- 1972: conservation of ecosystems, genesis of World Heritage and Wetlands Conventions;
- 1982: PAs in sustainable development, development assistance in PAs
- 1992: Global change and PAs; PA categories and management effectiveness;
- 2003: Governance, sustainable finance, capacity development, linkages in the landscape and seascape, equity and benefit sharing. At this most recent Congress, held in Durban, South Africa, entitled “Benefits beyond boundaries” the Congress prepared the Durban Action Plan, adopted by the CBD COP7 as the Programme of Work on Protected Areas.
The series of Congresses has influenced and tracked perspectives on the role of PAs in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. From its initial focus on technical standards and capacity, it has displayed an incremental trend to engagement with people and governance, and most recently on integration with the wider landscape and seascape and addressing the fundamental issues of global change.
The Congress is not just a meeting place, but is always designed to achieve outcomes that have global and local impact, and influence the direction and trends involved in contemporary PA management. It is the role of the International Steering Committee to guide this process, and it is closely coupled to the geopolitical influence of the host country and the host regions. Priority outcomes for the IUCN World Parks Congress in 2014 are emerging as follows:
- WHAT? ACHIEVING RESULTS: Interpreting and supporting the achievement of Aichi Target 11 by national governments.
IUCN is the only independent body that can objectively produce the standards and information by which this target is to be tracked, both in terms of its quantitative information (coverage, representativity, inclusion of “other effective area-based conservation measures) and qualitative information (management effectiveness and governance equity and quality).
The World Parks Congress will in effect be a mid-term summit of how well the world is doing on Target 11 and whether the existing systems of protected areas are achieving conservation outcomes. Findings and recommendations will be fed from the WPC into the review of the MDGs (including the Biodiversity Target) and the mid-term review of the CBD Strategic Plan. The information will be foundational for questions to be considered by the IPBES. The venue will offer the means to launch the Protected Planet Report, the quality standards for Management Effectiveness (the Green List), and for PA Governance Quality Framework (within the IUCN natural resource governance framework).
Several meetings planned in 2012-2014 will act as direct feeders into this process (IMPAC3 on Marine Protected Areas, the Asia Parks Congress, and the MesoAmerican Parks Congress) as well as the CBD’s regional workshops that have identified emerging issues.
- HOW ? BUILDING CAPACITY. Ensuring that the financial, institutional and individual skills and capacity are in place to achieve the PoWPA and Strategic Plan.
This is traditional ground for the WPC, in that the event is the opportunity for IUCN, WCPA, IUCN members and the GEF and its implementing agencies to respond to the capacity-building needs expressed by national governments, and protected area management agencies.
The Congress offers an aiming point for collaborative efforts to develop guidance for capacity-building in the lead up to the Congress, to discuss and refine these products at the Congress and to pilot and test approaches in the years that follow the Congress. IUCN members and Commission members are able to bring to the table products that have been tested in the field and are ready for a global audience. More importantly, the WPC is the opportunity for a global community of practitioners to meet, and to learn from each other. There are a number of new challenges that the WPC 2014 will address, including the professionalization of protected area management, the development of standardized curricula for protected area managers, and most importantly, the development of new technologies demanded by PA management through 2020. These topics include management technologies for ecological restoration, management of alien invasive species, connectivity law, dealing with climate change, etc.
The Asia and Oceanic regions are among the world’s most demanding in terms of capacity, both at the level of basic skills to achieve the standards of quality management, but also because of the rapid change that is taking place in the region that demands attention by PA management systems. Apart from the demand side, the Asia and Oceanic regions have much to offer the world, including an Asian “philosophy” of how to reconcile conservation and development at site level, a diverse array of governance systems, including for indigenous peoples (e.g. in Australia and New Zealand) and local community governance (e.g. in the vast array of small island developing states in the Pacific). At the other end of the scale, the great emerging economies of Asia (India, China, Korea, and Indonesia) are influencing the way in which these economies will exploit or build on their green capital. The WPC offers an opportunity to develop and leave a legacy for capacity development in the Pacific and to identify and develop innovative approaches to deal with the unprecedented change that is taking place in the region.
- FOR WHOM? INFLUENCING AND ENABLING SOLUTIONS. IUCN and WCPA have been leading on approaches to create understanding and awareness of the role that PAs and PA systems play in issues that are global challenges.
Although these have been used by IUCN and others to articulate a case for nature-based solutions in climate change and in health policy, the work must be extended to deal with all of the global challenge factors, including food security, water provision, disaster risk reduction, poverty alleviation and the generation of local livelihoods, and to embed these in sectoral practice and development programmes through enhanced land-use planning that also minimizes the impacts of extractive industries.
The WPC offers an opportunity to move from advocacy to practice, and to help the community of protected area managers engage with those from other sectors, whose decision making is critical to the future role of protected areas in the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Modelled on the Healthy Parks, Healthy People Congress hosted by Australia in 2010, the WPC will extend this dialogue by including strong representation by other sectors and ensuring that PA managers and development sectors can debate and reach conclusions and recommendations for an extended programme of engagement under the CBD and the other Rio Conventions for PAs mainstreamed into sustainable development strategies.
It is supported in this objective by countries such as India, Korea and China that have interested in demonstrating their capacity and ability to address the challenges of nature conservation through protected areas in rapidly developing country context. It is also supported by Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Island states who face severe challenges from sea level rise, changing climate that affects food security, disaster risk, the spread of alien invasive species and who wish to build institutional capacity to deal with these systemic threats to national security.
The WPC could be used as a platform for expanding the reach of regional conservation efforts to achieve a Green Economy flowing from the Rio +20 summit. Through the Pacific Leadership Coalition, for example, the President of Kiribati sees the huge Phoenix Islands MPA as a core ‘natural solution’ to climate change, and is championing Green Growth. The chair of the Melanesia Spearhead Group is keen to table a large terrestrial protected PA commitment (i.e. 20% of terrestrial PNG, Solomons, Fiji, Vanuatu etc) as part of a Green Growth strategy. This is especially in the context of the growth of the minerals sector, ensuring that natural values and ecosystems are designated and mapped out, with legal frameworks are in place to ensure mining and its impacts are minimized and mitigated.
These proposed outcomes will also be one of the main ways in which IUCN’s Quadrennial Programme for 2013-2016 can be fostered and stimulated, in the preparation, convening and follow up to the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress. Each objective speaks directly to one of IUCN’s Programme Areas, and each contributes to IUCN’s four business lines.