Building on nature: Area-based conservation as a key tool for delivering SDGs

Protected and conserved areas benefit sustainable development and can be effective tools to deliver SDGs around the world.

This pioneering, action-oriented guidance demonstrates how the designation and effective management of protected and conserved areas can benefit sustainable development, playing a key role in delivering Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and supporting the 2030 Agenda globally.

The guidance identifies myriad ways in which effective area-based conservation can be a pro-active tool for delivering SDGs. Furthermore, it documents 30 detailed case studies that illustrate how existing protected and conserved areas around the world are already delivering various SDGs in practice. Finally, guidance and tools are provided to explain how governments, industry and civil society can integrate protected and conserved areas into their SDG strategies and reporting processes.

The guidance has been developed in a global partnership by IEEP, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and global leading conservation organisations the Nature Conservancy (TNC), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and WWF.

Re-watch the launch event held on 31 May: 

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a spotlight on the complex and intimate connections between nature and human development. Well-managed protected and conserved areas provide us with water and food; sequester carbon and regulate climate; and help maintain healthy, resilient societies. This comprehensive publication can help decision-makers, development specialists, and conservationists better understand and foster the benefits from those connections, promoting collaboration as we all work towards a future in which people and nature can thrive.

— Nik Sekhran, Chief Conservation Officer, World Wildlife Fund

Area-based conservation is the most effective way that we have to conserve biodiversity. When scaled up, through well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, it allows the retention of the integrity of natural ecosystems. WCS terms these systems ‘Nature’s Strongholds,’ but they are also called ‘mosaics’ or ‘conservation landscapes and seascapes.’ and a commitment to ecosystem integrity is a hallmark of the emerging post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, nature-based solutions to climate change, and the provision of the ecosystem services that underlay the Sustainable Development Goals.

— Dr. John Robinson, Joan L. Tweedy Chair in Conservation Strategy at WCS and Vice President and Regional Councilor for North America and the Caribbean at IUCN

In the run up to the UK-led G7 and Climate COP26 meetings in June and November, and the Biodiversity COP15 in October, the publication and its global partners call on the international processes, including the CBD, UNCCD and UNFCCC along with UN agencies and bilateral and multilateral donors, to give more explicit recognition of – and support to – the role protected and conserved areas play in delivering the 2030 sustainability agenda.

The communiqué by G7 Climate and Environment Ministers (20 – 21 May) paves the way for the above. In this communication, welcomed by many stakeholders, the G7 countries explicitly commit to conserving or protecting at least 30% of global land and at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030, including through protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs), recognising the key role of Indigenous Peoples and local communities in the implementation of this target.

The biodiversity community has been highlighting the role of protected and conserved areas in underpinning wellbeing and sustainability for decades. Despite of our best efforts, this role remains poorly recognised. In the run up to the critical UN biodiversity and climate conferences at the end of this year, our hope is to place area-based conservation at the heart of the delivery of the 2030 sustainable development agenda – where it clearly and rightfully belongs.”

— Marianne Kettunen, Head of Global Challenges and SDGs programme, IEEP

Humanity must protect the biodiversity that is our lifeline and safety net; our precious resource and source of joy, inspiration and wellbeing. This comprehensive publication helps highlight how effective area-based conservation provides an essential and powerful contribution to restoring our relationship with nature while delivering multiple benefits across SDGs, simultaneously contributing to several sustainability objectives on the 2030 Agenda.”

— Midori Paxton, UNDP Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Principal Technical Adviser

 Key messages

Effective area-based conservation can provide a powerful contribution to delivering multiple benefits across SDGs, simultaneously contributing to several sustainability objectives on the 2030 Agenda.

SDG 15 and SDG 14 – Life on land and below water: Effective area-based conservation remains the single most powerful tool to conserve biodiversity.

SDG 1 – No poverty: Protected and conserved areas often provide economic opportunities to poor people in places where there are few other options.

SDG 2 – Zero hunger: Protected and conserved areas maintain sustainable populations of harvested species, protect genetic diversity for crop and livestock breeding, supply ecosystem services underpinning agriculture, and support traditional farming.

SDG 3 – Good health and wellbeing: Protected and conserved areas have direct impacts on mental and physical health through exercise and relaxation. They also supply of medicines and management of ecosystems to minimise disease transmission and crossover.

SDG 6 – Clean water and sanitation: Area-based conservation improves both the quality and sometimes also the quantity of water. Protected and conserved areas maintain natural ecological processes that ensure a regular flow of water, including at a regional level.

SDG 10 and SDG 5 – Reducing inequality including gender inequality: Protected and conserved areas can pro-actively address issues of social exclusion and inequality, including gender inequality, through management approaches they adopt and promote.

SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities: Protected and conserved areas help to provide decent and safe living conditions in cities by purifying air and water and through disaster risk reduction, plus maintaining important wild spaces in cities and smaller communities.

SDG 13 – Climate action: Protected and conserved areas store and sequester carbon and provide natural defences against extreme weather events.

SDG 16 – Peace, justice and strong institutions: Protected and conserved areas help to reduce risks of conflict caused by resource scarcity, provide a neutral forum for conflict mitigation and resolution, and support post-conflict peace building.

Full use of protected and conserved areas as tools for SDG delivery includes four key steps:

  • Recognition of the wider SDG targets addressed by effective area-based conservation
  • Integration of these values so for instance “other” values do not unwittingly undermine the conservation aim
  • Enhancement of the relevant values through adding to the network and through management approaches
  • Reporting of these as a contribution to the SDGs

 

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