During the last two decades, Latin America and the Caribbean has been at the forefront of the world´s biodiversity conservation, dedicating 20% of the region’s territory to this end. LAC is moving forward to reach Aichi goal #11 as nine countries of the region will meet or exceed the coverage of agreed protected areas by 2020. However, there is scarce information about the effectiveness and equity of the protected areas management, leading us to believe this is one of the biggest challenges in the region for the fulfillment of these goals.
The existent and new protected areas face many threats. A recent analysis found that of 13,835 species found in LAC, 12% are in danger of extinction. On average, LAC governments allocate only 1% of national environmental budgets to protected areas representing $ 1.18 per hectare. In addition, the economic growth of the region has been exponential in the last decade and countries depend on natural resources as a basis for most of their economies.
The expansion of protected areas in LAC by 2020 will create a complex set of challenges, especially for its implementation and for those responsible of developing public policies, planners and administrators. As an example, in the Subsystems of Protected Areas of Colombia (SIRAP), which have the greatest threats due to habitat loss and deforestation, only 10% of the planned actions have been implemented and only 27% of regional protected areas have approved their management plans so far.
For this reason, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in partnership with National Natural Parks of Colombia and World Wildlife Fund Colombia, and with the financial support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), are executing a project to strengthen the National System of Protected Areas of Colombia (SINAP), through developing tools and methodologies crucial to strengthen the planning, management and evaluation within national, regional and local stakeholders and institutions. The project will address the following actions:
- Integrate the cycle of planning, monitoring and effectiveness management evaluation of protected areas. Although the adaptive planning cycle concept is very popular (in which after planning, monitoring and evaluation should be carried on), this is not applied strictly. There is usually a disjunction between the findings and recommendations of the management effectiveness evaluation and the way protected areas are planned. Unfortunately, the administrators rarely use evidence-based research to take informed decisions.
- Diversify conservation strategies. Focused in two regions of the country, Orinoquia and Northeast Andes, the project will support national, regional and private protected areas to create conservation corridors and improve ecosystem representativeness. The private protected areas network is a recent strategy in LAC that has proven good results mainly in the Southern Cone, because private areas usually do not face the same challenges or stress as public areas. Integrating all these strategies, both public and private, we will contribute to align stakeholders and work scales to specific conservation goals.
- Integrate stakeholders. Probably the project’s biggest challenge is fostering dialogue, where common protocols and methodologies are built. This will allow to integrate the needs from all stakeholders as well as to strengthen the planning tools in all the SINAP levels and will establish shared responsibilities to ensure its implementation and monitoring.
LAC greatest challenge has been and continues to be the implementation of an effective management of protected areas. Now, more than ever, after the fulfillment of the #11 Aichi goal, which will increase the portion of land and sea covered by protected areas. To face this challenge there is no single answer that applies to all contexts, countries and conservation strategies. This project will contribute by generating tools that integrate planning, monitoring and management effectiveness evaluation, to ensure the limited resources invested are effective and aimed to specific results. Thus, contributing to building best practices for the protected areas management in the region, and to move forward from the writing to real actions on the field.
To learn more about IDB and GEF projects in Latin America and the Caribbean, and to understand how countries use these funds, please visit this link.
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