A landmark global forum on parks and protected areas is to be hosted in Australia in November 2014. The IUCN World Parks Congress takes place only once every 10 years, and is the world’s most influential gathering of people involved in protected area management.
“Protected areas are irreplaceable treasures, preserving biodiversity, offering natural solutions to climate change and supporting the livelihoods of people throughout the world — by providing clean water, fresh air, food and the source of many of our medicines”, said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature. “They are also important for recreation, tourism and education, as well as spiritual and cultural benefits.”
As challenges in development and the sustainable use of Earth’s natural resources accelerate, the IUCN World Parks Congress will play a key role in setting the agenda for the vitality and future growth of protected areas in meeting these challenges.
Since the first Congress in Seattle, USA in 1962, the IUCN World Parks Congress has been seminal 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.
“Protected areas are without doubt one of conservation’s great success stories and one of the world’s most valuable assets,” said Ms Marton-Lefèvre. “The diversity of ways in which indigenous peoples and local communities, the private sector and governments work together in and around protected areas are key to this success”.
Today some 13 % of the planet’s land surface is dedicated as protected areas, and through the Convention on Biological Diversity, nations are aiming for a target of 17 % by 2020. However, major gaps remain in the marine environment, with less than 2 % of our seas and oceans currently under protection. The Congress will be the premier gathering to address these gaps.
Australian Environment Minister Tony Burke said Australia has led the way in the creation and management of national parks.
“National Parks provide the perfect place where families can connect with nature,’’ he said.
“As an island state we are also playing a unique role in expanding our national parks from lands to the oceans.
“There is a reason why this conference has a natural home in Australia.”
New South Wales Environment Minister Robyn Parker said she was thrilled that Sydney had been chosen to host this significant event, which is expected to attract more than 3,000 people to Australia’s largest and one of the world’s most beautiful harbour-side cities.
“Sydney is the home of Royal National Park — Australia’s first national park and the world’s second national park after Yellowstone in the USA,” Ms Parker said. “Hosting this event is a great opportunity for us to showcase not only Australia’s leadership in conservation but the many stunning protected areas that are accessible from our city and across New South Wales.
“Our track record in hosting ‘green’ events is undisputed, having gained international recognition for the ‘green’ Olympics in 2000, and we’ll be building on this model to host the IUCN 2014 World Parks Congress at Sydney Olympic Park.”
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