8,000 of the world’s conservation leaders gathered in Barcelona recently at the IUCN World Conservation Congress

Protected Areas was one of the thematic areas covered at the Congress. Some of the key messages from the Congress of relevance for protected areas included:

  • The world is currently facing a species extinction crisis. The 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, launched at the Congress, showed that rates of species extinction are at unparalled levels. As one example, the recently released assessment of mammals showed that more than one in four mammal species are currently threatened with extinction. Effectively managed protected areas were noted as a major part of the solution to this extinction crisis;
  • The escalating impacts of climate change on biodiversity and on people was a recurring theme throughout the Congress. Delegates stressing the critical role of protected areas in addressing climate impacts, in particular through maintaining stores of carbon and through protecting and enhancing vital ecosystem services;
  • Increasing evidence of the benefits of protected areas was presented to the Congress, including at the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) “Splash Event” and in a range of other forums. As one example, a study of over 120 no take MPAs presented to the Congress demonstrated without question that such areas restore marine species and ecosystems;
  • The launch of the 2008 World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) at the Congress noted that the rate of protected area establishment continues to grow. This was also reinforced in the major new protected area publication launched at the Congress: The World’s Protected Areas: Status, Values and Prospects in the 21 Century”. However, these areas face many challenges, including climate change, increasing global demand for agricultural and forest commodities, and the impacts of infrastructure projects, including transportation, mass tourism, and oil, gas and hard rock mining. Congress delegates underlined that for protected areas to better respond to these challenges they must be better managed, better connected, and better financed;

Many activities and events at the Congress noted that there have been positive developments in relation to the involvement of indigenous peoples and local communities with protected areas but that much additional work remains to be done; The adoption of the new IUCN Programme which places biodiversity at the core of the programme and emphasizes the One Programme Concept in delivering results has a number of implications for the future work of IUCN on protected areas;

Overall the Congress was very successful for both protected areas and also for WCPA, with the adoption of the WCPA Mandate, the unopposed re-election of Nik Lopoukhine as WCPA Chair for another 4 years, and a very productive WCPA Members meeting (see below). A number of WCPA Themes and Task Forces also took the opportunity of the WCC to hold meetings of their members who were present.

WCPA Booth at IUCN World Conservation Congress, Barcelona 2008

WCPA Booth at IUCN World Conservation Congress, Barcelona 2008

Photo: Djinn Pourkiani

Workshops held in the World Conservation Forum

240 workshops were held in the Forum and these included 80 workshops focussed on protected areas. Thus around 33% of all workshops at the Congress related to protected areas. Results of all workshops are currently being compiled and will be available in due course from the IUCN Congress website

While IUCN Members organised the majority of protected areas workshops, PPA and WCPA were directly involved in organizing a number of major workshops, including the following:

