Reassuring start to World Parks Congress in Sydney

In Sydney, Australia the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Parks Congress aims to set the agenda for the conservation of the world’s parks.Conferences, conferences, conferences; what difference do they make for animals, one might ask, and rightly so. 

However, having read some very positive news coming out of the recent United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), where IFAW actively participated and where a number of marine species, amongst others, received higher levels of protection from human-induced threats, I am feeling rather optimistic right now.

SEE ALSO: Advocating species listings at CMS in Quito

As I write, I am Sydney attending the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Parks Congress, a global forum on protected areas, which aims to set the agenda for the next decade for the conservation of the world’s parks.

On the surface, this seems like a monumental task, but I was reassured in the opening plenary yesterday when Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) referenced the late Nelson Mandela who opened the previous Congress in Durban, South Africa, in 2003, saying, “we must act now to ensure that our wild places are protected for all generations to come. But, I see no place for protected areas unless they take the needs of local communities into consideration”. 

Further, a delegate from the South Pacific islands noted, “If the whole world can work together, we can save this planet”. 

Here the emphasis was on connectedness and collaborative action; we simply all have to work together to address the challenges facing our wild places.

Looking at the programme, I am excited about the anticipated outcomes of this congress. There are a number of streams that are important for IFAW as we embark on our aspirational and pragmatic journey to bring animal welfare and conservation closer together and to find real solutions for both animals and people. 

Responding to climate change, the importance of alternative livelihoods for local people through reconciling development challenges, measuring conservation outcomes in moving towards achieving impacts for animals and people, and moving towards innovative financing solutions for conservation, are all streams that will be important in informing IFAW’s on-the-ground programmatic action for the next decade.

The message is clear at this congress; to be successful in protecting our wild places, the coming together of global, innovative thinking, and on-the-ground action, which includes involving the people living alongside wildlife in promoting pragmatic solutions, is a must. 

Hence the theme, “Parks, People, Planet: inspiring solutions”. 

Lastly, with just under 6000 participants here, one cannot help but notice the fashion trends.

There are few present in suits, some in formal government attire, but by far the majority of participants are in ranger outfits and “plain” clothes.

This bodes well for discussions here, as it is the on-the-ground practitioners that are ultimately responsible for protecting our wild places and their contributions will be important for the successful outcomes of this congress.


Read more: At CMS, working to reconcile “green“ values to include animal welfare

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
Jeffrey Flocken, Regional Director, North America
Regional Director, North America
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime