The Promise of Sydney: Innovative approaches to Reaching conservation goals

It has become clear that the same approaches will no longer enable us to achieve our bold ambitions for protected areas.  In order to ensure a healthy future for protected areas and the millions who depend on them, we must embark on a new direction.  That means that we must change.  But we cannot simply agree that change must happen; we must find promising new ways to change the status quo and demonstrate to the world with a new range of partners and stakeholders how we can together carry out these changes.  

Each of the twelve Streams and Cross-cutting themes of the World Parks Congress has drafted Innovative approaches to change in consultation with numerous experts and stakeholders in preparation for the World Parks Congress.  Based on real, innovative solutions, these documents posit a set of promising fresh approaches – focused around each topic area – to the challenges facing parks, people and the planet today.  They will each be deliberated and populated during the Congress with the boldest solutions for change at scale, and, by the final days of the Congress, revised by the stream and theme leaders for stakeholder endorsement.  They will serve as a central source of information and inspiration for the Vision for the Promise of Sydney.  Our hope is that these Innovative approaches will be activated by promises, pledges, and commitments by individuals, communities, non-governmental organizations, private companies and governments.   

The Innovative approaches articulate hypothetical bold steps we can take to achieve the greatest transformations in decision-making, in practice, in policy, in capacity and in financing for protected areas.  They source the most innovative solutions within protected areas to the world’s challenges to:

  • Demonstrate the value of protected areas to humanity
  • Advance innovative approaches based on evidence from inspiring solutions
  • Significantly augment broad sectoral collaboration around protected areas
  • Transform a full range of global, regional and local policies, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, to reflect the essential contributions of protected areas   

The Innovative approaches comprise two parts:

Part 1:

  • Vision: an ambition for a promising future
  • Analysis of the current situation
  • Recommendations for the most important ten-year transformation to achieve this ambition 

Part 2:

  • Targets reflecting the pathway towards this transformation
  • The stakeholders, new and existing, needed to achieve this ambition  
  • Crucial considerations 


What are your innovative approaches to change?  Join the conversation! 


Given increasing pressures from growing populations and demand for natural resources, a realistic strategy for achieving desired conservation outcomes could be the development of integrated national/regional strategies for achieving optimal futures for ecological, social and economic well-being.

The current situation is that decision-making is often overly influenced by short-term, economic and/or single-sector considerations with inadequate consideration of the real risks, opportunities and costs to the current and future well-being of people, the environment and the planet's life support systems. It is of the utmost critical importance to the future well-being of the world for nations to undertake sound strategic planning and informed decision-making to achieve optimal futures.

One way that could assist a positive path forward would be for policy and decision-makers and other key stakeholders to be encouraged and supported to utilize scenario-planning processes and best scientific modelling methods to more easily consider, visualize and understand the range of possible options for the future together with the projected short and long-term consequences of choosing different options and policy settings.

Important targets could be for nations and/or regions to (i) identify a realistic optimal future for their ecological, social and economic well-being; (ii) develop associated goals with clear statements of key desired outcomes; (iii) develop, resource and implement strategies and actions for achieving the above; (iv) monitor and report measured evidence of progress, achievements and challenges; and (v) make adaptive adjustments as required to ensure the intended outcomes are achieved.

There is a pressing need to build momentum and investment for sound strategic planning and best scientific expertise and modelling know-how.

I present some inputs and suggestions for the innovative approaches to reaching conservation goals, they are included in the proposal text.

A promising future

First paragraph

Protected areas are proven effective and sustainable natural solutions to a range of environmental problems and economic, social needs on land, freshwater, clean atmosphere, good health and food security from the sea, with many maintaining essential ecosystem services that underpin human welfare and livelihoods. They must be considered as mainstream contributions to real sustainable development and incorporated into national development policies. They are essential for biodiversity conservation.

Third paragraph

The Aichi Targets, including Target 11, are meant to halt biodiversity loss by 2020. They are interim targets and do not represent what is actually required to humanity to live in sustainable harmony with nature. The true targets for sustainability are far broader and will require a rethinking of our personal expectations and how we live with more than 7 billion people on this planet that has ecological boundaries.

The current situation

Different mechanisms need to be employed to increase the financial resources dedicated to invest in the management of protected area systems global as well as political decisions aimed to prioritize the protection of biodiversity as a key to sustainable development.

Recommendations for change

Recommendation 4: Countries, donors, private companies and international funding agencies commit to significantly lifting financial resources available for protected areas to levels that can enable their effective management.

Recommendation 6: Countries, local communities, and the private sector consider sites that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity when creating, restoring or expanding formal protected areas or implementing other area-based conservation measures and safeguards.

Recommendation 8: It is recommended that governments adopt policies that require companies to avoid and minimize their impacts to biodiversity and its ecosystem services, and that any residual impacts existing after such mitigation measures are compensated to ensure measurable and permanent conservation outcomes.

It is true that the combined insights of multiple knowledge systems will provide the transformative changes needed within our society to achieve truly sustainable behaviour. This will not happen with good science contributing its part, neither will it happen with excellent science. A greater commitment is needed. Scientists must learn to understand Indigenous knowledge and values in the same way that Indigenous Peoples have had to learn about scientific knowledge systems and values. If scientists do not take up this challenge they will never understand how their knowledge can most effectively contribute to a solution.
It is incumbent upon political leadership then to shift from the complacency of a mono-lingual mono-cultural paradigm to approaching solutions from a truly multi-cultural perspective. Compulsory education in at least two languages should be the normal situation in NZ, Australia, England and North America as it is in the rest of the world. With this enhanced intellectual capacity deriving from a stronger academic foundation combined with the increased tolerance and wisdom of a society better informed about its origins and unique knowledge systems, new outcomes become real possibilities.
Acknowledging that English is one of the languages these countries share in common, perhaps it is time to give appropriate recognition to the many indigenous languages of these places. In doing so many that are ignorant of the meanings of local place names and histories will be enlightened, and through that greater awareness of where they live hopefully make the transformation to a society that does not crave for material fillers for the significant emptiness that afflicts us.
Fear of the unknown is only acceptable after making every effort within ones power to become enlightened and enlighten those around us.

Embedding the aichi targets into biodiversity plans is a good idea but will only be effective if those plans are embedded in law and can stand on equal footing with other legislative tools at the state and federal level to combat unjust and environmentally destructive decision making.