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The sixth World Park Congress is happening right now in Sydney, Australia. Hosted from the 12th to the 19th of November 2014, this international event is the only global forum solely dedicated to protected areas; national parks, natural reserves and marine sanctuaries. Organized together by the Government of Australia and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)  under the theme “Parks, people, planet: inspiring solutions”, this year’s Congress aims to take further steps towards the protection of the oceans, and to pave the way for achieving  a “just world that values and conserves nature”. More than 5,000 international representatives from 160 countries will brainstorm on a common vision to ensure the proper management and conservation of at least 17% of land and 10% of oceans by 2020 according to the Aichi Targets in the Convention on Biological Diversity.

As estimated recently, 15% of the world’s terrestrial areas and only 3% of marine zones are covered by 200,000 protected areas. Still, many of them are poorly managed and are insufficiently funded. Also worrying is the lack in proper management of the high seas.

In 2013, the European Union together with its Member states issued an international agreement to the United Nations to protect marine biodiversity, also in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Oceana has been working for many years to ensure the conservation of the high seas that cover around 64% of our oceans and provide over 90% of its volume.

This year, we are happy to participate in the global meeting working on sustainable financing of marine protected areas.

Held only once every ten years, the event is a unique opportunity to gather together heads of states, park rangers or business executives whose decisions will result in both a global and a local impact.

During this year’s World Park Congress some of the most recent initiatives will be presented:

-          IUCN Green List of Protected Areas- a new global initiative showing success stories of effective protected areas

-          IUCN World Heritage Outlook- the first global assessment of the conservation plans for the natural World Heritage

-          The launch of a public access to Google underwater “street view”- panoramic views of Sydney’s most iconic marine beauty spots 

Above all, the IUCN World Park Congress is a call for political leaders to take serious action in the name of the oceans and for the future of us all: “It’s easy to make these commitments but it’s really important to keep on top of them. We’re not only talking about the size of protected areas but also how they are protected – we can’t have so-called ‘paper parks’ where they are just drawn on a map and not managed,” states Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director general of the IUCN, an organization advising the UN on environmental issues.  

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