Day two at the World Parks Congress saw the start of the first plenary sessions. Again, the session did not disappoint , with some very high level dignitaries taking to the stage.
The first speaker to take the stage was Professor Patrick Dodson who highlighted the importance of indigenous culture and tradition and conservation. According to Professor Dodson; ‘reconciliation of humans also means the reconciliation of nature’.
United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Director of the UNEP, Achim Steiner also took to the stage. He also emphasized the relationship between people and nature and how indigenous peoples all around the world have been conservation managers for thousands of years.
Steiner also reinforced the message from the Durban conference in 2004, that the youth need to take center stage in the management of protected areas. What stood out most from his speech was the fact that the United Nations was revisiting the concept of sustainability in an effort to redefine it and make it more reflective of current environmental challenges.
However, it was the smaller Pacific nations that stole the show, challenging the larger, more wealthy nations to get their acts together.
Firstly, the President of Palau, announced that he was creating 500,000 km2 of marine sanctuaries (no commercial fishing) within Palau’s EEZ.
Followed by the President of Kiribati, who, together with the other heads of the small island Pacific nations, would move to create the largest network of marine parks in their region.
The final accolade is reserved for the crew of the Vaka. The sailors are composed entirely of members from various Pacific Island nations, who have been sailing in a traditional canoe all over the Pacific on their way to the WPC. On their way, they have been campaigning and collecting messages from Pacific Islanders.
The messages have culminated into what is now known as the Pacific Promise, which seeks to lobby the global community into acting on climate change. The exploits of the Vaka crew and the Pacific Promise led to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Celebrations at the Pacific stall in the main Congress Pavilion post plenary session