The more we know about our rapidly changing environment, climate, and demographics, the more we learn about how critical forests are for our resilience, overall wellbeing, livelihoods, and economies. Unfortunately, in a world of budgetary constraints and competing interests, governments face increasingly complex decisions when it comes to supporting different sector priorities. The solution is to move away from the traditional approach of sectors operating in isolation or in competition with one another, and more towards an integrated win-win approach. But how?
Why should the world—and Africa in particular—care about resilience?
The importance of resilience as an imperative for development is nowhere as obvious as in Africa. Fragile natural resources—at the core of livelihoods and economic opportunities—are under increasing pressure from unsustainable use, population pressure, and the impacts of climate change.
It will only be possible if their resilience to shocks such as climate change is improved. Resilient landscapes—where natural resources and biodiversity thrive in interconnected ecosystems that can adapt to change and protect people from losses—are important to the work of ending poverty and boosting prosperity.
In my lifetime, I have seen waters that were teeming with multi-colored fish, turn dead like an empty aquarium. I have seen the streets of Bogota, my home town, lose thousands of trees in a matter of years.
It’s tempting to feel demoralized. But as the world’s protected area specialists, conservationists and decision makers gather in Sydney, Australia, this week for the World Parks Congress, there is also much to hope for.
- water access
- natural resources
- food security
- Sustainable Development
- protected areas
- natural capital
- World Parks Congress
- Agriculture and Rural Development
- Climate Change
- Latin America & Caribbean
- East Asia and Pacific
- South Africa
It was getting dark and the mist engulfing the jungle made the challenge of spotting the stripes even harder. My guide, a trained local tribal youth, was excited and kept telling stories about the sights and sounds of the jungle. In all fairness, I had enjoyed the trek. Every turn or straight path presented a beautiful landscape, majestic trees, bamboo thickets, gurgling streams, colorful birds, distant animal calls and the gentle fresh breeze. Sighting a tiger would only complete the experience. Will we? Won’t we, see one?
In many ways, the experience of sighting a tiger reflects the challenge its very survival is facing! Will it? Won’t it, survive? But more importantly, will someone notice if it is not around? Fortunately, I was in Periyar Tiger Reserve in the southern Indian State of Kerala, a turnaround success story where the World Bank’s India Ecodevelopment Project significantly increased income opportunities for the locals, improved reserve management and encouraged community participation in co-managing the reserve. Though this happened a decade ago, even today the incomes are sustained and communities are closely engaged! But such success stories are few and far between.
Late last year, ministers and delegates from some 30 countries met in Botswana to discuss how to fight the booming illegal trade in ivory that is decimating Africa’s elephant population.
CITES estimates that 22,000 elephants were killed in Central and East Africa in just the year 2012. Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda are just a few of the countries affected by elephant poaching. The poached ivory is used for ornamental carvings that serve as status symbols, religious icons, and collector’s items for buyers across East Asia, Europe, and North America. This is not just a conservation issue. Wildlife crime is also a development and security challenge: It undermines government authority, breeds corruption, increases the supply of small arms, and destroys valuable natural resources. So the growing political attention wildlife crime is receiving – British Prime Minister David Cameron will host the next summit in February – is a welcome sign of high-level political commitment to address the crisis.
But nothing stays the same forever.
Sometimes, international convention meetings can be heart-breakingly slow-moving. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) – one of the three conventions born after Rio in 1992 to drive sustainable development – which has been meeting in Hyderabad in India this week, is no exception. I’ve seen tough negotiators from all corners of the Earth emerge from conference rooms wearing pained expressions.
It’s outside the negotiating rooms – where the major topic of the moment is how to mobilize the financial resources needed to meet the CBD’s ambitious Aichi Targets – where things are a lot brighter.
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The success of the Amazon Region Protected Areas Program (ARPA) drew a crowd here in Hyderabad at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting. This effort by the government of Brazil – supported by the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, WWF, and the German Development Bank (KfW) – is protecting almost 60 million hectares of rainforest, an area roughly the size of France and Belgium combined.
Speakers from the governments of Brazil and Germany, as well as from the GEF and foundations, all agreed that ARPA’s results are impressive: Between 2004 and 2006, ARPA accounted for 37 percent of Brazil’s substantial decrease in deforestation, and the program’s first 13 new protected areas will save more than 430 million tons of CO2 emissions through 2050.