News | 05 Jul, 2024

2024 World Protected Areas Leaders Forum ends with shared commitment to promote effective protected and conserved areas

Turku, Finland 5 July, 2024: IUCN and WCPA helped convene the 13th World Protected Areas Leaders Forum, bringing together PA agency leaders from around the world to discuss the most pressing issues facing parks and protected areas today.

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WPALF 2024 participants gathered in Turku, Finland from 2-4 July, 2024

Photo: Metsähallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland

From 2-4 July, 2024, leaders of protected area agencies around the world gathered in Turku, Finland, for the 13th World Protected Areas Leaders Forum (WPALF). This annual event was organized in 2024 by Metsahallitus Parks & Wildlife Finland in collaboration with IUCN and the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). The agencies represented at the event came from 16 countries including 11 state and NGO state members of IUCN, and collectively manage 17000 PAs covering 500 million hectares. Among the key topics of discussion were sustainable finance for conservation, park management effectiveness, and the mainstreaming of protected areas in sectoral development processes. 

During the event, leaders from countries including Australia, Canada, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Georgia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Mozambique, the Dominican Republic and the Czech Republic engaged in strategic conversations focused on the positioning of protected and conserved areas in addressing global challenges related to biodiversity loss, human health and well-being, and climate change. The participants also had the opportunity to visit Kurjenrahka and Archipelago National Parks, experiencing Finland’s approach to nature conservation first hand and the progress on enhancing visitor access to the natural resources within these areas.

A significant point of reference during the forum was the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) adopted at CBD COP15 in Montréal in December 2022. Of the 23 Targets agreed to by Parties to the CBD, several will fall to conservation agencies to make progress toward, including halting the decline of species and protecting at least 30 percent of the Earth’s land and surface water by 2030. The WPALF meeting in Turku provided a platform for leaders to share knowledge and experiences on effectively establishing and managing protected areas, with Finland presenting lessons learned from its recent international assessment of state-owned protected areas. According to Madhu Rao, Chair of the WCPA, "Protected areas agency leaders play a critically important role in ensuring national systems of protected and conserved areas are effective in achieving conservation outcomes, helping achieve national protected area targets. The opportunity for these leaders to convene here in Turku for the WPALF, signifies important progress in our collaborative efforts to meet global biodiversity commitments.”

WPALF participants hiking in FinlandPhoto: Tiia Tanskanen
2024 WPALF participants were able to experience Finland's nature firsthand 
Photo: Tiia Tanskanen

The meeting also served as an important point in the road towards the next IUCN World Protected and Conserved Area Congress to be held in 2027. “The WPALF has always played an important role in framing the key questions that the world needs to ensure the future of effective and equitable protected and conserved area systems” reflected Trevor Sandwith, Acting IUCN Deputy Director General Programme.

Henrik Jansson, host of the 13th WPALF and Executive Director of Parks & Wildlife Finland, further emphasized the importance of bringing together the world’s protected areas leaders to tackle conservation challenges and opportunities: “Gathering representatives from protected areas agencies around the world is a powerful opportunity to share knowledge, foster collaboration, and collectively develop innovative solutions to the pressing challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change. Together, we can amplify our efforts to make an even more significant impact on conservation worldwide.”

As the forum drew to a close this week, the significance of protected areas in combating global environmental challenges was underscored by participants. By fostering international collaboration and sharing best practices, the forum reinforced the collective commitment to safeguarding and enhancing the effectiveness of protected areas worldwide. The discussions and outcomes from WPALF will contribute to advancing these global conservation efforts, ensuring that protected areas continue to serve as cornerstones of a sustainable and resilient future for all.