The World Leaders’ Dialogues are ‘prime time’ high-level sessions held during 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress. They feature internationally-recognized experts, politicians, CEOs, activists and indigenous leaders in a series of seven moderated public debates that tackle the most strategic issues related to protected areas, conservation and sustainable development. These sessions offer strategic thinking to guide the implementation of practical solutions for a sustainable future. Led by people who through their personal achievements influence others and translate words into actions, the Dialogues will take stock and prompt action in a bid to attain transformational changes for parks, people and our planet.

13 November: The Future Is Not What It Used To Be — how parks can help build a more resilient future

While many communities rely on ecosystems such as forests, coral reefs and drylands for protection against the impacts of natural hazards, others are suffering because environmental degradation has left them exposed to disasters. Healthy protected area systems, which are embedded in the broader land and seascapes, provide one of the best mechanisms for maintaining natural habitats and preserving ecosystem functions. As demonstrated in the past, they can buffer against natural hazards, foster the use of traditional agricultural practices that are adapted to local ecosystems, and provide emergency sources of food, freshwater and building materials. This World Leaders’ Dialogue will shed light on how protected areas can be at the centre of the resilience debate, especially with regard to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and on their contribution to building a sounder future for all.

14 November: Ante Up — money matters and the value of parks

The world’s ecosystems are succumbing to pressure from human activities: 60% of the planet’s ecosystem services have been degraded over the past 50 years. In response, the concept of ‘natural capital’ has emerged to capture the multiple values of biodiversity and ecosystems for people. To safeguard this capital, many studies demonstrate the urgency to advance on sustainable finance mechanisms, yet some object to ‘putting a price’ on nature, arguing ecosystems are not ‘for sale’ like any another commodity. Notwithstanding, protected areas are at the cornerstone of possible new financial mechanisms as their benefits greatly exceed the cost of establishing and effectively managing them. However, the financial value and return on investment that protected areas offer to economic development has yet to be fully understood and integrated into financial planning, as well as business and investment decisions. This World Leaders’ Dialogue is aimed at furthering the search for new forms of sustainable financing for, and from, protected areas, by exploring different mechanisms, such as the payment for ecosystem services schemes, trust funds and green taxes.

15 November: Stand Up for Your Rights — parks and social equity

According to the United Nations, for the first half of this century, hundreds of millions of people living in the coastal regions of Asia are likely to lose their homes to flooding, risk famine and suffer rising sea levels as a result of climate change. “With the same access to resources as men, including water, women could increase yields on their farms by 20% to 30% and lift 150 million people out of hunger,” states UN Water. Over 100 million Europeans currently use traditional and complementary medicine, with many more in Africa, Asia, Australia and North America. Climate justice, gender balance and equal opportunities, indigenous and traditional knowledge and its use are some of the themes underpinning social equity. Social equity is a fundamental condition for effective conservation measures. This World Leaders’ Dialogue will look into indigenous and traditional peoples’ cultures and their role in biodiversity conservation; gender equity; poverty and human development; tenure and natural resource rights; and environmental security and vulnerability. It will demonstrate that effective integration of social equity is instrumental in achieving conservation goals.

November 16: Health, Naturally – Managing healthy parks for healthy people

For millennia, communities have understood the inherent health benefits gained from nature. However, sprawling urbanization coupled with shrinking natural spaces has left society disconnected from the natural world. Deteriorating population health and an increase in both non-communicable and contagious disease are linked to a growing phenomenon known as ‘nature deficit disorder’. Indeed, eco-health experts caution that human impacts on the environment lead to the spread of emerging and infectious disease including malaria, yellow fever, Lyme disease, dengue, as well as the latest Ebola outbreak. Health and well-being decision-makers advocate for a greater focus on preventative health care as a way of reducing the disease burden and associated costs, and conservationists just as strongly advocate for the role of protected areas in providing natural solutions to a range of society’s problems including health and well-being. How can the positive impacts of nature for human health be accurately measured to influence a broader political agenda? This World Leaders’ Dialogue will challenge the health and parks sectors to give the evidence and outline opportunities for managing healthy parks for healthy people.

16 November: Food for Thought — feeding nine billion within our planetary boundaries

The UN World Food Programme estimates that 18,000 children die of hunger or malnutrition-related illnesses every 24 hours; over 900 million people lacked sufficient food and nutrition last year alone. At the opposite end of the spectrum, obesity is soaring. In the US, for instance, 35.7% of adults are obese and 69.2% overweight. So how is it that one-third of all food produced is thrown away, and 1 in 7 individuals go hungry? This World Leaders’ Dialogue will challenge the audience to think about how their choices, as consumers in the globalized food production and distribution system, can help reverse our current food insecurity trends and statistics, in a bid to reduce global poverty and eradicate hunger. Furthermore, food related pressures through agriculture and fishing will have the greatest influence on protected area integrity and biodiversity decline in the 21st century. This debate will delve into the study on trade-offs between (bio)-fuels, food, and fodder, and look into the impact of genetically modified organisms.

17 November: The Nature of Crime — the extent and impact of illegal wildlife trade

Increasing consumption is depleting the Earth’s natural resources — the very foundation upon which human society depends — at an alarming rate. The commercial use of wild animals and plants, known as wildlife trade, is at the core of the tensions between biodiversity conservation and human development. According to TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, illegal wildlife trade is estimated at US $10-20 billion annually, and is among the largest sources of illegal trade. This criminal activity is driving the extinction of many species, disrupting critical ecosystem functions, undermining sustainable economic development and threatening communities, livelihoods and human health. In recent years, the drivers of illegal wildlife trade have evolved significantly to include highly organized, transnational criminal networks. This World Leaders’ Dialogue will explore the causes and effects of illegal wildlife trade, and new approaches and investments to combat it. It will explore how the issue extends far beyond wildlife crime to include trade in forest, agricultural and fishing products, fuel and more.

18 November: A Balancing Act — how global appetite for natural resources defines the fate of vulnerable countries

Dealing with controversial issues such as land-grabbing, ‘fracking’, ‘no-go’ commitments and promises that companies can operate in the context of a ‘net positive impact’, this World Leaders’ Dialogue will consider the often hidden costs of our growing appetite for resources. Indeed, global consumption patterns directly impact protected areas, such as through mining for minerals and drilling for oil and gas, either within protected areas or sufficiently close to impact their integrity. China, Russia and Brazil are amongst the biggest players in the group of foreign multinationals engaged in the development of oil, gas and mineral resources operating in developing countries, alongside USA, Australia, Canada, UK and Japan. Meanwhile, the infrastructure development benefits offered by most of these countries alone, and by China in particular, far outweigh investments in the countries by the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, or other global financing instruments. Getting resource extraction, development assistance, and nature conservation right is a balancing act that could swing either way with dramatically different results.

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