The Government of St. Lucia will be working to execute legal, regulatory, financial, policy and communications strategies and actions to formally adopt and implement the Saint Lucia’s Systems Plan for Protected Areas.
An action plan for this execution was the major outcome of a January 25 to 27, 2017 workshop hosted by the Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations, and Sustainable Development, in Gros Islet, St. Lucia, under a technical support programme being funded by the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) programme and facilitated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), to ultimately support the operationalisation of the Systems Plan.
The workshop held at the Bay Gardens Inn brought together approximately 20 participants with vested interest in the success of this initiative drawn from the Department of Sustainable Development (DOSD), the National Trust, the Departments of Forestry, Fisheries, Crown Lands and Physical Planning, the Water Resource Management Agency the Soufriere Marine Management Authority, the National Conservation Authority, the OECS Commission, PCI Media Impact and the IUCN.
Recognising that stakeholder engagement at all levels of society would be key to the adoption of the Systems Plan, workshop participants identified the need to engage and sensitise Permanent Secretaries and Cabinet Ministers, including the office of the Prime Minister. A Protected Areas Working Group/Planning Committee is also being established to coordinate the various governmental and non-governmental agencies to maximise resources and minimise duplication of work. Initially, each agency will review current work plans to determine what is already being implemented and what can be incorporated into a new work plan, and there will be ongoing review and assessment over a proposed seven-year period. Understanding that there is always need for support from stakeholders on the ground whose interaction with the environment ultimately leads to the success or failure of such plans, civil society will also be engaged through stakeholder sensitization consultations and community outreach activities. This entire process will be led by the Department of Sustainable Development.
The drive to create the Systems Plan began in 1992 at the impetus of the Saint Lucia National Trust, and attained a framework through the 2009 Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods (OPAAL) Project. According to Augustine Dominique, Protected Areas Manager with the DOSD, the Saint Lucia government is actively pursuing the establishment and sustenance of an effective and integrated system of PAs for the island within their commitment to establishing the necessary structures and policies to facilitate greater protection and sustainable management of St. Lucia’s natural assets. As such, the action plan is expected to recommend strategies for advocacy and public education and awareness, sustainable financing, and the process of formal establishment of new protected areas by developing criteria for selection and establishment of the most critical spaces identified to be established as protected areas.
Hyacinth Armstrong-Vaughn, IUCN Protected Areas Officer responsible for coordinating the BIOPAMA Programme in the Caribbean, said working with the responsible agencies in Saint Lucia to advance the implementation of the Systems Plan for Protected Areas aligns with the work that BIOPAMA has been focusing on in the region over the last 3 years, and that is to improve and enhance biodiversity and natural resource management primarily through building capacity of technical personnel and strengthening national institutions in their governance and management of our valuable natural resources.
Written by Carmel Haynes