  • Celebration of the Values of Protected Areas (“Splash Event”)– showcased the many values of protected areas to society, including through the world premiere of the film prepared by Parcs Canada on protected area values. A high level panel discussion underlined that international organizations such as the World Bank are recognizing protected areas as essential for addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. The critical need for protected areas to work more effectively with local people was also underlined;
  • Healthy Parks Healthy People –highlighted the benefits of the natural environment in general, and protected areas in particular, in providing human physical and mental health benefits. These benefits are borne out by clear medical evidence some of which was outlined at the workshop. Protected areas can provide am important part of the solution to the escalating health crisis in both developed and developing countries;
  • World Heritage (WH) – noted that the WH Convention is a highly successful conservation mechanism but there are significant opportunities to strengthen its potential and leverage. Key issues included:
    • targeted guidance and support is required to help improve the state of conservation of WH sites;
    • more efforts are needed to leverage funding support for WH;
    • staff working in WH sites need more recognition and support;
    • the need for public use planning at the time of inscription to better manage the impacts and capture the potential of visitation &tourism to raise public awareness of heritage values
  • Connectivity Conservation and Protected Areas - the world premiere of the film: “Australia’s Great Eastern Ranges: Our Vision to Protect Them Forever” as well as examples of connectivity conservation from North America and Central America. The workshop emphasised that large-scale connectivity conservation is about retaining and restoring large natural lands that connect protected areas and that such approaches can provide critical corridors and habitats for species threatened by climate change. Connectivity conservation requires active and adaptive management of protected areas and adjacent areas and must be based on consultation and cooperation with communities.
  • Evaluating Protected Areas - Management Effectiveness – presented key findings from assessments on over 7000 protected areas which have shown that, while significant improvement is needed in management of many protected areas, they are contributing significantly to nature conservation outcomes in the majority of cases. The workshop emphasized evaluation as a critical component of improved protected area management and that this must address social and governance aspects as well as biophysical parameters.
  • Protected Areas and Climate Change Turnaround (PACT 2020) – reviewed the challenges and the opportunities associated with climate change and protected areas. Challenges include the impacts of climate change on species abundance and distribution, as well as environmental impacts associated with extreme weather events. Opportunities include the increased promise of financial support for protected areas through payments from the sale of carbon credits for emissions reductions and through voluntary markets. The workshop outlined the PACT 2020 proposal as a response to more effectively address the challenges and to better harnessing the opportunities. The need for a partnership approach between key organizations and relevant stakeholders was emphasized.
  • Youth and Protected Areas – highlighted the various initiatives undertaken within IUCN/WCPA to better involve young people in protected areas. These include:
    • establishing, jointly with the International Ranger Federation the Young Conservationist Award, awarded annually to an outstanding young person for his/her work in protected areas/conservation (see below);
    • setting a 30% target for membership of WCPA (30% of members to be under 35 by 2012);
    • ensuring that all major events have a young persons component, such as happened at the Congress;
    • establishing a Task Force on Young Conservationists within WCPA; and
    • a number of other specific initiatives.
    Future suggestions and proposals were developed at the workshop and these will be further discussed within IUCN/WCPA.
  • Conservation Planning - Designs for Nature - outlined new Guidelines being developed on: “Designs for nature: regional conservation planning, implementation and management”, which will bring together ideas and techniques on conservation planning from diverse sources and case studies around world. These guidelines will provide the most comprehensive overview to date of the entire planning process, and the tasks, activities and decisions involved in designing and implementing a conservation planning. Input from the workshop from different stakeholders provided valuable input to the further development of these guidelines.
  • IUCN Protected Areas Categories Guidelines - the new Category Guidelines were launched at a major workshop, which emphasized the Categories as a powerful tool for strengthening protected area management. The new guidelines emphasize that the priority objective for all protected areas is protecting nature, but that protected areas also have other, important management objectives, such as providing ecosystem services and enhancing the livelihoods of people, so long as these other objectives do not negatively impact biodiversity conservation. The new Guidelines represent the culmination of much work and extensive consultation with IUCN and WCPA Members over the last 4 years, which included a web based discussion forum and a major “Categories Summit”, held in Almeria, Spain in 2007. The new PA Management Categories Guidelines can be downloaded from: http://www.iucn.org/about/union/commissions/wcpa/index.cfm?uNewsID=1794
  • Launch of the World Data Base on Protected Areas (WDPA) – the new WDPA was launched at a workshop and press conference at the Congress. The new WDPA is a significantly improved online tool which allows users to zoom in, fly over and explore over 100,000 national parks. It looks at areas including endangered species, habitats, landscapes and livelihoods. The database also pays particular attention to the world’s oceans, including mangroves, corals and sea grasses, because less than one per cent of the seas are effectively protected. The new WDPA aims to assist decision makers and relevant stakeholders in their decisions relating to protected areas. More information is available from:http://www.iucn.org/about/union/commissions/wcpa/wcpa_focus/index.cfm?uNewsID=1719
  • Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) – this 3.5 hour workshop was “packed” with information and an overflowing audience. The workshop reviewed progress with ICCAs, and presented experience and case studies from around the world on this important tool for ensuring conservation and supporting the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and local communities. The workshop identified future directions for action, and identified key groups and partners to work on and accelerate action for ICCAs

Edwin Sabuhoro and Kristy, Faccer, WCPA Youth Event at the IUCN Conservation Congress, Barcelona, 2008,

Edwin Sabuhoro and Kristy, Faccer, WCPA Youth Event at the IUCN Conservation Congress, Barcelona, 2008,

Photo: Djinn Pourkiani

Launches of key protected areas products

  • IUCN Protected Areas Categories Guidelines
    More Information
  • World Data Base on Protected Areas (WDPA)
  • The World’s Protected Areas: Status, Values and Prospects in the 21st Century
    This major new protected area publication, edited by Stuart Chape, Mark Spaulding and Martin Jenkins was launched at the Congress. Originally conceived as one of the major (level 1) outputs from the IUCN 2003 World Parks Congress, this extensively illustrated publication provides a comprehensive and authoritative status report of the worlds protected areas. More Information
  • Sacred Natural Sites Guidelines for Protected Area Managers- were launched jointly by IUCN and UNESCO at and the evening event that gathered indigenous leaders and people from three continents, donors and partners, as well as experts from IUCN members and from UNESCO. These Guidelines recognize the importance of cultural and spiritual values in nature conservation and provide practical guidance on the management of these values. The guidelines promote respect and cooperation in relation to the establishment and management of Sacred Natural Sites.
    More information 
  • Regional Action Plan for the Protected Areas of East Asia
    This publication was launched at the Congress. Published in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean, it provides a key summary of the major protected areas issues in the rapidly developing East Asia region and summarizes the major actions needed to address these issues.

