The Promise of Sydney: Innovative approaches to Reconciling development challenges

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!


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

A promising future

Truly sustainable development requires inclusive environmental and social policies and economic incentives with environmental and social responsibility, practical tools and safeguards to ensure that protected areas and healthy ecosystems sustain critical ecosystem services and promote resilience and human well-being. In the coming year, we can set the pathway to that future if we can strengthen the role of protected areas in defining and delivering on the world’s Sustainable Development Goals, and by embedding protected areas in the procedures that define society’s development planning and underpin economic decision making. In complement, we must create and apply solutions to correct market, taking account negative externalities, institutional and policy failures over the coming years by transforming how we measure and account for development and by providing clear incentives across sectors for responsible private and public investment in natural capital.

The current situation

At the same time, protected areas also face numerous economic pressures from acceleration and intensifying resource use and change land use continue to drive habitat loss and fragmentation. The development and adoption of new approaches to maintain critical ecosystem services, protect landscape-level ecosystem processes, and strengthen adaptation and resilience to climate change are grossly insufficient. Additionally, drivers linked to agriculture account for 70% of the projected loss of terrestrial biodiversity. Sustainable agriculture and global food systems are therefore critical for the future of protected areas, ecosystems and global biodiversity. New approaches and investments in protected areas as a cornerstone strategy will not only help countries to achieve the CBD Aichi Targets, but also move them towards accomplishing truly sustainable national development.

I urge you to make strong representation to the Australian Government to commit to prohibiting extractive industries in areas under private ownership that are gazetted for biodiversity conservation in Australia's National Reserve System of Protected Areas.
Currently such industries can legally obliterate the entire ‘protected' area and thus such sham ‘protection’ does not meet Australia’s obligation under the IUCN Convention on Biological Diversity to conserve biodiversity in Australia, nor provide certainty of investment by private landowners in such areas.