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Fifth World Parks Congress

A once-a-decade event to shape the future of protected areas.

As the final touches were being put on preparations for the XII World Forestry Congress in Canada, another major conference of interest to the global forestry community was under way in Durban, South Africa. From 8 to 17 September 2003, protected area profes-sionals and stakeholders met at the fifth World Parks Congress (WPC) to address the theme “Benefits Beyond Boundaries”. The congress, organized by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) once every decade, brings participants together to review the global status of protected areas, to assess the critical issues facing them and to map out directions and actions for the next decade and beyond. The 2003 meeting had a special focus on African protected areas.

Around 3 000 people attended the congress in Durban. Congress activities included plenary sessions, symposia, working group discussions, side meetings, special events and an exhibition.

With seven workshop streams, three cross-cutting streams and six or more working groups in each stream, at any one time there were several dozen working group discussions going on. Some of the areas covered included developing the capacity to manage; building a secure financial future; building broader support for protected areas; governance of protected areas; evaluating management effectiveness; and communities and equity.

Side meetings included, among others, presentations on HIV/AIDS and natural resource management and on transboundary parks – a potential means of addressing cross-boarder poaching.

Five major outputs were presented in Durban.

Durban Accord. This is the principle message from the congress to the world – a communication tool rather than a scientific summary of the congress. It is intended to inspire and influence positive action for protected areas.

Durban Action Plan. This is not a blueprint for all nations and all protected areas, as it is recognized that there are local, national and regional variations in approaches. The action plan outlines suggested activities needed to increase the benefits of protected areas to society and to improve their coverage and management.

Message to the Convention on Biologi cal Diversity (CBD). The aim of this document is to influence the development of a programme of work on protected areas under CBD, drawing from the discussions and main outcomes of the congress, especially the Durban Accord and the Durban Plan of Action.

Recommendations. At the congress, 32 motions (of which 29 had been submitted to the WPC Recommendations and Preparatory Committee and made available for comment before the congress) were considered in discussion groups and reviewed and approved in workshop plenary sessions. The 32 resulting recommendations cover all the themes addressed in the workshops.

Emerging issues. This document summarizes several issues of significance that were not covered by the WPC Recommendations but were identified during the workshop discussions and approved by the workshop plenaries for inclusion in the congress proceedings.

None of these outputs is legally binding, but they are expected to set the agenda for protected area theory and practice for the coming decade and beyond.

In addition to formal outputs, a number of new protected area initiatives in Africa were introduced. These include:

• African Protected Areas Initiative;
• African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources;
• African Protected Areas Trust Fund;
• West African Marine Protected Areas Action Plan;
• Madagascar Initiative, announcing a tripling of the area of land under protection;
• four new marine protected areas in Senegal.

Furthermore, highly significant increases of land under protection in the Amazon were announced. The state government of Amazonas, Brazil announced the establishment of six new protected areas covering 3.8 million hectares – an area equal to the size of Belgium holding some of the world’s richest biodiversity. The state of Amapá announced the creation of a 10 million hectare biodiversity corridor that covers 71 percent of the state, including the world’s largest tropical rain forest park.

The congress provided a unique and invaluable opportunity to learn about and discuss the global status of protected areas, future challenges and priorities for action.

Congress outputs are available at

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