Sand mining near St. Lucia, South Africa

Can we conserve the planet’s most valuable natural places and still allow societies and economies to thrive?

On the face of it, this may seem like an insurmountable challenge, especially when many of these areas are already being degraded by resource extraction, unchecked infrastructure development and a host of other threats.

But in fact, protected areas in their many forms – including national parks, marine reserves and community conserved areas – can be a powerful engine for sustainable economic development.

Protected areas provide jobs and a source of livelihood to millions around the world. They sustain the burgeoning tourism industry, and protect resources essential for forestry, fisheries, agriculture and other key economic sectors. Nature-based tourism is worth more than $30 billion a year to the Australian economy, equivalent to the annual GDP of Albania.

Protected areas are a key part of the world’s natural capital - capital that delivers some of the highest returns on investment. Instead of depleting this natural capital, we must act as its trustees and ensure it is well managed to avoid paying a huge ecological debt in the future.

The IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in November will look at the ways in which governments and businesses can integrate protected areas and conservation into policy and planning and ensure that wise trade-offs are made in development decisions.

This month IUCN experts are attending the annual meeting of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. They will recommend action to tackle major threats to natural World Heritage sites including iconic sites such as Doñana National Park in Spain, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and Virunga National Park in DRC.

    News and features

    Temperate eucalypt forest in the Blue Mountains, Australia

    New approaches to protecting the wilderness on Sydney’s doorstep

    By Peter Shadie, Research Manager, Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute and Senior Advisor to IUCN on World Heritage. …  

    24 Jun 2014 | Article

    Bale Mountains National Park

    Developing negotiation skills to support protected areas decision making in Eastern and Southern Africa

    One of the key focuses of the BIOPAMA programme (Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management) in the Eastern and Southern Africa region is the cross-sectoral engagement for integrated sustainable planning. In order to address the growing threat of land and resource use conflict around protected areas, BIOPAMA supports dialogue processes at various levels that aim to develop sustainable solutions to specific conflict situations, particularly with sectors and stakeholders active at the interface of protected areas, including extractive industries, agriculture, infrastructure development, and fisheries. …   | French

    09 Jul 2014 | News story

    37th World Heritage Committee, Phnom Penh, 2013

    IUCN urges excellence for World Heritage

    Doha, Qatar, 15 June 2014 (IUCN) – World Heritage faces growing threats from illegal wildlife trade and development pressures, requiring the highest standards in conservation action at the global level, according to IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the Convention’s advisory body on nature.  …   | Arabic

    15 Jun 2014 | News story

    Papahanaumokuakea, Hawai’i

    Papahānaumokuākea – the Hawaiian heritage hoorah

    A world away from the bustling city streets, towering skyscrapers and smoke-smothered skies of the western world, David Swatland looks out over a Hawaiian archipelago and affords a wry smile at the paradise which meets his gaze. …  

    17 Jun 2014 | Article

    Jacqueline Evans

    How to manage a vast marine protected area in the Pacific? Interview with Jacqueline Evans, Te Ipukarea Society

    In August 2012, the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Henry Puna, declared what was then the world’s largest marine park, encompassing the southern half of the country’s exclusive economic zone. The declaration covers 1.065 million square kilometres – an area more than twice the size of Papua New Guinea.  …  

    13 Jun 2014 | Article

    Rock Islands - Palau

    Natural World Heritage sites: the Pacific’s challenges

    The Pacific Islands region (Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia) is renowned for its immense natural beauty, but is home to only seven natural World Heritage sites. What challenges are preventing more sites in the Pacific being recognised? …  

    13 Jun 2014 | Article

    Fishing is one of the primary sources of income for both island communities.

    Managing marine resources the local way

    A growing number of Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) are being established as a way for coastal communities to conserve the resources they depend on for food and income. 

    13 Jun 2014 | Article

    Huon Tree Kangaroo leaning on branch

    Global recognition for grassroots action in Papua New Guinea

    IUCN Oceania congratulates two conservation and climate change adaptation initiatives in Papua New Guinea – the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program and Tulele Peisa – that have been recognized as winners of the Equator Prize 2014. …  

    16 Jun 2014 | News story

    Jochen Zeitz, Chairman of the Zeitz Foundation and former CEO of Puma, talks about conservation and the World Parks Congress

    From the blog