Ashish Kothari, Launch of Categories, IUCN Conservation Congress, Barcelona 2008

Ashish Kothari, Launch of Categories, IUCN Conservation Congress, Barcelona 2008

Photo: Djinn Pourkiani

Launches of key Marine Protected Areas Products and initiatives

There were many activities relating to Marine Protected Areas at the Congress, including:

All of the following is accessible on the website www.protectedplanetcean.org or by clicking on the protected planet ocean logo

Launch of the Global WCPA MPA Plan of Action

WCPA – marine launched a global Plan of Action for MPAs at Congress. This completed nearly two years of analysis to develop and strengthen its role in support of MPA practitioners and programs around the world. The latter stages were funded by an Organizational Effectiveness Grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Plan sets out under three themes key actions to strengthen and develop the MPA community and the development of MPA networks.

The Plan can be downloaded in English, French and Spanish from protectplanetocean.org, WCPA – Marine’s new global website

Launch by WCPA – Marine of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) layer on Google Earth

Due to a partnership between IUCN WCPA – Marine and Google, all 4,600 Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) can now be found – and explored – in Google Earth, for the first time . The MPA layer was launched at WCC in Barcelona and all feedback thus far has been extremely positive, with many government agencies coming forward wanting to ensure the information provided for their MPAs is correct and asking how they can add their own content to the layer to best display their sites.

So, in addition to the increased awareness of marine conservation using Google Earth, we are also strengthening IUCN’s links to members and partner organizations, as well as generating improvements in the MPA dataset which will be synched with the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA).

Launch of the new global MPA web portal, www.protectplanetocean.org

This exciting new web portal launched by WCPA – Marine and partners is not only a companion website to the MPA layer in Google Earth, but is also emerging as the source on the web for news and information about marine conservation, globally and regionally. 

Built through WCPA – Marine’s leadership of a consortia of leading bodies in ocean conservation, key features include RSS news feeds, blogs, videos, a Google Earth plug-in where you one can enter their location and be zoomed to the nearest MPA, marine conservation jobs, a searchable top cut of marine conservation literature, guidelines and toolkits, a growing expert database of marine conservationists around the world, and much more. 

New features and services will be rolled out over the coming months and years.

Announcement of scale-up of activities for marine World Heritage and advanced planning for the Bahrain meeting

WCPA – Marine announced that in addition to making marine World Heritage a focus for activities, scale-up actions were already being planned with advanced planning being put in place for a milestone meeting in 2009, likely to be held in and with the support of Bahrain. The focus of this work will be on improving tentative lists for marine sites as well as developing approached to improve the effectiveness of management for existing sites.

Launch by National Geographic, UN Foundation and IUCN WCPA – Marine of WildCam: Belize Reef

Congress hit another milestone with the launch of the Belize Reef WildCam. This innovation beams live pictures from Belize marine World Heritage site to computer desktops throughout the world. The innovation is a first step in support of the WCPA – Marine Plan of Action to better connect individuals ‘live’ to the marine wonders of our best MPAs. An education programme will be based around this live camera feed and is supported by information on marine World Heritage on protectplanetocean.org

Protected Planet Ocean Website

Motions on protected areas

144 Motions were considered by IUCN’s members during the Members' Assembly (10 and 14 October). The majority of the motions related to traditional “heartland issues” of species and protected areas. Once adopted the motions reflect IUCN's position on the subject matter of the motion. Of the motions there were 38 (26%) which were directly relevant to protected areas and an additional 34 motions (23%) were indirectly relevant to protected areas. Thus in total around 50% of all motions considered by the Congress related to protected areas. Key issues that were addressed in motions related to protected areas included:

Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas 

a number of motions related to indigenous peoples and protected areas. These were either focused on particular areas/regions (such as indigenous rights in the Mosquitia region of eastern Honduras or were more general in relation to ensuring effective involvement of indigenous peoples in protected areas. A number of motions referred to the need to uphold and apply recommendations from the Durban World Parks Congress relating to Indigenous Peoples and Protected Areas.

