COVID-19 International Park Managers Expert Panel

On 3rd April, members of IUCN and WCPA participated in an on-line international panel discussion with park and protected area managers from around the world to have a high level dialogue on the response to the COVID-19 health situation.  

Urban park

With all the changes occurring around the world owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has quickly become apparent that parks and protected areas are also being impacted – both positively and negatively. Many parks around the world have been closed. However, other parks are still open and are now receiving more visitors than ever before! In Australia, for example, exercising in local parks by two people is allowed. For those who have been permitted to visit parks during isolation measures, many have realised that nature is a critical ingredient for their physical, mental, social, and community health and well-being. This presents the conservation, park management and other sectors with an incredible opportunity.

Members of IUCN and the WCPA thus took part in a panel discussion on April 3, hosted by World Urban Parks Organisation. This event involved over 20 participants from around 15 countries who discussed the critical importance of nature and parks as a community asset for people’s health. A key point raised is the need for people to still connect with parks in a variety of ways recognising the restrictions on activity by local jurisdictions. Lively discussions took place on the opportunity to now redefine the role of parks, particularly by building the economic, social and health and well-being case of the role of nature in people’s lives. A statement has been released and the campaign #NatureNeverCloses launched to activate support. You can sign up your organisation up to support.

This campaign is strongly aligned to the content and outcomes of the Improving health and well-being (Healthy Parks Healthy People) Stream delivered and the World Parks Congress in Sydney. The primary recommendation of the Stream outlined in the Promise of Sydney is to “Unlock the values of parks and protected areas for health and well-being, while conserving biodiversity.”

World Urban Parks Chair, Jayne Miller states “We believe that many parks and trails, open spaces and nature can continue to be used in a safe manner that allows people to enjoy the mental and physical health benefits these spaces provide. In all instances, we strongly recommend people follow Government directives and guidelines regarding the use of these spaces and recognize that these vary from community to community.”

As Chair of the WCPA Health and Well-being Specialist Group, I can say with optimism and confidence that we truly believe that the current situation presents us - as park and protected areas managers, health practitioners, researchers, policy makers and program deliverers - with a major opportunity. This opportunity is to ensure that post COVID-19, parks are the beneficiary of the positive attention of government and business and not the victim. Let’s turn our innovations and ideas into collaborative action.

Learn more about IUCN and the WCPA's work on Health and Well-Being here.

Learn more about World Urban Parks' #NatureNeverCloses campaign here.

For more information or to sign up your organisation to support these efforts, see the links below.

Jo Hopkins

Chair of the IUCN WCPA Health and Well-being Specialist Group

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