AWF Full Webinar Report: PROTECTED AREA EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS CONFERENCE The Impact of COVID-19 on Protected Areas Operations and Programmes Proceedings of the First Conference of Africa’s Heads of Protected Areas

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50030-PADs Conference Report - Final.pdf (618.9 KiB)

 

Executive Summary

The first ever meeting of Africa’s heads of Protected Areas agencies was held on 22-23 April, 2020 through video conferencing. In February 2020, just at the time when AWF and IUCN-WCPA were finalizing plans to host Africa’s heads of Protected Area agencies in Nairobi to discuss issues of common interest, the Coronavirus outbreak struck, and was soon after declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

Broad-based measures to minimize infections and control the spread of the pandemic were hurriedly put in place. Travel restrictions, social distancing, cancellation or postponement of events, partial or complete lockdowns, and other measures were instituted. Visitor facilities in Protected Areas were closed, workplaces shut, and global, regional and national supply chains were disrupted affecting day-to-day activities. A plan to bring together Protected Area Executive Directors (PADs) to discuss how to cope with COVID-19 was mooted. A questionnaire was developed and shared alongside an invitation to participate in a virtual conference to share lessons on the impact and measures being taken and how to better prepare for future pandemics and other emergencies.

 

The meeting was attended by representatives from all African regions – Southern, Eastern, Central, Western and Northern Africa.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Kaddu Sebunya, the AWF CEO said that the conference provided an opportunity for the African Executive Directors of Protected Areas and the conservation community to co-create and shape new pathways for African conservation, and a chance to re-imagine the future for nature and Africa’s economies. He observed that COVID-19 had exposed the many structural weaknesses in Africa’s economies, stretching the health delivery systems and other foundational services such as water and food security, and at the same time exposing how critical biodiversity and ecosystems were for the health of humanity and for reducing the likelihood of future pandemics. He also emphasized the need to enter into a phase of convergence among different sectors where nature takes centre stage. He stressed AWF’s commitment to continue collaborating with relevant stakeholders and provide critical leadership to tackle new and emerging challenges.

 

Former President Mkapa, a trustee of AWF and the keynote speaker said the timing of the meeting could not have come at a better time for conservation and humanity, taking place when the world was experiencing an unprecedented pandemic that has had a negative impact on lives, livelihoods and economies, including in the conservation sector. He emphasized the need to start viewing nature as our insurance policy against disease and hunger thus should be placed at the centre of sustainable and resilient economies going forward. He said that COVID-19 had exposed the weaknesses and years of underinvestment in sectors such as food security and nutrition, health and water, laying bare the consequences of neglecting nature and thinking that human health and economic development are separate from it. He asserted that the pandemic presented an opportunity to affirm the economic case for Protected Areas and said that the future requires greater harmony between nature and development. Observing that COVID-19 had presented a defining moment in the conservation discourse, he urged Protected Area leaders to ensure that conservation does not leave behind the custodians of nature.

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