IUCN’s World Parks Congress: Report from Sydney

Date: 19th December 2014

Between the 12 – 19 November 2014, over 6000 people from 170 countries came together in Sydney, Australia, for the World Parks Congress; a landmark global forum on protected areas held every ten years. As the world’s most influential gathering of people involved in protected area management, it sets the global agenda for the following decade.

At the Sydney Congress, ocean issues achieved significant coverage throughout the week, where approximately 226 ocean and ocean-related sessions were held, with many marine-focused events taking place in the Ocean Pavilion. Alongside this ambitious schedule, 23 side events were held, 5 Google Hangouts were broadcast and 4 lunchtime debates took place.  The High Seas were prominently covered including through a workshop on “Enhancing and diversifying Governance of Protected Areas”. The High Seas Alliance hosted its own Google Hangout entitled “Championing the High Seas”, which featured Sir Richard Branson, Dr. Sylvia Earle (National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence), Professor Dan Laffoley (Marine Vice Chair, IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas), Ambassador Eden Charles (Trinidad & Tobago), John Weller (Photographer and author) and Nainoa Thompson (Polynesian Voyaging Society).  To view this Hangout, view here:  https://plus.google.com/events/c88j04ppjmko2rg6nj7t2otk68g

The Congress took stock not only of current challenges, but how innovative leaders in every corner of the world are finding and implementing protected area solutions to a wide range of challenges, from climate change to economic recessions. A core part of the Congress was the development of the Promise of Sydney. Captured from the boldest thinking of governments, international organisations, communities, civil society leaders and indigenous peoples, the four pillars of the Promise of Sydney collectively represent the outcomes of the World Parks Congress.  These pillars – a core Vision for the future we want to see, a set of Innovative Approaches to solving some of the world’s most elusive challenges, commitments to advancing this change for people, protected areas and the planet, and solutions that provide evidence that this change is in fact within our reach– collectively represent the direction and blueprint for a decade of change that emanate from the deliberations of this World Parks Congress.

The Promise of Sydney is at once representative of the promise we will make to our children and our belief in a promising future for all. Significant work and consultation was undertaken in the lead up to the Congress, at the Congress itself and afterwards on marine recommendations and innovative approaches. These maintain good visibility from the Congress as a core part of the ocean legacy moving forwards.

As with the Durban Accord arising from the Durban Parks Congress over ten years ago, the marine text of the Promise of Sydney is designed to be ambitious in calling upon the global community to urgently increase the ocean area that is effectively and equitably managed in ecologically representative and well-connected systems of MPAs or other effective conservation measures with the ultimate aim of a fully sustainable ocean, at least 30% of which has no-extractive activities.   Its recommendations also include a strong call to the global community to take steps to protect and manage biodiversity in the high seas, including the seabed, by developing, adopting and bringing into force an international instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and through regional efforts in Antarctica, the Arctic, the Sargasso Sea and elsewhere.

Cover photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash 

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