Extractive Industries and Protected Areas

a number of motions related to extractive industries and protected areas. These were either focused on particular areas/regions (such as mining explorations and exploitation in and near Andean protected areas) or were more general in relation to ensuring that past IUCN recommendations regarding mining and protected areas (such as the Amman Recommendation) are upheld and adhered to by mining companies. One controversial motion proposed to terminate the agreement between IUCN and Shell. After extensive debate this motion was not approved, despite having significant support from non government members of IUCN.

Marine Protected Areas

there were many motions relating to marine protected areas. These either related to the protection of specific marine areas or species (such as sharks and whales) or to general support for strengthening networks of marine protected areas. There were also a number of motions relating to high seas governance.

World Heritage

motions were focussed on World Heritage sites in Australia in relation to encouraging new nominations for certain areas (such as Ningaloo in Western Australia) or in relation to addressing threats to existing world heritage properties and potential extensions (such as in relation to logging adjacent to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage site)

Connectivity Conservation and Climate Change

one major motion called for increased attention to connectivity (large scale initiatives), linking protected areas into the broader landscape. A number also referred to climate change and the role of protected areas in relation to climate change mitigation and adaptation programmes.


motions included reference to increasing the level of support within IUCN for protected areas and also a number of motions relating to the protection or enhanced management of specific protected areas

A number of new motions were prepared and tabled directly at the Congress.

The final adopted text of each Motion will be available from the IUCN website in due course

Information on most of the draft motions that were considered by the Congress can be found at: 


Paruku Indigenous Protected Area

Paruku Indigenous Protected Area

Photo: Gillian Kennedy

Awards for protected areas

Countries around the world have set aside more than 12% of the earth’s land surface as protected areas - a remarkable achievement. Even more remarkable are the efforts of individuals who have worked tirelessly to promote and protect these unique areas, often at great personal risk and danger. IUCN honored a number of people at the Congress for their outstanding achievements for protected areas and conservation.

IUCN Honorary Membership

This is one of the highest and most prestigious awards in IUCN and was presented at the Congress to Larry Hamilton, long term member and stalwart of WCPA. The award citation highlighted Larry’s huge voluntary contributions to IUCN’s mission in general and his contribution to mountain protected areas in particular

Kenton Miller Award

The prestigious Kenton Miller Award for International Innovation in Park Management was awarded to Dr. Marc Hockings. Marc was acknowledged for his globally significant work on the methodology of measuring management effectiveness which has been taken up by such bodies as the World Bank, WWF and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and applied in many countries of the world.

More information on Kenton Miller award at: http://www.iucn.org/about/union/commissions/wcpa/wcpa_overview/wcpa_awards/wcpa_kentonaward/index.cfm

Young Conservationist Award

Edwin Sabuhoro, 32, from Rwanda, was selected as winner of the 2008 Young Conservationist Award, which honors outstanding achievements by young people in protected areas.

Edwin developed incentives for local people to protect gorillas’ habitat by founding the Iby’Iwacu Cultural Village, a community-based tourism initiative, in the Musanze district of Northern Rwanda.

More information on Young Conservationist Award at:http://www.iucn.org/about/union/commissions/wcpa/wcpa_focus/index.cfm?uNewsID=1486


Fred Packard Award


This key WCPA award recognizing globally outstanding service to protected areas was presented to seven outstanding individuals at the WCPA Members Meeting:

  • Ernesto Enkerlin whose vision has helped shape conservation policy in Mexico and has substantially elevated the profile of conservation in the national political agenda.
  • Moses Mapesa who has developed the Uganda Wildlife Authority into one of the most professional protected areas agencies in Africa and who has also been actively involved in conservation projects in many other African countries, including the Leadership for Conservation in Africa (LCA) Forum.
  • Maria Tereza Jorge Padua is a major part of the history of nature conservation in Brazil and has played a fundamental role in initiating many important and innovative projects for the conservation of Brazilian nature.
  • George Wallace has devoted his career to capacity building for protected areas through his teaching, research, training, graduate students and by personal example. His work has improved the capacity of thousands of protected area professionals in the Americas.
  • Henri Blaffart, a true conservation warrior for Conservation International Pacific, recently drowned while crossing the Tiendanite in New Caledonia. Henri, the team leader of the Mont Panié Reserve Project, spent the last six years developing major conservation initiatives with the Kanak tribes of the isolated north-east coast of Grande Terre, New Caledonia.
  • Rober Cartagena the President of CIDOB, the national organization of indigenous people in Bolivia, has worked tirelessly for almost two decades to save one of the most important forest areas on the planet.
  • Muslih Al-Juaid has demonstrated extreme bravery in the course of his work. In September 2007 he was shot and severely wounded by suspected poachers, while attempting to detain them. This incident nearly ended his life. However, he has now completely recovered and is back at work.

