|Mariana Napolitano e Ferreira
The COVID-19 pandemic is an acute health crisis with economic, political, social and environmental implications. These factors are already impacting protected and conserved areas (PCAs) and these impacts will grow in both the short and longer term. Just as the negative impacts on management capacity, budgets and effectiveness are concerning, so too are the significant impacts on the livelihoods of communities living in and around these areas.
With economic recovery being a critical priority in the following years, arguments for rolling back environmental protections are gaining traction, including provisions that would newly authorise or expand extractive industries, like mining, and infrastructure in protected and conserved areas, especially in countries where these areas are already under severe pressure.
PCAs also have an important role to play in the prevention of ecosystem degradation and zoonosis and in maintaining essential ecosystem services upon which people depend for their health and well-being. There is now a strong case for greater investments and profile for PCAs in the emerging plans for green recovery.
Recovery plans, including the establishment of rapid response grants, the maintenance of essential services, and support to local communities, should be followed by actions. These actions include promoting the health-related benefits of these areas, restoring management capacities, and implementing strategies that ensure equitable governance and benefit sharing mechanisms. Beyond that, protected areas and OECMs should be a central piece of economic stimulus packages, since they provide both direct short- and long-term economic benefits, assist vulnerable communities, and address policy needs, while subsequently bolstering national economies, maintaining vital ecosystem services, and mitigating climate change.
- Collate and share relevant information on the impacts and best practice in responding to COVID-19 on protected areas and OECMs
- Develop principles and good practice for protected and conserved areas across the 3 phases of the pandemic (relief, recover, rebuild)
- Engage WCPA members in an on-going dialogue on the impacts and responses to the pandemic for protected and conserved areas
- Coordinate a discussion within WCPA membership and supporters on the call-for-action
- We work towards our objectives by:
- Share relevant information among WCPA members, PA agencies and practitioners, NGOs, researchers
- Support the development of a Parks Journal Special Issue on covid and protected areas
- Liaise with and secure the support of other parts of IUCN and partners in the conservation and development sector
- Publicise the call-for-action, and inviting support, particularly from institutions outside the conservation mainstream
- Prepare technical notes to guide PA practitioners and decision makers
- Provide WCPA input to IUCN policy positions and programmes and recommended best practices on strengthening PA systems in the face of the public health and economic crisis of a global pandemic