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Getting Into the Business of Environment

JEJU, South Korea, Sep 8 2012 (IPS) - Regulations that stand in the way of conservation programmes lower their likely success, experts warned at the World Conservation Congress of the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Jeju, South Korea.

They say there is mounting evidence to show that with participation of communities, businesses and other groups, conservation efforts have shown better results.

“Generally we find that protection efforts are more effective if they involve participation by different stakeholders,” Bastian Bertzky, senior programme officer at the UN Environment Programme and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) told IPS.

Bertzky was part of the UNEP-WCMC team that complied the Protected Planet Report 2012 that looks at the state of the world’s protected areas like parks and nature reserves.

The report found that protected areas are growing in number and extent. Around 12.7 percent of the earth’s terrain and inland water areas and around 1.6 percent of the global marine areas are now listed as protected areas, the report revealed.

The report shows that since 1990, protected areas worldwide grew 58 percent in number and 48 percent in extent by 2012.

The report however noted that despite the success, the areas covered fell below the targets agreed by countries party to the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010. The targets known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets aimed to have at least 17 percent of the terrain and inland water areas and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas to be demarcated as protected areas.

“Half of the most important sites are unprotected,” Bertzky said.

The UNEP-WCMC expert told IPS that the involvement of stakeholders in managing and preserving natural resources has become popular in the last two decades. “We find that some protected areas are failing to deliver biodiversity benefits because they were set up in a away that excluded the people.”

He cited the large wildlife reserves in Africa which were set up like gigantic fortresses, with fences separating humans from natural resources they had been managing for centuries. These reserves were not delivering the full potential benefits to the people, he said.

Experts working on forest conservation also called for an increase in local control of forests to protect the resources. “Empowering local people to make decisions on commercial forest management and land, with secure tenure rights, the ability to build their own organisations and access to markets and technology can be a highly effective way of raising incomes and protecting forestry resources,” Minni Degawan, project coordinator for KADIOAN, a Filipino indigenous peoples organisation said.

A new report titled Investing in Locally Controlled Forestry, released here at the IUCN congress called for a change in global forest management trends from a resource-based model to one that recognises the rights of the local people.

The Growing Forest Partnership that includes the IUCN and the Forest Dialogue, an initiative by Yale University that works on forest tenure issues, will launch a manual later this month that will advise on how investors and local communities could reach commercial agreements on forest management.

Such guidelines can be handy given the current trend in conservation efforts where private sector involvement is increasingly gaining credence. Kanayo F Nwanze, president of the International Fund for Agriculture told IPS during the June Rio+20 summit that private sector participation was the one critical component in the future success of sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Bertzy echoed similar views. “Wherever there are businesses involved, non-governmental organisations involved, the higher their participation, better the management.”

However effective management of conservation programmes is still lacking despite the increased willingness shown by governments to promote such programmes. The UNEP-WCMC report found that only a third of all protected areas in fact had a valid management plan. Private sector involvement can easily fill the vacuum of lack of efficient management.

However Bharrat Jagdeo, the former President of Guyana, while acknowledging the increasingly essential role private companies played, struck a note of caution. He warned that companies may try to gain undue advantage by linking with nature-friendly programmes and agencies like the IUCN.

Jagdeo proposed that if private sector companies are willing to take part in conservation programmes, there needs to be strict criteria that tests and evaluates their willingness to change and sustain that change.

“There is a need for a litmus test, to test their willingness to engage and change,” he said.

Former South Korean minister for environment Maan-ee Lee suggested that governments should keep a close focus on companies willing to invest in conservation and environment friendly projects. “Governments should look at giving incentives to such companies,” he said. Lee called for a consensus among different governments because “big multi-nationals are going beyond national borders.”

But both spoke of the importance of private sector participation. “We will not find a solution if conservation lies only with governments and groups,”Jagdeo said.

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