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Deputy Minister Barbara Thomson closes the 7th People and Parks Conference

22 September 2016


The Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs Ms Barbara Thomson has today closed the 7th People and Parks Conference, which adopted the Midrand Declaration committing partners to amongst others work together to harmonise relations between people and nature; thereby unlocking the economic potential of protected areas for the benefit of adjacent communities in South Africa.

In a ground-breaking announcement, the Chief Land Claims Commissioner pledged to accelerate the land claims settlement process by concluding 50 of the outstanding 77 land claims against protected areas by 2018. In addition, a total of R80 million is earmarked for infrastructure development and a further R20 million that will be allocated for Business plan development.

The Conference, which brought together over 500 delegates representing communities, traditional leaders, conservation authorities and government departments, also resolved to accelerate the resolution of land claims and strengthen the implementation of co-management agreements.

It provided a platform for communities to collectively organise their voice to the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) taking place from 24 September to 5 October 2016 in Sandton. COP17 will focus its attentions on the future operations of the organisation, but also deliberate on the role of CITES in securing the livelihoods of people living with wildlife and ensuring communities are considered in terms of interventions implemented in terms of this Convention.

This year’s biennial conference was opened on Tuesday by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, joined by the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, Minister Gugile Nkwinti who handed over 8 title deeds and cheques to Communal Property Associations (CPAs). The conference was convened under the theme: “Unlocking Protected Areas Economic Potential,” which provided a platform for stocktaking on progress in addressing land claims in protected areas and measures instituted to facilitate the contribution of protected areas in the enhancement rural livelihoods.

Delivering the closing remarks, Deputy Minister Thomson said “the conference is another pivot in our efforts as government to create platform for engagement with communities on protected areas management and how such areas can be repositioned to respond to the economic development of our rural areas, the deliberations attained here gives me satisfaction that our envisaged goal will be achieved.”

The delegates also committed to increase the involvement of the youth in conservation and assist with funding opportunities aimed at youth empowerment and job creation. This will be through the establishment of a Youth Conservation Programme as an integral component of the People and Parks Programme.

Inspired by the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Parks Congress the People and Parks (IUCN-WPC), the DEA established a People and Parks Programme as an initiative that promotes interface between conservation and communities in South African protected areas. It is one of the Department’s Expanded Public Works Programmes that do not only create much needed job opportunities for South Africans, but also provides tangible economic and social benefits for communities who were previously displaced to pave way for the establishment of protected areas.

The Department launched the National Co-Management Framework in September 2010, and is in accordance to the provisions of the National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act, 2003 (Act No.57 of 2003). The framework provides a coherent national guideline for the co-management of protected areas restored in terms of the Restitution of Land Rights Act, 1994 (Act No. 22 of 1994). It also aims to guide conservation agencies and successful restitution claimants in the development of co-management agreements for protected areas structuring benefit packages.

Deputy Minister Thomson appealed to the communities to continue joining forces with the government in ensuring that the conservation is achieved to fulfil of programme’s ultimate goal of “conservation for the people with the people.”

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