What is the IUCN World Parks Congress?

The IUCN World Parks Congress (WPC) is the world’s premier global forum for setting the agenda for protected areas and takes place approximately once every ten years. Since 1962, previous IUCN Congresses have had a significant impact in assisting national governments to create new protected areas, and direct more resources towards biodiversity conservation.

Since its first staging in 1962 in Seattle, USA, IUCN World Parks Congresses have substantially influenced the way in which the world has viewed systems of protected areas. The series of IUCN World Parks Congresses has influenced and tracked perspectives on the role of Protected Area in biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. Each Congress has been vital to conservation policy worldwide, addressing global challenges and opportunities, establishing standards to ensure that protected areas are effective, and being a source of inspiration and innovation for the decade that follows.

Congress History

The IUCN World Parks Congress has been convened six times at ten-year intervals since 1962.

1962 – Seattle, USA

The First World Conference on National Parks (Seattle, USA, 30 June - 7 July 1962) aimed to establish a more efficient international understanding of national parks and to encourage further development of the national park movement worldwide. It set definitions and standards for representative systems of protected areas leading to the elaboration of the UN List of National Parks and Equivalent Reserves, later renamed UN List of Protected Areas.

1972 – Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park, USA

The Second World Conference on National Parks (Yellowstone, USA, 18-27 September 1972) focused on the effects of tourism on PAs; park planning and management; and social, scientific and environmental problems within national parks in wet tropical, arid and mountain regions. It also contributed to the genesis of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.

1982 – Bali, Indonesia

The World National Parks Congress (Bali, Indonesia, 11-22 October 1982) focused on the role of PAs in sustaining society, and recognized 10 major areas of concern, including the inadequacy of the existing global network of terrestrial PAs and the need for: more marine, coastal and freshwater PAs; improved ecological and managerial quality of existing PAs; a system of consistent PA categories to balance conservation and development needs; and links with sustainable development

1992 – Caracas, Venezuela

The IVth World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas: “Parks for Life” (Caracas, Venezuela, 10-21 February 1992) emphasized the relationship between people and PAs, and the need for,  inter alia, the identification of sites of importance for biodiversity conservation, and a regional approach to land management. The Caracas Action Plan synthesised the strategic actions for PAs over the decade 1992-2002 and provided a global framework for collective action. The Plan aimed to extend the PA network to cover at least 10% of each major biome by 2000.

2003 - Durban, South Africa

The Vth World Parks Congress (Durban, South Africa, 8-17 September 2003) Held under the patronage of Nelson Mandela and Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, the IUCN World Parks Congress 2003 helped develop a new paradigm for protected areas, defining and advancing the roles of governance, sustainable finance, capacity development, social equity and benefit sharing, leading to the Durban Action Plan and Durban Accord, both of which informed the Convention on Biological Diversity's successful Programme of Work on Protected Areas. Other outcomes included: the UN List and State of the World’s Protected Areas, a global report on the world’s PAs; a Protected Areas Learning Network (PALNet), a web-based knowledge management tool for PA managers and stakeholders; deliverables on Africa’s PAs, including a recommendation on regional PAs and the Durban Consensus on African Protected Areas for the New Millennium; and a Handbook on Managing Protected Areas in the 21st Century, collating case studies, models and lessons learned during the Congress to constitute the “User Manual” for the Durban Accord.

2014 – Sydney, Australia

The IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 (Sydney, Australia, 12-19 November 2014) focused on “Parks, people, planet: inspiring solutions.” During the eight days of plenary and workshop sessions, side events and field trips, participants addressed ways to: reach conservation goals; respond to climate change; improve health and well-being; support human life; reconcile different development challenges; enhance diversity and quality of governance; respect indigenous and traditional knowledge culture; and inspire a new generation to prioritize conservation.

In addition to these, policymakers, practitioners, CEOs, activists and indigenous leaders focused on strategic issues related to PAs, conservation and sustainable development in a series of seven moderated public debates, termed “World Leaders’ Dialogues.” The principal outcome document of the WPC, the Promise of Sydney, captured the main outcomes of the Congress as well as an ongoing online dialogue regarding potential solutions. The objective of the Promise of Sydney is to demonstrate that PAs are one of the best investments people can make for the future of their planet and themselves, and also accelerate implementation of innovative approaches to ensure that these investments are successful.

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CBD COP 7 -  2004

The seventh meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 7) to the CBD took place from 9-20 February 2004, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Delegates adopted 33 decisions on, inter alia: biodiversity and tourism; monitoring and indicators; the ecosystem approach; biodiversity and climate change; mountain biodiversity; inland water ecosystems; marine and coastal biodiversity; PAs; access and benefit-sharing; technology transfer and cooperation; Article 8(j) (traditional knowledge); and national reporting.

The agenda gave parties to the Convention an opportunity to live up to one of the CBD’s most significant challenges, namely to respond with concrete measures to the outcomes of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, including the target of significantly reducing biodiversity loss by 2010, and to position the CBD as the most appropriate and efficient policy framework to address biodiversity. The achievements of the meeting regarding ABS and PAs, supported by a framework for evaluating the implementation of the Convention’s Strategic Plan, provided a solid basis for the Convention to address its priorities in the medium and long term.

