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South Africa recommits to developing ocean and wildlife economy at World Parks Congress 2014

19 November 2014


The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Ms Barbara Thomson, has recommitted South Africa to the development of the ocean and wildlife economies in South Africa.

“Our vision is to ensure socio-economic transformation and growth of the biodiversity economy, while ensuring the entrance of the landholders and previously disadvantaged communities into the mainstream economy to restore their pride and dignity,” said Ms Thomson at the closing plenary of the IUCN 6th World Parks Congress.

Heads of state, government officials, NGOs and members of civil society gathered at the Sydney Olympic Park from 12 to 19 November 2014 to discussthe vital role of protected areas in conserving nature while contributing to socio-economic development.  The more than 6 000 delegates from 170 countries also discussed the value of protected areas in climate change resilience and conservation of iconic species.

Ms Thomson said during the closing plenary that South Africa recognised the importance of aligning the country’s conservation efforts with social equity imperatives.

Delivering South Africa’s pledge to the Sydney Congress, Ms Thomson said:  “Our government’s commitment in terms of Vision 2024 is to create at least 60 000 new sustainable jobs in the wildlife industry, ensure that 2 million hectares of new conservation land is acquired and restored and that more than a million poverty-stricken people are supported.”

The Deputy Minister further promised:  “South Africa, through the Presidential Lead Project called Operation Phakisa promises to triple our Ocean Protection over the next ten years through the creation of a network of Marine Protected Areas within our Exclusive Economic Zone. This will indeed unlock the economic potential of our oceans whilst increasing our ability to cope with, and adapt to, the impacts of climate change as a developing continent.”

Speaking at the High Level Round Table Discussion on Tuesday, 18 November 2014, where leaders discussed “The Promise of Sydney” as the main outcome of the week-long Congress, Ms Thomson said emphasis needed to be placed on youth empowerment and participation of communities in the park business.

South Africa, she said, would also like the Promise to include:

  • Exploring community equity options, entrepreneurship and private sector partnership.
  • Unlocking the economic potential of community owned land.
  • Unlocking the economic potential of oceans and coast.
  • Partnering in combating wildlife crime.
  • Building resilience for communities and ecosystems against climate change.
  • Improving trans-boundary cooperation.

The High Level Round Table Discussion was hosted by IUCN President, Mr Zhang Xinsheng, attended by Commonwealth and African Ministers, as well as Mr Greg Hunt, the Minister of Environment of Australia and the New South Wales Minister of Environment, Mr Rob Stokes.  This session primarily discussed “The Promise of Sydney” which is a joint vision for the decade and beyond on what is needed to achieve transformational change for parks, people and planet. “The Promise of Sydney”, which includes many of South Africa’s proposals, has been published as the main outcome document of the Congress ( 

The Promise of Sydney, among others, lauds the establishment of new marine protected areas, acknowledges the increasing role of indigenous peoples, community, and privately-conserved areas in reaching biodiversity conservation and societal goals, and the opportunities presented by new communication and other technologies to better understand and engage new constituencies, including young people.  The Promise commends the numerous improvements of corporate practice, and the many success stories and varied partnerships across sectors for nature conservation and sustainability.

Addressing the High Level Round Table Discussion, Ms Thomson, acknowledged the role played by the Southern African Development Community in conservation particularly since the region’s economy relied heavily on ecosystem goods and services derived from protected areas.

She added that as a developing country it was imperative for South Africa to create jobs and provide economic opportunities that would uplift the lives of the majority of the people whilst conserving biodiversity.  This will be achieved through the creation of a network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) within South Africa Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); and in so doing unlocking the economic potential of the ocean.

The World Parks Congress is held every 10 years. South Africa hosted the 5th Congress in Durban in 2003. The co-patronage of Nelson Mandela of the 2003 Congress and his messages that the key to a sustainable future for Protected Areas lies in the development of partnerships, and that the challenges of the future lies in the hands of the youth was carried by delegates from many countries, in numerous sessions, during the Sydney conference.

The South Africa delegation to the World Parks Congress 2014 was led by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Mrs Edna Molewa, and Ms Thomson.  The South African representation included officials from the Department of Environmental Affairs who participated in themed stream discussions aligned to the Congress theme of “Parks, people planet: inspiring solutions.”

The Minister and Deputy Minister held a number of bilateral meetings and participated in the World Leaders’ Dialogue series where issues such as building resilient parks, sustainable financing of protected areas, strengthening partnerships, the illegal wildlife trade and the value of protected areas to conservation and socio-economic development were discussed.

For more information contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871 or


Eleanor Momberg
Cell: 083 400 5741 or


Duncan Senye
Cell: 082 604 7055 or