Over 6000 participants from over 170 countries met at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Acknowledging the traditional owners of the land where we met, we celebrated an enormous variety of inspiring ways of addressing the challenges facing the planet, through protected area approaches that respect and conserve nature, while benefitting human health and prosperity.  We recognized that rebalancing the relationship between human society and nature is essential, and that ecosystems and their variety of life fully support our existence, cultural and spiritual identity, economies and well-being.

The Congress took stock of not just what is challenging us, but how innovative leaders in every corner of the world are finding and implementing protected area solutions to a wide range of challenges, from climate change to economic recessions.

Captured from the boldest thinking of governments, international organisations, communities, civil society leaders and indigenous peoples, the four pillars of the Promise of Sydney collectively represent the outcomes of the World Parks Congress.  These pillars – a core Vision for the future we want to see, a set of Innovative Approaches to solving some of the world’s most elusive challenges, commitments to advancing this change for people, protected areas and the planet, and solutions that provide evidence that this change is in fact within our reach– collectively represent the direction and blueprint for a decade of change that emanate from the deliberations of this World Parks Congress. Originally proposed by a youth leader in the preparations for Congress, The Promise of Sydney is a deliberate step away from the usual declaration and action plan so familiar to these events. The Promise of Sydney is at once representative of the promise we will make to our children and our belief in a promising future for all.

What does it include?

The Promise of Sydney encompasses:

  1. A Vision: This Vision reflects a set of high-level aspirations and recommendations for the change we need in the coming decade to enhance implementation of conservation and development goals for parks, people and the planet.
  2. Twelve Innovative Approaches to transformative change:These documents reflect the bold steps we can take to achieve the greatest transformations in decision-making, practice, policy, capacity and financing for protected areas. Drafted by twelve Streams and Cross-Cutting Themes of activity, these Innovative Approaches will source the most innovative solutions within protected areas to the world’s challenges in Achieving conservation goals, Responding to climate change, Improving health and well-being, Supporting human life, Reconciling development challenges, enhancing the diversity and quality of governance, respecting indigenous and traditional knowledge and culture, Inspiring a new generation, World Heritage, Marine conservation – as well as approaches in Capacity development and a New social compact. These have been debated and revised during the World Parks Congress for implementation post-Congress.
  3. Solutions:This Panorama of Inspiring Protected Area Solutions spotlights some of the most exciting solutions invented by people to overcome obstacles to the stability of people and protected areas. These “bright spots” are inspiring because they are win-win. Contribute your own solution! IPAS will serve as a reference point and resource for practitioners around the world, supported by IUCN, its Commissions and members.
  4. Promises:These are pledges by countries, groups of countries, funders, organizations and other partners to boldly chart the path forward for the world by stepping up or supporting accelerated implementation. Please join us in activating the Promise of Sydney now by making your own commitment!

The Promise of Sydney is the foundation for the pathways we can take to, over the next ten years, ensure that protected areas can be perceived as one of the best investments in our planet’s, and our own future. It will illuminate the bright spots from which we can build to reach, engage and leverage all sectors of society, through which we can demonstrate the value of protected areas to humanity; significantly augment broad sectoral collaboration around protected areas; and transform a full range of global, regional and local policies to reflect the essential contributions of protected areas.

The Promise of Sydney is the rallying point around which organizations and individuals will assess their own strategic direction in relation to protected areas, and around which they work out their own personalized “Promise”. When looking back on Sydney, people will refer to the Promise of Sydney as setting a new direction and a challenge to spur future efforts and progress for ensuring the rightful place of protected areas as effective and efficient solutions to some of the world’s most challenging development goals.

How was The Promise of Sydney prepared?

Each stream and cross-cutting theme involved in the Congress will contribute content and direction to The Promise of Sydney ahead of the World Parks Congress. Each stream is working on its own ambitious set of Innovative Approaches to change, integrating the input of the cross-cutting perspectives, and using this outline to prepare an incisive debate of the issues at the Congress.

The Promise of Sydney management team collated and synthesized the proposals throughout the World Parks Congress to formulate the final Vision for the Promise of Sydney, and presented this Vision in the final plenary of the Congress. Through the collective Innovative Approaches, Promises and Solutions activated by our world community, elements of The Promise of Sydney will be communicated into the most important policy, institutional and community forums moving forward.

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