Governments give renewed focus to Earth's protected areas

22 Oct 2010

(Photo by Biljana Sekulovska /UNDP)

Nagoya - Governments from around the world currently meeting at a United Nations biodiversity conference in Nagoya, Japan, are to reaffirm their support for an ambitious plan of protection for areas that make vital contributions to community life and livelihoods.

Representatives of 193 parties to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity will address the future direction for a Programme of Work on Protected Areas, sites of ecological, social or economic importance that cover nearly 14 percent of the Earth’s surface.

“While upfront investments in protected areas are high, the long-term dividends are enormous,” said Nik Sekhran, principal technical advisor on biodiversity for the UN Development Programme (UNDP), speaking from the Nagoya conference.

“Protected Areas are one of the most effective strategies available for simultaneously addressing the global challenges of alleviating poverty, adapting to and mitigating climate change, and maintaining essential ecosystem services,” said Sekhran.

Since the biodiversity convention came into force in 1993, the world’s Protected Areas have increased by nearly 60 percent with the support of governments, non-governmental organizations and communities.

During the last five years, UNDP has worked with one of the Protected Areas’ major funding sources - the Global Environment Facility (GEF) - to support establishment, management, financing, policy or benefit-sharing for more than 700 Areas in 55 countries.

A US$13 million project implemented jointly between UNDP and GEF is strengthening protection of nearly one million hectares of carbon-absorbing forestland in the Altai Sayan mountains of Central Asia and Russia. Since 2007, the project has preserved half a million hectares in Russia and 350,000 hectares in Kazakhstan.

The project is one of many cited in a publication recently launched by UNDP and the Convention on Biological Diversity that also highlights best practices and next steps for future planning, management and funding of Protected Areas.

“Protected Areas for the 21st Century” presents findings from UNDP-GEF projects and identifies the Areas’ contributions to sustaining livelihoods for some of the world's poorest communities, maintaining key ecosystems, and enabling human, animal and plant communities to adapt to climate change.

With just one-third of Areas effectively managed and gaps in financing amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars, the report calls on governments, as well as communities, corporations and other private entities to “fully recognize, embrace and communicate the true value of protected areas.”

Governments at the Nagoya conference, 18-29 October, will focus on the future of Protected Areas as an issue cutting across agenda items which include inland, coastal, marine and mountain environments, the impact of climate change, and sustainable use of ecologically sensitive areas.

Download the report (PDF, 6Mb)