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1000s To Attend Global Forum on Protected Areas

Thousands to Attend Global Forum to Tackle the Future of Protected Areas

¡§Protected areas are essential for safeguarding our future,¡¨ ¡V say Nelson R. Mandela and Her Majesty Queen Noor, Patrons of the Vth IUCN World Parks Congress, who will open this major forum in the South African city of Durban on 8 September 2003. [1]

The Congress is a once in a decade opportunity to take stock of the global protected area estate, totaling 12% of the Earth¡¦s surface, and define priorities for future action. The theme of the Vth IUCN World Parks Congress ¡V ¡§Benefits Beyond Boundaries¡¨ ¡V reinforces the meeting¡¦s focus on addressing people¡¦s needs and providing a stream of economic, political, and environmental benefits to societies worldwide. Without an effective network of protected areas all these benefits ¡V clean air and water, fertile soils, inspiring landscapes and unique wildlife ¡V will be lost.

The Congress will host 2,500 protected area specialists, including many from BirdLife International¡¦s global alliance of conservation organisations, representatives from governments, local and indigenous communities, and the private sector. [2] The fate of parks will be decided upon as these people will bring with them their hopes and aspirations, but also the deciding power of their backing organizations.

The Durban Congress is a milestone for catalyzing a renewed commitment to protected areas and spurring global action. The Congress will develop the Durban Accord and Action Plan which will address key challenges to the protected area system and guide its development in the next decade.

The Congress will present the best ¡V both latest and traditional ¡V knowledge on protected areas and biodiversity conservation, including the 2003 United Nations List of Protected Areas, jointly produced by UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas.

A snapshot of how this 12% of the Earth¡¦s surface looks today, as the Congress participants will soon jointly shape the global agenda for protected areas up to 2013.

The previous IUCN World Parks Congress was held in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1992. Since then, a great deal of progress has been achieved:

„Ï The number and proportion of the Earth¡¦s surface with protected area status more than doubled in the last ten years;

„Ï The overall target of 10% of land and sea covered by protected areas has been surpassed;

„Ï Protected areas are recognised as a key element in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, ratified by 187 nations;

„Ï Protected areas have been successfully linked across international boundaries and in some cases made a significant contribution to peace;

„Ï The value of traditional and other non-scientific knowledge has been recognised and local communities are becoming increasingly engaged in protected area management.

However, protected areas have failed to:

„Î Become a truly representative system that covers terrestrial, freshwater and marine biomes. For example, only 1.5% of all lake systems in the world enjoy protection;

„Î Halt species loss that continues at an intolerable rate. 11,167 species are known to be globally threatened with extinction according to the 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species;

„Î Achieve unconditional public and political support. Too many stakeholders see protected areas as a barrier to their activities; and too many protected areas only exist on paper and not in reality;

„Î Secure sufficient skills base and the financial and other resources. The amount of investment needed to operate an effective, representative global protected areas system needs to be increased sevenfold;

„Î Defend themselves in times of trouble. The past decade has been a time of increasing conflict and violence. Countries such as Colombia, Sierra Leone, New Caledonia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Burma/Myanmar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are custodians for vital elements of the world¡¦s biodiversity, have as a result faced severe challenges in maintaining their conservation programmes.

Her Majesty, Queen Noor, also Honorary President of Birdlife International, comments: ¡§It is time to think beyond boundaries, beyond ethnic and religious grounds, and beyond nations in our global quest for a just world which values and conserves nature.

¡§Security and environment will be a major focus at IUCN's World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa in September 2003. Here at this once in 10 year gathering the international community will have the opportunity to explore how best to address the challenges before us, and particularly the role of protected areas. The setting in Africa will orient us to consider how to address peoples' needs and reduce suffering so that we can gain greater community support for protected areas and a true underpinning of conservation with sustainable development.¡¨

Nelson Mandela comments: ¡§I am grateful that South Africa will have the honour of hosting the next World Parks Congress, and I particularly endorse the Congress Theme: "Benefits Beyond Boundaries". Protected areas are to be treasured. We look forward to the World Parks Congress 2003 as a valuable opportunity to make them more relevant to, and more valued by, all our people.¡¨

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