CBD COP 10 - 2010

The tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) to the CBD was held from 18-29 October 2010, in Nagoya, Japan. CBD COP 10 considered a series of strategic, substantive, administrative and budgetary issues, and adopted 47 decisions. Delegates also continued negotiations on an international ABS protocol and considered: a new strategic plan, targets and a multi-year programme of work for the Convention; issues related to cooperation with other conventions, organizations and initiatives; and substantive issues, including marine and coastal biodiversity, climate change, forest biodiversity, biofuels, and Article 8(j).

Following intense, late-night sessions, a large “package” of decisions was adopted, making COP 10 one of the most successful meetings in the history of the Convention. This package included the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization; the CBD Strategic Plan for the period 2011-2020, including a mission statement, and strategic goals and targets aiming to inspire broad-based action by parties and stakeholders; and a decision on activities and indicators for the implementation of the Strategy for Resource Mobilization adopted at COP 9.

The meeting also: adopted a decision amounting to a de facto moratorium on geoengineering; took position on the issue of synthetic biology, urging governments to apply the precautionary approach to the field release of synthetic life into the environment and acknowledging parties’ right to suspend it; affirmed the role of the CBD in reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries, and forest conservation, sustainable forest management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (REDD+); adopted the Tkarihwaié:ri code of ethical conduct; and established clear steps to increase cooperation among the Rio Conventions leading up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD or Rio+20 Summit).

The 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress - IMPAC3

The 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC 3), was held in Marseille, France, from 21-25 October 2013, followed by a high-level political meeting in Corsica, France, from 26-27 October. IMPAC convenes representatives from public management and planning agencies, research institutions, NGOs, coastal and island communities, and the private sector from around the world every four years to assist in the conservation and sustainable development of oceans.

The main focus of the third IMPAC Congress was to deliberate on strategies to meet CBD Aichi Target 11 under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, which calls for at least 10% of all coastal and marine areas to be managed as conservation or PAs by 2020.

Some of the major recommendations included: converging local approaches and global strategies through mobilizing local and national networks, and connecting them into a global network of marine protected areas (MPAs); forging partnerships with the private sector to advance governance and support spatial planning processes; and entering negotiations to reach an agreement on implementation of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), including the provision for the creation of high seas MPAs. These recommendations fed into the ministerial conference, which highlighted the need for conservation of the high seas through areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJs).

1st Asia Parks Congress

The first Asia Parks Congress was held in Sendai, Japan, from 1 3-17 November 2013, as the first international conference bringing together PA practitioners in Asia. The participants shared their experiences in managing PAs, including current status, challenges and best practices for PA management in Asia.

The main objective of the meeting was to facilitate the establishment of a regional partnership for achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and implementation of the CBD’s Programme of Work on Protected Areas. The outcomes of the Congress will be delivered to the sixth WPC in Sydney.

IV Mesoamerican Parks Congress

The fourth Mesoamerican Congress on Protected Areas was held in San José, Costa Rica, from 18-21 March 2014. This meeting is convened every three or four years to discuss, disseminate and exchange knowledge on planning, management, operation and development of biodiversity conservation in PAs, ecosystem services and the promotion of human welfare.

Participants included academics and stakeholders from the Mesoamerican region who, during eight symposiums, shared experiences and identified measures to improve Mesoamerican PAs, including through: governance; knowledge management; management and planning; using PAs as a tool for social and economic development; implementing climate change solutions through PAs; cooperation and financing for PA management; and policies as instruments of PA consolidation.

Namibian High-level Dialogue

This high-level event on improving PA governance for livelihood security and biodiversity in southern Africa was held in Windhoek, Namibia, from 21-22 May 2014. Over the two days of stock taking on PA governance within the Southern African Development Community, delegates: assessed ways for PAs to deliver benefits for local communities and biodiversity; discussed priorities for enhancing the resilience of PAs to future pressures and challenges; considered challenges facing the region’s PAs, including human-wildlife conflict, competition for water, wildlife-livestock disease transmission, and contested rights to land and wildlife; and identified strategies to mitigate the impacts of these conflicts on PAs, communities and biodiversity, while recognizing that pressures, such as climate change and the conversion of land into uses that are biodiversity-incompatible, are likely to further exacerbate these conflicts in the future.

2nd Colombian Congress on Protected Areas

This meeting was held in Bogotá, Colombia, from 16-18 July 2014. Convening under the theme, “Protected areas: territories for peace and life,” the Congress built on commitments from the first meeting, which took place in 2009, including consolidation of the national PA system within the framework of the CBD’s Programme of Work on Protected Areas.

The main objectives of the Congress included: positioning PAs, subsystems and complementary conservation strategies as territories for life and peace, in light of the new economic and social development challenges of Colombia; assessing social and environmental dynamics in urban and rural landscapes, and developing complementary strategies to address these challenges for PA management; and creating opportunities for cultural exchange, knowledge sharing and social valuation of PAs in Colombia

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