The 2nd Asia Parks Congress Opens in Kota Kinabalu

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This was one of the key messages conveyed by The Right Honourable Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Hajiji Haji Noor, Chief Minister of Sabah, in his speech to mark the opening of the 2nd Asia Parks Congress (APC) on Wednesday 25th May 2022 in Kota Kinabalu (read on his behalf by the Deputy Chief Minister, The Honourable Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Jeffrey G. Datuk Kitingan).

Hosted by Sabah Parks and the State Government of Sabah, in collaboration with IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), the conference is being held at the Sabah International Convention Centre. It is one of the largest, in person gatherings of environmental experts to be held in Asia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Congress is expected to be a landmark event that will set the agenda for Asia’s protected and conserved areas for the next ten years. It comes at a particularly timely moment, as countries around the world seek to finalise and adopt a new Global Biodiversity Framework later this year.

Over 1,000 delegates from 45 countries across Asia and beyond are attending, representing government agencies, NGOs, international organisations, academia and the private sector. It is expected that over 200 Indigenous Peoples and Local Community representatives will also participate, along with over 250 youth and young professionals.

Under the banner, Parks for Nature and People, the 2nd APC will provide a platform for highlighting the many benefits that protected and conserved areas provide to society. It will be a forum for sharing expertise and experience, learning from Indigenous wisdom and perspectives, embracing new approaches, and seeking insights from youth leaders.

In her speech, the President of IUCN, Dr Razan al Mubarak, said: “Protected and Conserved Areas are critical not only to our fight against the loss of nature and biodiversity but also our fight against climate change. The IUCN Deputy Director General, Dr Grethel Aguilar, emphasised that “These areas are crucial for the survival of the planet.” Dr Madhu Rao, Chair of WCPA, said: The Congress theme, “Parks for Nature and People,” emphasises the centrality of nature for human well-being. Continuing with business as usual is not an option. Instead, we have to look deeply into transformative action to secure nature for a healthy planetary future.”

Six working groups will address a range of priority issues of central importance to the region’s protected and conserved areas, including: Nature-based Solutions for health and wellbeing; fair and equitable governance; effective management; ecological connectivity and transboundary conservation; financial sustainability; and urban conservation.

The Ministry of the Environment Japan, the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), WWF-Malaysia, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the National Parks Board of Singapore are all playing prominent roles. The IPLC Forum is being organised by the PACOS Trust, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), and ICCA Consortium-Southeast Asia. The Youth Forum is being organised by the Korea National Park Service (KNPS), Sabah Parks, WCPA and the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication.

Remarking on the Congress, Dr Dindo Campilan, IUCN Regional Director for Asia, said: “We at IUCN are grateful to Malaysia, the State of Sabah and Sabah Parks for hosting this event and to the many government departments, organisations and dedicated individuals who have made it possible. It is a feat of considerable collaboration. The Congress represents a rare forum, where stakeholders from government, civil society and the private sector, as well as Indigenous peoples and youth, can come together and help shape the future of protected and conserved areas in this region. We applaud the Malaysian government for recognizing the urgent need to hold the Congress at this time, in spite of the difficulties created by the pandemic.”

This Congress will build on the successes of the 1st Asia Parks Congress held in Sendai, Japan in 2013. It will offer a wide range of platforms and forums, including plenary sessions, working groups, side events and exhibitions. Delegates will be able to enjoy some of Sabah’s outstanding protected areas, including Kinabalu Park, a World Heritage site.

The Kota Kinabalu Declaration resulting from the Congress will be adopted on the 29th of May and will include a call to action and a suite of commitments.

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