Read more about the World Parks Congress 2014 outcome the Promise of Sydney.
What is a protected area?
A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. (IUCN Definition 2008)
Protected areas – national parks, wilderness areas, community conserved areas, nature reserves and so on – are a mainstay of biodiversity conservation, while also contributing to people’s livelihoods, particularly at the local level. Protected areas are at the core of efforts towards conserving nature and the services it provides us – food, clean water supply, medicines and protection from the impacts of natural disasters. Their role in helping mitigate and adapt to climate change is also increasingly recognized; it has been estimated that the global network of protected areas stores at least 15% of terrestrial carbon.
Helping countries and communities designate and manage systems of protected areas on land and in the oceans, is one of IUCN’s main areas of expertise. Together with species conservation, this has been a key focus of attention of IUCN’s work and of a vast majority of IUCN Member organizations. Effectively managed systems of protected areas have been recognized as critical instruments in achieving the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The IUCN Global Protected Areas Programme
IUCN’s Programme on Protected Areas has a long heritage in the Union, with a headquarters-based core team and regional staff, and a closely coordinated programme of activities with the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). An IUCN-commissioned External Strategic Review of the IUCN Programme on Protected Areas was concluded in 2010, making far-reaching recommendations for the revised objectives and functions of a new Global Programme on Protected Areas (GPAP). These included the establishment of a separately managed World Heritage Programme, the appointment of a new Director, Trevor Sandwith, in 2011, and the strengthening of the programme through prioritized budget support.
The Global Programme acts as the focal point for the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, which provides voluntary specialist expertise to the programme. We are working towards a single unified work programme for the Secretariat, Commission and Members during the 2017-2020 Quadrennial period, that will clearly outline the complementary roles and responsibilities.
Priorities and programme areas
The Global Protected Areas Programme implements the IUCN Programme for 2017-2020 across all programmatic elements. Protected Area systems are both ENDS (protected areas directly conserve genetic resources, species, ecosystems and ecosystem processes) and MEANS (to enable many other thematic conservation objectives through in situ implementation, governance and equitable sharing). The priorities of the GPAP will help deliver IUCN’s 2017-2020 Global Programme. Within the three programmatic elements of IUCN’s new quadrennial programme, GPAP has three priority areas as outlined below.
1. Valuing and conserving biodiversity
Protected areas .... conserving nature
GPAP will measure progress towards the attainment of biodiversity conservation targets in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, especially the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11, where national governments have committed to establishing protected area systems that are ecologically representative and that conserve areas that are important for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services, that are well-connected, effectively and equitably managed, and integrated into the wider landscape and seascape. IUCN GPAP working together with UNEP-WCMC and the CBD Secretariat, will report on the status of protected areas globally through the Protected Planet Report, the first issue of which was released in 2012 at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.
Achieving quality and effectiveness
IUCN WCPA has for many years championed the cause of enhancing management effectiveness, and has been supported in this endeavour by decisions of the CBD where national governments have agreed to undertake management effectiveness assessments as a routine component of their national assessment and reporting systems. Management effectiveness assessments measure the extent to which all of the necessary systems and processes are taking place in protected areas, and identify areas for improvement. There remains, however, a need for an international standard that would attest to the success of protected areas in meeting their objectives, including their biodiversity, social and economic objectives. IUCN GPAP is therefore investing in a new global standard, the IUCN Green List, that will list those protected areas that meet minimum standards of effectiveness.
2. Governing nature’s use and sharing its benefits equitably
Protected areas ... respecting people
No protected area system could be established or managed without the participation and involvement of people. In this programme area, there will be a focus on two main themes. Firstly, the programme will work towards much greater implementation of issues regarding protected area governance, including the assessment and recognition of the variety of governance types for protected area systems, and the diversity and quality of governance at the system and site levels. These embrace the full suite of protected areas conserved by governments, by indigenous peoples and local communities, by private actors and many cases where these are combined as shared governance, including through multiple agency governance at the landscape scale and transboundary governance across the boundaries of sovereign states. Secondly, the programme will focus on the issue of social assessment for protected areas, the recognition of the rights to benefits, and the distribution of costs and benefits of the establishment and management of protected areas. The entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing will have implications for social assessment for protected areas.
3. Deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges
Protected areas ... offering solutions
Maintenance of ecosystem resilience is an essential prerequisite for maintaining resilient socio-economic systems in the face of global change, and an expanded connected network of well-managed conservation areas is the most robust proven solution to confront these problems. Simply put, large healthy protected ecosystems conserve biodiversity and address climate change impacts directly and indirectly. Evidence of their value in many sectors is increasing in quality and substance, including for health promotion, food security, water provision, disaster and risk reduction, poverty alleviation and for dealing with the causes and impacts of climate change on ecosystems and society. Protected areas, especially when considering the full suite of management categories and governance types, is the foundation for maintenance of ecosystem integrity and for restoration efforts at the scale of the landscape and the seascape.
Finally, all of these priorities were a focus of the 6th IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 where the host country and host state (Australia and New South Wales) will provide a platform for the IUCN Global Protected Areas Programme in its widest sense, to envisage the future beyond 2025 and begin now to design responses that will ensure that protected areas are a positive and relevant force and priority for investment in the decade that follows. MORE
CAPACITY DEVELOPMENT: THE CROSS-CUTTING ELEMENT
GPAP will facilitate the development of resource materials, develop the curricula for education and training of protected area professionals and develop standards for the the attainment of competent protected area professionals. Key products that support this priority are the IUCN WCPA Best Practice Guidelines in every sphere of protected areas management, including new and emerging issues, the newly re-launched PARKS journal, and a series of quick guides and fact sheets on new topics. IUCN GPAP will partner with the CBD Secretariat and many education and training institutions to provide this support, including through the EU-funded BIOPAMA project.
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