Learning from the Guardians of Sacred Natural Sites - dialogue and exchange

High level Policy makers, institutional representatives, conservation and civil society leaders will be brought together with and custodians to evaluate the options for international and national policy and practice in order to better legally recognise, safeguard and conserve Sacred Natural Sites.

Sacred Natural Sites are being increasingly recognised as a resilient conservation network harbouring biological and cultural diversity. Their contribution to biodiversity conservation is significant but we know that legal protection and related policies are often insufficient. Cultural, spiritual and religious values are at the core of the ethics and practices of local custodians that help preserve biodiversity. Yet, increasingly custodians are experiencing difficulties in protecting these ancient sites, driven by economic development (agriculture, mining, forestry, tourism) and infrastructural development (roads, ports and other mega projects) etc.

At the international level, Sacred Natural Sites have been receiving increasing attention for their contribution to effective conservation of biocultural diversity. Sacred Sites are mentioned in the ILO, UNDRIP, UNESCO Intangible Heritage, CBD and several other international conventions. Besides this, the CBD´s Akwe Kon Guidelines (for safeguarding Sacred Natural Sites in infrastructural and development projects) and the IUCN UNESCO Guidelines (for Protected Area Managers) are currently insufficiently implemented. New opportunities such as inclusion of Sacred Natural Sites in the WCMC database and ICCA registry need to be discussed in conjunction with other developments.

IUCN resolution 4.038 "Recognition and conservation of sacred natural sites in protected areas" adopted at WCC4 provides a strong mandate supported by the Director General of IUCN. The outcomes from this activity will be continued through the programme of the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative, an IUCN supported programme for the conservation of Sacred Natural Sites guided by their custodians and support groups from across the world.
Sacred Natural Sites are increasingly recognised as a resilient conservation network harbouring biological and cultural diversity. Their cultural, spiritual and religious values are at the core of the ethics and practices of local custodians that help preserve biodiversity. Current policies and management practices are often not aligned with these traditional management structures.

Where Sacred Natural Sites have been included into protected areas, management challenges and opportunities arise. The IUCN-UNESCO "Sacred Natural Sites, Guidelines for Protected Area Managers" were launched at WCC4 in 2008. Sacred Natural Sites have are gaining increasing importance as a means of effective management of biodiversity in and outside protected areas, notably towards achieving CBD Target 11. Yet, appropriate training for protected area managers, conservationists and custodians does not exist to date.

Using the IUCN UNESCO Guidelines and the CBD Akwe Kon guidelines we will show protected area managers what actions are appropriate and make suggestions for creating an enabling environment for custodians, local communities and other stakeholders. Because sacred natural sites have been managed by custodians, communities or faith groups, particular attention will be spent to the development of additional custodian-led conservation guidance.

IUCN resolution 4.038 "Recognition and conservation of sacred natural sites in protected areas" provides a strong mandate supported by the Director General of IUCN. The outcomes from this training will be continued through the programme of the Sacred Natural Sites Initiative, an IUCN supported programme guided by male and female custodians. For example the on-going process of reviewing, testing and developing case studies based on the Guidelines.

In particular the training is hoped to contribute to the development of an e-learning module of the CBD´s training series with the potential for further development in training courses and conservation tools for custodians (WCPA´s Global Protected Areas Capacity Development Initiative) and university curricula.

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