New Models for Engaging Local Communities in Stewardship of Protected Areas: Lessons from World Heritage

High profile protected areas, World Heritage sites and Biosphere Reserves serve as “learning laboratories for sustainable development” and demonstration sites for new ways to sustain ecosystems, species and genetic diversity. This workshop will feature models that make a practical local-to-global connection, building networks among successful projects and linking to financing options. Engaging local communities in stewardship of these globally recognized landscapes is key to ensuring resilience by building support for conservation, tapping traditional knowledge, and opening the door to innovative governance arrangements with a broad array of actors across the landscape. Within the overall Congress theme, this session is particularly linked to the IUCN Programme area, “Valuing and Conserving Biodiversity.” At the same time, workshop content (e.g., linking livelihoods and conservation, ensuring access to ecosystem services, and community-based adaptation to climate change) overlaps with thematic areas related to equitable sharing of nature’s benefits, food security and solutions to climate change.

This interactive session will explore lessons learned from a proven new model for engaging local communities in stewardship of World Heritage sites and other globally significant protected areas. It will bring out experience from innovative work at the landscape level reaching a wide spectrum of civil society – including women, indigenous people and youth – to link conservation and livelihoods. Since the year 2000, the Community Management of Protected Areas Conservation (COMPACT) initiative of the UNDP/GEF Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) and United Nations Foundation (UNF) has been working with communities near eight current/proposed World Heritage Sites in Africa, Asia, Meso-America and the Caribbean. Through extensive on-the-ground experience, and a participatory methodology that integrates a scientific approach, COMPACT is demonstrating that community-based initiatives can significantly increase the effectiveness of biodiversity conservation in globally significant protected areas while helping to improve local livelihoods. Complementing the experience of this 12-year program will be the perspective of youth involved with Go4BioDiv, a new initiative led by GIZ, IUCN and UNESCO targeting 25 World Heritage sites across five continents. The experience from COMPACT and Go4BioDiv will be complemented by feedback from other initiatives working closely with local communities near globally-significant protected areas.

Case-studies will illustrate issues that are key to sustaining the landscapes/seascapes of World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves, and widely relevant to protected areas: effective governance, techniques of community engagement, traditional ecological knowledge, ridge-to-reef conservation, trans-boundary cooperation, food security and community-led management of water resources. Looking ahead to the next CBD CoP11 and the World Parks Congress, participants will discuss how this proven methodology can be extended to other settings (including 123 countries where the GEF SGP is currently active in funding NGOs, CBOs and indigenous peoples) and how it can guide future practice related to World Heritage and other protected areas

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