The Promise of Sydney: Innovative approaches to Improving the diversity and quality of governance

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 improving the diversity and quality of governance; they are included in the proposal text.

The current situation

While collaborative and voluntary conservation models (governance diversity) are occasionally emerging, in most countries conventional governance modalities remain predominant in public perception and support. Improvements can be highlighted in participation and voice, respect of existing rights, and accountability for protected areas (governance quality), but conservation inequities and corruption remain the rules rather than the exception, in particular wherever civil society is thoroughly dependent on authorities for their engagement and recognition of their rights.

Recommendations for change

Recommendation 1: All CBD Parties (and also non-CBD Parties) undertake systematic processes of governance assessment, evaluation and action for protected and conserved areas and territories in the landscape / seascape and for individual sites and engage in data gathering, analysis and reports (including for the UNEP WCMC databases) towards enhancing governance diversity, quality and vitality in their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, correlated with other national development plans.

Recommendation 2: All CBD Parties (and also non-CBD Parties) recognise and appropriately support voluntary and self-directed conservation efforts by legal acknowledgement of collective land and resource rights and responsibilities in customary territories (e.g. via land reforms and other policies that secure collective customary tenure and self-determination), by empowering local and customary governance institutions and by strengthening local land, food and water sovereignty and financial autonomy.

I would like to express my strongly support to recommendation 6, I consider the protected areas are the natural capital as vital for our economies as our reserves in National Central Banks at our countries.

The text is inclusive of many ideas during the wpc. Given many cases of degazetting though or of a weakening of conservation legislation and provisions the language on no- regression must be made stronger. This WPC should demostrate thatPAs and relevant legislation is necessary for parks people and the planet to conserve biodiversity and our natural capital and a basis to have basic integration of nature conservstion in other sectors as we should move towards a sustainable future. The language must be made stronger and wiyh more of an imperative tone.

SUGGESTED RECOMMENDATIONS (v5) from the Specialist Group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas to the 5th IUCN WPC

1. RECOMMEND that the World Commission on Protected Areas:

Promote the understanding that nature conservation as a human action is rooted in diverse, evolving cultures and world views.

Increase intercultural efforts for nature conservation in order to increase alliances and broaden social support for conservation

Promote and support nature conservation actions including and reflecting practices and traditions that are rooted in culture and embody the cultural values of the diversity of peoples of the world

Develop appropriate guidance to fully recognize the existing diversity of concepts and values and meanings of nature, and by extension, of nature conservation.

Promote the project to produce the Best practice Guidelines on Cultural and Spiritual Significance of Nature on protected Areas Management and Governance.

Promote a project to produce a IUCN Technical Paper on the diversity of meanings and values of nature, all over the world, from the nature conservation viewpoint.

2. RECOMMEND that IUCN and the World Commission on Protected Areas:

Extent the 2003 recommendations on sacred places of indigenous peoples and local communities to mainstream faiths.

To this end: Promote the work needed to complement the 2008 IUCN UNESCO Best Practice guidelines with additional Guidelines devoted to SNS related to mainstream religions

3. RECOMMEND that IUCN, the World Commission on Protected Areas, Government Agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations

Recognize the rights, the skills and the knowledge that local and indigenous custodians and mainstream faith communities have in managing the resources and ecosystems associated with sacred natural sites;

Work with and support local traditional and indigenous communities and custodians to directly confront threats affecting sacred natural sites by improving the management of sacred natural sites, and where appropriate by adopting laws and policies - with the full and effective participation of communities or organizations concerned - that protect the biological and cultural integrity of sacred natural sites;

Recognize and facilitate the rights and interests of the communities or
organizations concerned to manage and use those sacred natural sites where possible as places for their spiritual realization and reverence;

Encourage scientific research into the relationship between biological diversity, cultural diversity and sacred natural sites, focussing on the les well known and understood cultures, faiths and ecosystems.

Encourage additional efforts in public education and international networks dedicated to the conservation and protection of sacred natural sites

Promote and participate fully in intercultural dialogue and conflict resolution with indigenous peoples, local communities and mainstream faiths to improve collaborative protection of sacred natural sites, using traditional methodologies when feasible;

This IUCN WPC statement is a strong foundation to build on. In particular Recommendation 6 (non-regression principle and no-go developments) which is vital to realising the goal of a 'diversity, quality and vitality of governance of protected and conserved territories and areas'. If we are serious about safeguarding and extending protected areas (only about 14% of lands and oceans are recognised as protected areas (IUCN report 2012) then we urgently need to recognise, as a minimum, all forms of protected areas, including indigenous and community conserved areas and other vital areas for water, food and biodiversity, as off limits / no go areas for mining, extraction and other destructive development. It is encouraging to see significant support for this principle by communities and organisations around the world, including the IUCN, through the WILD 10 Resolution 12 (2013) and growing global Yes to Life, No to Mining alliance (

Look forward to discussion about this

Look forward to discussion about this