Effective management of protected areas will allow countries in the Caribbean to better track the status of their natural resources, intervene quicker when issues need to be resolved, and potentially open them to more international funding that could aid in their development.
These were some of the messages conveyed when the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme held its Protected Areas Management Effectiveness workshop from June 25 to 27 at the Bay Gardens Hotel in Gros Islet, St Lucia. The 35 participants from governmental and non-governmental organisations in 15 Caribbean countries also gained insight into the challenges of environmental management in and around a popular World Heritage Site as they were taken on a land and sea field trip by the Pitons Management Area Office and the Soufriere Marine Management Association.
St. Lucia is one of the countries in the Caribbean that is actively putting a plan in place to effectively integrate the management of its land and marine protected areas under the guidance of the Department of Sustainable Development.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Augustine Dominique, Protected Areas Manager within the Department, said that the staging of that training while the Department was simultaneously hosting a two-day national consultation on the establishment of an Environmental Management Bill and a Climate Change Bill, also underscored the focus on preparing St. Lucia for participation in a new economic environment in which a high value is placed on the contribution of environment to sustainable development.
According to Hyacinth Armstrong-Vaughn, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Protected Areas Officer responsible for coordinating the BIOPAMA Programme in the Caribbean, the workshop was designed to introduce the IUCN protected area management effectiveness framework, the tools and their implementation in the Caribbean and to promote the implementation of management effectiveness in the PAs of primarily the 15 Caribbean countries in which BIOPAMA operates. She added that the workshop also provided an opportunity to introduce the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas Standard and identify opportunities for pilot cases for the implementation of management effectiveness and the IUCN Green List.
The IUCN Green List is a new global standard for protected areas that aims to improve the contribution made by equitably governed and effectively managed protected areas to sustainable development through the conservation of nature and provision of associated social, economic, cultural, and spiritual values. It is also the standard the BIOPAMA programme will use to guide countries and sites in achieving overall improvements in governance and management.
The workshop was also used as an opportunity to introduce participants to the idea of forming Expert Assessment Groups for the Green List (EAGLs) within sub-regions of the Caribbean that had protected areas with similar contexts. The EAGLs would be diverse groups comprising local experts drawn from Non-Governmental Organisations, Governments, academia, and community representatives who would be able review research material and conduct site visits to determine whether they demonstrate compliance with the criteria. The EAGLs would also make recommendations to the IUCN Global Green List Committee as to whether the sites under review comply with the standard.
The BIOPAMA Programme aims to improve the long-term conservation and sustainable use of natural resources in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, in protected areas and surrounding communities. It is an initiative of the ACP Group of States financed by the European Union’s 11th European Development Fund (EDF), jointly implemented in the Caribbean by the IUCN, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC) and the University of the West Indies.