New Forum Inspires Commitment to Parks, People, and the Planet




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Nov 11, 2015
by Heather Jaber
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New Forum Inspires Commitment to Parks, People, and the Planet

The first Parks for the Planet Forum culminated in a joint commitment to mutual co-benefits of nature, health, and a new urban generation

With rapid population growth worldwide, urbanization, nature conservation, and human health are some of the most urgent issues to tackle today. Experts in health, policy, urban planning, and business left the first Parks for the Planet Forum: Nature, Health and a New Urban Generation with a commitment to the conservation of nature as a core component of sustainability.

While the concept of nature conservation may trigger images of green, open spaces to mind, discussions about protected areas and public health also require a focus on cities. 

“We’re saying let’s use cities as the venue for the conversation with communities that will yield value to all the mutual benefits of nature and human health wellbeing,” said Trevor Sandwith, director of the Global Protected Areas Programme at International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). “So we actually changed the logic.” The intent, he said, was to take an interdisciplinary approach to the issues, especially across sectors that do not usually work together.

“I think it was a very quick realization amongst all the people that there was a core set of interests that coincided,” he said. “So you say, ‘Was our intention in the session to find that point?’ I would say no, we were conscious of the fact that land-use planning in cities, nature conservation, and promoting human health and wellbeing had a core set of common issues that could build on and feed off one another. So the interesting thing was, in a way, to find the different language that comes from these different sectors and see that people have a very different interpretation of that.”

Speakers touched on tackling these issues from the lenses of entrepreneurship, funding, health, policy, and even fashion. Some of the key issues that came up were engaging the youth, sharing knowledge and evidence with policy makers and the larger public, and the right to access open spaces.

“It was very exciting what everybody got up to say they would do,” said Kathy MacKinnon, chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. “Many of the priorities actually overlap quite nicely with things that came out of the World Parks Congress — more evidence, better communication, better engagement of urban communities and children, better linkages to nature, [and] people talking about how they can influence policy through urban planners.”

The possibility of synergies emerged throughout the week, and the session culminated in a joint commitment to achieve mutual co-benefits of nature, health, and a new urban generation. The agreement offered a range of potential actionable items. The points included using best practices from other contexts, education at an early age, involving older people, considering vulnerable citizens, engaging with young urban populations, influencing public policy, and strengthening partnerships between the public, private, and community.

This commitment, said Sandwith, mirrored The Promise of Sydney, which was born out of the IUCN World Conservation Congress in 2014. The Promise of Sydney is a shared vision to find innovative solutions for parks, people, and the planet.

“The Promise of Sydney became a promise in the two senses of the word,” said Sandwith. “The one was something holds promise and has potential, and the other [was that] it was a promise, a commitment to do something. We just find that’s being picked up over and over again, including in the seminar, [where] we ended up with that statement. We said, ‘We see the logic, and we’re committed to doing something about it.’ So the Promise of Sydney is living on right here in these few days.”

The Salzburg Global program Nature, Health and a New Urban Generation is part of the Parks for the Planet Forum. The list of our partners for Session 557 can be found here: