10 Years Worth of Conservation
10 years worth of conservation: The IUCN World Parks Congress 2014
It has been 10 years since the world’s conservation leaders and practitioners came together in South Africa to establish the Durban Promise, a road-map for protected area management that led to a new governance ‘paradigm’, based on respect of the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. More than a decade later in Sydney, these same leaders congregated to reflect on the work they have achieved to fulfill the Durban Promise and plan future actions post-Aichi targets, which were agreed upon at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)’s Nagoya conference in 2010. The congress was broken up into 8 different streams in which were addressed over 6 days through hundreds of sessions and events. I was lucky enough to have worked on a Protected Area efficiency project for the IUCN Task force on Protected Areas on Biodiversity and Protected areas which was presented as a major component of the Researching Conservation Goals stream.
A reoccurring theme throughout the congress was that “nature needs half”. Currently under the Convention on Biological Diversity, governments have agreed to ambitious targets for expanding the global protected area network that could drive the greatest surge in new protected areas in history (17% of terrestrial areas and 10% marine areas by 2020). There was much speculation throughout the congress about setting new percentage targets as this can be misleading and can cause important conservation targets such as the quality of the areas protected to be looked over or negatively affected.
Dr James Watson, Head of Climate Change at the WCS and A/Prof at the University of Queensland believes we must we must “think big and act fast” when it comes to conservation. Watson led his address by stating how it is impossible to know if a protected area is being managed properly as few protected areas have objectives, and believes we need to work with industry and government to facilitate conservation plans that are balanced between all sectors.
I had the opportunity to go to many of the inspirational presentations and workshops, in which I have benefited immensely. I attended two Youth Leaders in Conservation sessions in which we heard from inspirational youth contributions and the different ways in which youth can ensure their voices are being heard. As I am familiar with the different Protected Area knowledge platforms the workshop session about Protected Planet, the IUCN: Red list (http://www.iucnredlist.org/), Green list of Protected Areas (http://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/gpap_home/gpap_quality/gpap_greenlist/) and Red list of Ecosystems (http://www.iucnredlistofecosystems.org/) were very informative and interesting. These knowledge products are key tools to for tracking progress towards global biodiversity targets. The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Categories and Criteria will be a global standard for the assessment of ecosystems, applicable at local, national, regional and global levels (IUCN-CME 2014). The IUCN Green List of protected areas is a new global initiative that celebrates the success of effective protected areas, and encourages the sharing of that success so that other protected areas can also reach high standards (IUCN-WCPA 2014).
The networking opportunities for someone such as myself was something that I could never have experienced ant other conference. Lucky I am an outgoing person as I was able to meet lots of people and spend the majority of my time with newly formed acquaintances rather then members of my lab. The World Park Congress is a once in a decade congress in which attracts global attendees from all walks of the industry. Over six thousand delegates from 170 countries were represented, coming from the government sectors, NGO’s, research institutions and the private sector ranging from Ministers to park rangers to students. I have made some valuable friendships both on a professional and personal level from this conference from people all around the world.
Even though I have only just started my carer in conservation I feel as though I have already started contributing to creating a better world for future generations. This congress has defiantly put me in the right direction in terms of my career goals, as reflecting on work that has been done over the past 10 years of conservation really encourages me to involve myself deeply in the next 10 years and further . The Sydney Promise acknowledged that “Percentage targets are problematic in focusing on area at the expense of biodiversity objectives”. Nonetheless, many delegates argued that these should be around 30% of the planet for no take reserves, 50% overall protection, and 100% of the land and water managed sustainably.” We look forward to working towards these promises and commitments over the next 2 years for the IUCN World Conservation Conference in Hawai’i and beyond to 2024, in which Russia will be hosting the next IUCN World Parks Congress. Thank you to the IUCN for organizing such a success full congress, and to all the people and funding institutions that have allowed CEED staff to attend this event. I will end with one of my favorite quotes from the congress: “Nature needs more. We need to keep protecting areas until nature starts to become annoying. When it gets to the point that we want to kill Koalas because there are too many around, or it’s too loud because there are so many birds in the forest: that’s when we will know we have protected enough.”~ Hugh Possingham
NOTE: I have adapted parts of this blog post from an article I am writing for a National Science Magazine with Martina Di Fonzo. Thanks especially to University of Queensland and CEED staff notably Martina Di Fonzo, Oscar Venter, Alienor Chauvenet, Duan Biggs, Danielle Shanahan and Claire Runge for contributing to this review.