A series of Pacific regional workshops and gatherings provided an important opportunity to review and enhance the frame for the Pacific protected area agenda, with the participation of numerous regional partners, IUCN commissions and members. These events represented the occasion to directly engage with the Pacific stakeholders on BIOPAMA initiatives and invite input, exchange and collaboration.
Reinvigorated recently with the support of the BIOPAMA programme and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Protected Areas Working Group (PAWG under the Pacific Islands Round table for Nature Conservation) is establishing as the principal sounding board for BIOPAMA direction and activities in the Pacific. The recent PAWG meeting, which took place from 2 to 3 July 2015 in Suva, Fiji, decisively advanced BIOPAMA’s commitment to facilitating regional co-ordination, information sharing and strengthened partnerships.
Speakers from Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Fiji and Samoa gave informative presentations on their experiences in moving toward better protected area networks, and particularly networks that rely almost exclusively on governance and management by local communities. Importantly, the meeting also committed to some important actions and identified specific sub-groups and timing to ensure follow through.
These actions are linked to data information, sharing and management for the developing of the Regional Reference Information System (RRIS) and the Pacific Islands Protected Areas Portal (PIPAP), on one hand, and on the other, the development of several tools, guidelines and analysis that provide a coherent vision of the protected areas and other conserved areas in the Pacific. These tools are linked to management, capacity development, key issues, realities, challenges and opportunities, management effectiveness and improved recognition of these areas.
Thinking ahead to the upcoming IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016, the PAWG is aiming at developing an illustrative regional snapshot of protected and other conserved areas, as well as collecting a set of significant multi-country protected area commitments that could be presented at this global forum.
Another major Pacific regional event was the IUCN Oceania Conservation Forum (13-15 July 2015), which harnessed input from IUC regional commissions and members. Among the exchanges and recommendations, some specific discussions and outcomes were particularly relevant to BIOPAMA. They concern mainly the capacity development required for protected areas and other conserved areas efforts, the governance issue, youth involvement and the cross-sectoral engagement for positive conservation impacts. Boosting opportunities and approaches to capacity development for protected areas and other conserved areas was highlighted as fundamental and critical to drive the transformational change required to achieve conservation targets.