Scorecard, catalyst, watershed

Kenton Miller and Achim Steiner
raise the curtain on the Durban World Parks Congress

The Vth IUCN World Parks Congress, bringing together some 3,000 delegates from over 170 countries in Durban, will affect the next decade in the development of protected areas worldwide on land and sea alike. It is the only global forum for protected areas, the premier event for examining past successes and failures, and working to ensure their – and our – sustainable future.

The World Parks Congresses – reaching back over four decades since the initial one in Seattle in 1962 – have proved to be watershed international events and catalysed important changes for protected areas at global, regional, national and local levels.

The first two, both in the United States, brought attention to the global nature of protected areas and the parks movement: no longer were parks seen as just the preserves of national governments. The 1982 Bali Congress, the first to be held in the developing world, articulated the linkages between protected areas and human development issues. And the Caracas Congress (1992) – along with the Albany Symposium (1997) – resulted in new thinking about protected areas as part of the wider landscape, rather than as merely isolated islands of biodiversity. All Congresses have had a tremendous impact in helping national governments create new protected areas and direct more resources towards biodiversity conservation.

It is easy enough for governments and the private sector to say they are doing something for protected areas. The World Parks Congress forces a stock-taking. Its Report Card for Protected Areas, comprising a new United Nations List of Protected Areas and State of the World’s Protected Areas report, provides an in-depth analysis of the global status of protected areas at the beginning of the 21st century.

Opportunity for commitment
The Congress programme seeks to balance vigorous debate with a technical focus that has a practical meaning for both the ‘parks people’ and the diverse stakeholders beyond the fences – and helps build capacity to improve biodiversity conservation around the world. It provides an opportunity for commitments to be made, partnerships formed, ideas fermented and dialogues begun. One special session focuses on relationships between protected areas and a wide range of other interests including tourism; mining, oil and gas; indigenous and traditional peoples; the fisheries sector; and water supply authorities. Another is dedicated to Africa’s protected areas, reporting on a range of initiatives from the Congress and articulating vital recommendations for action.

The Congress can spur decision-makers to move beyond dialogue to action through a Durban Accord – providing a succinct joint vision statement for protected areas – and global recommendations for change. Meanwhile students at Yale University have coordinated input from young people worldwide on how best to manage protected areas in the future in the The Durban Youth Accord. Next year’s Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity will be presented with a workplan developed by the Congress. Ultimately, we hope that the Congress will help advance the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, and help realize sustainable development scenarios that have protected areas as the essential building blocks of landscapes 

Kenton Miller is Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas and Achim Steiner is IUCN Director General.



Central issues: the role of protected areas in relation to poverty and human needs; how protected areas anticipate and adapt to global change – biophysical, economic and social; the rationale for protected areas as an investment for a more sustainable future; and the contribution of protected areas to peace and security.

Cross-cutting themes throughout the programme: Marine, World Heritage, and Communities and Equity, highlighting increasing protection of our marine environment (less than 1 per cent at the moment); raising capacity in establishing and managing the world’s icon sites; and examining community-managed protected areas and the need for more participatory and equitable approaches.

The programme includes four symposia where leading international speakers outline the most significant issues for protected areas; seven workshop streams – the core of the programme – exploring in depth common issues faced by protected areas throughout the world; two days of field trips in the protected areas of KwaZulu-Natal Province; and plenary sessions to distil the findings and recommendations from Workshop Streams and Cross-Cutting Themes.

This issue:
Contents | Editorial K. Töpfer | Biological backbone | Benefits beyond boundaries | Common inheritance | Beauty or beast? | Wonders of the world | Protecting heritage | People | Parks and participation | At a glance: Protected Areas | Profile: Harrison Ford | Scorecard, catalyst, watershed | Coral Reef Fund | Coral jewels | Reef knots | Brief window for biodiversity | Books & products | Conservation amid conflict | News | Green, red or black? | Keeping faith with nature | Make parks not war

Complementary articles in other issues:
Issue on WSSD, 2002
Issue on Mountains and Ecotourism, 2002
Issue on Biological Diversity, 2000
Issue on Tourism, 1999
Issue on Culture, Values and the Environment, 1996

AAAS Atlas of Population and Environment: