Story | 08 Jan, 2020

Pedro Rosabal Gonzalez, unsung hero in a life of protected areas and nature conservation

Our friend and colleague Pedro Rosabal Gonzalez, who served as Deputy Director of the Global Protected Areas Programme, left IUCN at the end of November 2019 after an extensive period of medical leave. Pedro made his mark on the programme, and was one of those unsung heroes who has dedicated his whole professional life to protected areas and to nature conservation.

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Pedro Rosabal, advocate and hero of protected areas

Photo: IUCN/Trevor Sandwith

Pedro joined IUCN in 1994 after leaving his native Cuba, and worked in the IUCN Global Protected Areas Programme for 25 years.

He spent the first part of his career based in Cuba, and worked extensively in a range of Caribbean conservation programmes, while also contributing to the development of the system of protected areas in Cuba. 

After joining IUCN, he was quickly integrated into many initiatives worldwide.

He was originally appointed as Senior Programme Officer, working across all elements of the Headquarters and Regional programmes involving protected areas. For the past five years he served as Deputy Director of GPAP and was also responsible for Financial Management of the Programme.

He also provided expert advice on World Heritage, both in reviewing nominations for new sites, and monitoring the performance of existing sites.

Pedro has extensive practical and institutional knowledge of protected areas, and built up an extensive network of colleagues all around the world. Pedro could always be relied on to provide advice that was direct and to the point, drawing on his extensive knowledge of IUCN and of protected areas in practice.

Trevor Sandwith, now GPAP Director, recalls: “I first met Pedro through involvement with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, where he anchored many of the annual Steering Committee meetings. He was quiet and unassuming, but a great organisational support to the Commission and its work”.

More recently, he facilitated the process of developing the major BIOPAMA investment in IUCN, working in four regions. The successful completion of the first phase of BIOPAMA led to continued investment by the European Commission in what is currently the biggest project in the EU’s biodiversity portfolio, and the highest value project ever contracted with IUCN.  IUCN and many partners will be working for many years on this excellent foundation that was prepared through Pedro’s efforts and dedication.
He also took responsibility for the cross-cutting stream for Capacity Development in the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, and its initiative to professionalise protected area management.

For years, the portfolio of capacity development had been slow to develop. But working with colleagues in the WCPA, Pedro was able to organise and extremely valuable programme of workshops and deliberations that led ultimately to the adoption of a new road map for helping secure qualifications based on an analysis of competences and real needs. Generations of rangers and middle level managers will benefit from this work that has been adopted and applied widely.

Trevor continues: “We will miss him here in GPAP, not the least for his careful mentorship and guidance of all the staff, including the time he spent with new staff as they gained understanding and effectiveness in their work. Please join us in thanking Pedro for his extensive contribution to nature conservation and to IUCN, and in wishing Pedro and his family all of the best for the future, and the continuation of his important work in conservation.”

Please leave a comment on the IUCN Protected Areas Facebook post for Pedro should you wish. We will ensure that he receives it.