The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as well as WildArk – A Movement for the Wild are thrilled to announce the winners of the inaugural Pathfinder Award for innovation in nature conservation. The award was presented in the opening plenary of the UN Biodiversity Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
The Prespa-Ohrid Ecoregion, covering parts of Albania, Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and including six protected areas, is not only rich in stunning nature, but also benefits from one of the world’s most innovative conservation financing approaches.
The Prespa Ohrid Nature Trust (PONT) is a transboundary conservation trust fund that has established long-term financing, which is additionally used to attract co-financing for important conservation activities. To ensure effective management of the region’s six protected areas, collaboration across borders is crucial. PONT, managed jointly by government agencies and NGOs, provides the resources for activities such as monitoring of Brown bears (Ursus arctos). The approach is highly innovative in applying a well-established financing instrument, i.e. trust funds, to support a transboundary conservation strategy through cooperation and grant making in a space where formal institutions are lacking.
The Pathfinder Award recognises outstanding and innovative solutions for protected and conserved areas, developed and implemented by individuals, organisations, or groups. Its first edition focused on identifying and celebrating innovative approaches, tackling a persistent challenge that concerns protected and conserved areas around the world: sustainable financing and resourcing.
While protected and conserved areas provide considerable financial returns in addition to their numerous non-monetary benefits, the global funding gap for effectively managing these sites is huge. Replicable solutions, such as those spearheaded by the Pathfinder Award winners, show a way to address this challenge.
The 2018 awards are made up of a cash grant as well as several other areas of recognition, including an invitation to the awards ceremony during the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 14) in Egypt.
A total of around 200 nominations were submitted by individuals and organisations from all over the world, particularly Latin America, South and South East Asia. The winners were determined through a two-step process, based on criteria including relevance, innovation, impact and excellence. IUCN Director General Inger Andersen served on a high-level jury which took the final decision.
The jury selected Assist Social Capital CIC as this year’s runner up: the social enterprise has developed an online platform designed to promote sustainable development in and around Biosphere Reserves and bridge the gap between social entrepreneurs, whose businesses are compatible with the conservation objectives of protected or conserved areas, and social impact investors.
The jury also awarded “special commendations” to two further outstanding nominations:
Candice Stevens (BirdLife South Africa) and the government of South Africa were commended for the integration of biodiversity tax incentives into the law, as a financial benefit for landowners declaring protected areas.
The nomination by Masungi Geo-Reserve Foundation, represented by Billie Dumaliang, Advocacy Specialist, describes an innovative approach to ecotourism, based on the pillars of conservation, education/research and sustainable development, and using “mindful engineering” through tourism infrastructure that mimics nature, e.g. spider webs.
This year’s award is organised in co-operation with the UNDP-Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) and the PANORAMA – Solutions for a Healthy Planet initiative, which IUCN co-leads. All eligible innovations are being published on the PANORAMA web platform, and will thus stay available and will be promoted further through PANORAMA. The winners have many plans for evolving and scaling their solutions – as Billie Dumaliang put it: “We have lots of Nexts”.
Pathfinder Award 2018 jury members:
- Inger Andersen – Director General, IUCN
- Dr. Yasmine Fouad – Minister, Egypt
- Mark Hutchinson – Founder, WildArk
- Dr. Kathy MacKinnon – Chair, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas
- Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer – Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity
- Dr. Carlos Manuel Rodrigues – Minister, Costa Rica
- Achim Steiner – Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)