Closing Address to the World Parks Congress,
17 September 2003
His Majesty King Zwelithini, Hlanga lomhlabathi, Bayede!
His Majesty King Amoatia Ofori Panin, from Ghana,
Honourable Ministers and MECs,
Director-General of the World Conservation Union, the
Distinguished delegates and guests,
Members of the media,
For the last 10 days, the world's leading conservation
practitioners, administrators and stakeholders have
gathered here at the World Parks Congress in Durban,
to review the global status of protected areas and develop
a new conservation agenda.
You have been meeting in the right province, in KwaZulu-Natal,
which has a history of nature conservation dating back
to the days of the founder of the Zulu nation, King
Shaka. This key military and political strategist regulated
hunting periods, allowing hunting only in winter, so
as not to affect the breeding process in summer, to
ensure the survival of the species.
This conference has indicated that indeed, there is
cause to celebrate.
Protected area coverage has tripled over the past 20
years and has provided society with immeasurable benefits,
such as clean water, fish stocks, flood protection and
reduction of poverty through supporting sustainable
Increasingly, protected areas are providing impetus
for sustaining international friendship, peace and security
through burgeoning trans-frontier conservation area
initiatives across the world.
Delegates to this congress have been central to these
achievements. In your midst, there are representatives
of the new generation of leaders that are taking conservation
and protected areas into the 21st century.
Your collective task at this Congress has been to assess
the challenges, define the priorities and map out actions
that will guide global efforts on protected area management
in the next decade.
Ten days ago, when President Mbeki opened this Congress,
we were reminded that our natural resources and biodiversity
are not only a priceless heritage, but also fundamental
to our very existence.
We were reminded that poverty, displacement, hunger,
land degradation and climate change are threats to this
We were reminded that we are living in a period in
which poverty and the ever-increasing gap between the
developed and developing worlds poses a major threat
to both global prosperity and environmental integrity.
And we were reminded of our shared future, our responsibilities
to one another, to the greater community of life, and
to our children.
Against this background this Congress has presented
an opportunity for important discussion by the representatives
from all over the world.
Serious concerns have been raised. Many areas of rich
cultural and biological diversity, which are under immediate
threat, have still not been protected.
Marine and freshwater systems remain under represented
and highly vulnerable to overexploitation and degradation.
Extensive natural and wild areas previously protected
under indigenous traditional forms of conservation have
been lost and many so called "paper parks"
exist across the globe.
A central theme has been the recognition that protected
areas cannot be islands of conservation, divorced from
the social and economic context within which they are
They generate significant economic, environmental and
This makes them powerful contributors to poverty reduction
and to the development targets set in the Millennium
Declaration and at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
We are heralding a new era in which we seek synergies
between conservation and development agendas. It is
an era in which protected areas play a vital role in
achieving this synergy and integration, and provide
benefits beyond boundaries - beyond their immediate
boundaries, boundaries of nation states, and across
societies, cultures and generations.
The Congress has laid the foundation for this new paradigm.
It has reviewed and reinforced the role of protected
areas in conserving diversity of plant and animal species;
in maintaining ecosystems; preserving historic and cultural
resources; securing the beauty of landscapes that enrich
human experience; and in protecting places of spiritual
However, this congress has clearly outlined a new and
complementary role that protected areas play in reducing
pervasive poverty and catalyzing local and national
social and economic development. We are encouraged by
this in this country in particular as we continuously
seek to address the question of poverty in communities
adjoining protected areas.
Looking ahead, the Congress has defined the priorities
and set out actions for the next decade.
As a vital contribution to the achievement of the Millennium
Development Goals and the sustainable development targets
set in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, an expanded
and comprehensive worldwide system of protected areas
must be mainstreamed, within the framework of a pro-people
and pro-development agenda aimed at socio-economic development
and poverty reduction.
It must have the full support and participation of
local communities, indigenous peoples, the youth and
women - in decision-making processes that take account
of their rights, aspirations, cultures and interests.
It must recognise, support and strengthen community
conservation areas, which have over the ages been conserved
within the traditional cultures of our people.
In order to achieve the multiple goals of biodiversity
conservation, socio-economic development and poverty
reduction, the approach to management of protected areas
needs to be innovative and adaptive, learning from both
our rich indigenous knowledge systems as wells from
as new scientific understanding and technological developments.
Conservation and good governance are integrally linked.
There must be commitment to strong and diverse institutional
forms that facilitate partnerships with the private
sector, non-government organization, local communities,
indigenous people and other actors.
This Congress has highlighted that resources available
in most countries are inadequate for effective conservation,
and that protected areas require substantial additional
resources to effectively operate and develop.
Only the full evaluation of the contribution of all
the environmental, tourism and other services provided
by protected areas to the economy will be able to prove
the need for these additional allocations of resources.
The new protected area paradigm will crucially enable
the further development of new alternative financing
and income generation strategies.
Chairperson, one-third of the earth's biodiversity
is located in Africa. As Africans, we recognize and
embrace our global custodianship role of this biodiversity.
The protection of the African environment is one of
the priorities in the New Partnership for Africa's Development,
The NEPAD African Protected Areas Initiative, and the
WPC 10-point Agenda for Action on African Protected
Areas, developed by this congress, sets a clear agenda
for strengthening the work within the continent on protected
It ensures that they are central to poverty reduction
and development strategies.
Chairperson, finally I would like to congratulate the
IUCN. The Congress has achieved its objectives and delivered
4 major outputs that will influence the resolution and
programmes of others:
Firstly, the Durban Accord is aimed at influencing
all governments, stakeholders and society at large.
It is a visionary statement that captures the key elements
and outcomes that have emerged from this 5th World Parks
Secondly, the Message to the Convention on Biodiversity,
aimed at influencing the intergovernmental negotiations
at the 7th Conference of Parties of this convention.
Thirdly, the Durban Action Plan aimed at informing practical
action required at international, national and conservation
authority level, in particular focused on constructing
a 10-year programme of work for the IUCN itself.
And finally, recommendations, which advocate specific
action on a few key priority issues to be taken by governments,
inter-governmental, NGO and civil society structures.
Gathered here at this Congress are the people who can
make these outputs a reality. I would like to thank
Their Majesties, Heads of State, Ministers, Deputy Ministers
and Dignitaries for setting aside time to be here.
Thank you to the distinguished delegates for engaging
so vigorously in the debate. To His Worship, the Mayor
of Durban, Councillor Obed Mlaba and his City Council,
a particular word of thanks for your proactive role
in making this Congress a success.
And finally, as you depart from this Congress to your
homes and offices, carry forth the message of the Congress.
Bring hope to the peoples of the world that protected
areas are a central part of our future, and that we
will indeed halt and reverse the rate of biodiversity
loss on our planet by 2010.
I wish you well. Thank you for joining us and being
part of the Fifth IUCN World Parks Congress.
I thank you.