“The IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) was the first ever continent-wide gathering of African leaders, indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs), and interest groups to discuss the role of protected areas in conserving nature, safeguarding Africa’s iconic wildlife, delivering vital life-supporting ecosystem services for African people, and promoting sustainable development while conserving Africa’s cultural heritage and traditions.”
More than 2400 participants from 53 African and 27 other countries participated in the inaugural IUCN Africa Protected and Conserved Areas Congress (APAC) in Kigali, Rwanda from 18-23 July 2022. It was convened jointly by the Government of Rwanda, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).
“We, representatives of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities, our organizations, and networks in Africa from more than 40 African nations convened in Kigali, Rwanda on 16 –17 July 2022, to undertake our full and effective participation in the first IUCN’s Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC), do make this declaration. This being a culmination of sub-regional gatherings and convenings that happened.”
“We as APAC Youth recognise and appreciate the efforts and achievements made by the Government of Rwanda and the Co-Conveners: IUCN and AWF. We, the African youth, recognize that Africa is young, diverse and with a rich natural and cultural heritage gathered together to unify our voices to safeguard our future. As of today, Africa’s population sits at 1.4 Billion people, 70% of which are young people under the age of 30.”
In an Op-Ed published in Mongabay, conservation scientist and communications consultant to Resource Africa, Gail Thomson reports on the recently held African Protected Areas Congress (APAC), the first Congress of its kind, observing that “APAC is an important step away from ‘fortress conservation’ approaches and towards African-driven biodiversity conservation.”
Africa is an overwhelmingly young continent – 70% of its entire population is under the age of 30, according to the United Nations. However, across Africa, leadership still does not proportionately reflect this demographic reality. Are youth being equitably included in decision-making? Do they feel their views and interests are being heard and considered by leaders, and their contributions valued? And what do young people generally think about conservation as a vocation? We put these questions to three young Zambians attending APAC. Listen to what they had to say.
“Picking up from my experience at university, of being laughed at for studying Wildlife Management, you could already tell the perception of young people towards conservation. It generally does not appeal to them and they do not think it is interesting enough. They also think that conservation is for people more on the mature side, the adults.” Mary Malasa – Birdwatch Zambia Species Conservation Officer
“I feel that sometimes the donors drive their agenda towards the elderly or experienced people and I think the youths feel side-lined. They feel that if they come and participate, if they come and give out their views, their views are put aside.”
Cecelia Banda – Zambia CBNRM Forum Project Manager
“In Zambia, we have seen a lot of opportunities where organisations are considering
young people to be employed and where there are activities like sensitisation and awareness towards conservation, young people are always on the centre stage of implementation.”
Simwanza Mutende – Zambia CBNRM Forum Project and Communications Manager
The inaugural Africa Protected Areas Congress explored three thematic areas:
Lesle Jansen’s reflections on the conference.
Malidadi Langa’s presentation of the closing remarks on behalf of IPLCs.
Dr Shylock Muyengwa’s presentation of the Biodiversity Stream findings.
APAC provided many opportunities to strengthen current partnerships and develop new ones. Resource Africa’s attendance at the event was supported by JAMMA International and the African Civil Society Organisation’s Biodiversity Alliance (ACBA).
The Community Leaders Network of Southern Africa sent 29 delegates who worked closely with RA and Jamma during the IPLC pre-congress and the main congress to amplify the voices of local communities from Southern Africa. The RA and CLN side events were made possible by ACBA, Maliasili and the IUCN Sustainable Livelihoods specialist group providing time slots in their pavilions.
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