World Parks Congress : The Community Park
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8 - 17 September 2003
Durban, South Africa



The Equator Initiative is pleased to be organizing two major activities at the World Parks Congress -- The Community Park and the Sustainable Finance Stream . Make sure you check out the Daily Journals for both events, accessible via the links below, to get up-to-date reports, and photographs from Durban.

Why are we at the World Parks Congress?

The Equator Initiative is dedicated to the cause of People and Protected Areas - one of the seven core areas of activity undertaken by the partnership. In keeping with its mandate, the Equator Initiative will be actively involved with the World Parks Congress to be held in September 2003 in Durban, South Africa.

The Equator Initiative firmly believes that communities are the vital driving force of sustainable development. Over the past decade, an understanding of how local communities manage change and adopt innovative approaches to capacity development - at all levels and among a broad spectrum of grantees and partner organizations - has proven critical to achieving environment and sustainability goals. Lessons and experience demonstrate the need to work increasingly with communities to help shape and realize national and local policies that can inform global decision-making from the bottom up in a collaborative framework that recognizes the close relationship between sustainable community livelihoods and the effective management of protected areas.

The effective protection of important biodiversity, including in protected areas, is proving to be a process that yields important and lasting results when innovative partnerships provide a bridge between bottom-up and top-down approaches. Greatest successes are observed when local communities, protected area managers, local and national governments, the private sector, and other partners together establish an "enabling environment" for success.

Despite the enormous contributions that civil society, and in particular communities, have made to advancing our understanding of sustainable development in relation to protected areas, communities are generally the least well positioned to have a voice in international summits. Increased efforts to link vertically with ongoing global and national sustainable development efforts, and horizontally between a broad array of stakeholders and partners are essential.

The Equator Initiative is dedicated to creating opportunities to spotlight stories from the grassroots - sustainable development victories won by community level action -and to encouraging dialogue about future challenges for protected areas.

Protected Areas are one of the most important tools for the protection of biodiversity, a resource that is profoundly undervalued. This undervaluing of biodiversity makes it particularly costly to manage and conserve, despite the immense benefits that it provides to human society. The biodiversity of protected areas is typically managed under inadequate national policy frameworks that give preference to short-term solutions for long-term problems. Protected Areas are also affected by distorted local, regional and global market conditions, which drive local economies to exploit natural resources beyond minimal sustainable thresholds to remain competitive in the short-term. So far, communities - the very people who lose when biodiversity is threatened or lost - have also been on the losing end of many strategies to protect biodiversity.

With this in mind, the Equator Initiative will be heavily involved in the Sustainable Finance Stream of the World Parks Congress - a forum which will present and highlight challenges and opportunities for developing sustainable finance solutions for Protected Areas and Protected Area Systems. Participants will be introduced to a wide range of financial arrangements and options for the generation of revenues. One focus will be on an examination of the business-model approaches to Protected Area management. Also, policy and institutional considerations will be discussed as they define the broader environment in which Protected Area managers and Protected Area system administrators have to operate. Special attention will be placed on exploring opportunities for forging strategic alliances with donors and partner organizations.

In keeping with the theme of the World Parks Congress, the Stream will also look at the benefits Protected Areas offer to the wider community. The Stream will consider not only what goods and services are provided but whether these goods and services are properly valued and shared. With these as key questions, the Stream will discuss strategies to enhance financial sustainability through economic opportunities and sustainable use.

The Stream program will bring together experts and practitioners from a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives and Stream participants to put forth recommendations that address the long-term financial viability of Protected Areas and the role they can play in enhancing the economic conditions of communities, nations and regions.