More information on Packard Awards at:http://www.iucn.org/about/union/commissions/wcpa/wcpa_focus/index.cfm?uNewsID=1664

Miller Award 2008

Marc Hockings, Awardee 2008, Nik Lopoukhine, WCPA Chair and Kenton Miller, former IUCN Director General, WCPA Chair and currently founder of the Kenton Miller Award. October 6th 2008, Barcelona, Spain

Photo: Djinn Pourkiani

WCPA Full Members Meeting

More than 200 WCPA Members participated in a full day WCPA Members Meeting on 4 October.

The meeting:

  •  reviewed WCPA activities and achievements over the 2004 – 2008 period;
  •  identified key issues and activities relevant to WCPA Members at the IUCN Congress; and (iii) obtained WCPA members views on priorities for the 2008 – 2012 period. Issues raised included the following:

The period 2004 to 2008 was one of high achievement for WCPA, with particular highlights including: the revision of the Categories Document; the high level of productivity and initiatives from the WCPA Marine Programme; the acceleration of efforts to improve PA management effectiveness; work on protected areas and indigenous peoples and community Conserved Areas, to name but a few;

WCPA’s future programme needs to reinforce and build on the key strengths of WCPA, such as in setting standards (such as for the PA Category System); convening (such as for the World PA Leadership Forum) and in knowledge generation and sharing (such as for the Best Practice Series)The level of WCPA regional activity has been variable. Where it has worked well, such as in Australia/New Zealand, this has often reflected the identification of clear and relevant tasks, coupled with strong leadership;

The CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA) has been a key vehicle for increasing the profile and relevance of protected areas. The level of engagement of WCPA with the CBD has been effective but could still be increased and improved. The suggestion of strengthening the national level work of WCPA, linked where possible to the identification of national focal points for the CBD PoWPA, was made by a number of members;

Climate change represents a major challenge to the future viability of systems of protected areas. WCPA future efforts need to develop practical response strategies to climate change, focusing on both adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, including through the strengthening of protected area networks (through increased application of management effectiveness methodology and the IUCN PA category system) and also accelerating efforts to work at broader scales (including through connectivity conservation initiatives).

WCPA also needs to engage with the UNFCC and with a range of other partners, including on initiatives for carbon related financing, such as the REDD scheme.Partnerships with other organizations are essential for more effective establishment and management of protected areas. As one example, WCPA Members applauded the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Ranger Federation and with the Thin Green Line foundation, to support the families of rangers killed or injured in the line of their duty

The WCPA Members Meeting celebrated achievements for protected areas and, in particular, recognized the outstanding efforts of people for protected areas through awarding 7 Packard Awards (refer above)

A full record of the WCPA Members meeting will be prepared and distributed in due course.

David Zeller, Sean Wilmore and Nik Lopoukhine, at the Signing of the Memorandum of Agreement of the Thin Green Line Foundation at the WCPA Members Meeting, Barcelona, Spain 2008

World PA Leadership Forum (WPALF)

The World Protected Areas Leadership Forum (WPALF) comprises the CEOs of a number of the world’s leading protected areas agencies and has met annually since 2000.

The Forum meeting during the WCC involved 20 representatives from 14 countries. Participants noted the value of the Forum as a key vehicle for sharing experience and for benchmarking. A number of spin off benefits were noted including many practical capacity building initiatives developed between Forum and other countries. It was agreed that the Forum should continue and that it has a major potential role to play in relation to supporting the planning and implementation of the next World Parks Congress, tentatively scheduled for 2014.

For a full record of the WPALF meeting and previous meetings visit our page on WPALF


Antinea Boat where the WPALF reception was held, Barcelona, Spain 2008
IUCN World Conservation Congress, Barcelona, Spain 2008
  • Barcelona Congress

    Barcelona Congress

    Photo: IUCN

Protected Areas at the IUCN Conservation Congress
  • WCPA 50 Logo

    WCPA 50 Logo

    Photo: Gabriel Davila Delwyn