KIGALI — The inaugural IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC) closed on Saturday, July 23, with the adoption of the Kigali Call to Action by more than 2,400 participants from across the continent and beyond.
Under the theme ‘For People and Nature,’ the Congress identified priority actions to strengthen Africa’s protected and conserved areas in a manner that is just, equitable, and fair. These actions include strengthening the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, greater public and private financial investment in nature conservation and protected and conserved areas, and enhanced pan-African collaboration, cooperation, and partnership for protected and conserved area systems throughout the continent.
“Rwanda was proud to host the Africa Protected Areas Congress. We are glad it has been a success. We must put people at the centre of conservation if we are to achieve the goals we have set for ourselves and move to actions,” said Hon. Dr. Jeanne D’Arc Mujawamariya, Minister of Environment of Rwanda.
“This inaugural IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress has highlighted that Africa’s protected and conserved areas are vital for nature and biodiversity, but also for African peoples’ livelihoods and cultures,” said IUCN Director General Dr. Bruno Oberle. “It has formed an unprecedented and diverse coalition that includes governments and civil society stakeholders such as youth, indigenous peoples and local communities as well as protected area directors and rangers to strengthen protection and conservation.”
“The Africa Protected Area Congress has further exhibited that the importance of conservation is non-negotiable. Therefore, we call upon all African governments to actualize their commitments to safeguard nature and actively engage with all relevant stakeholders in the creation of A Pan-African Conservation Trust that honors the strong statements within the Kigali Call to Action. Let us get to work,” said Kaddu Sebunya, CEO of African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).
In the newly published Kigali Call to Action, WWF was heartened to see government leaders from across Africa recognise the importance of PCAs in protecting the health and wellbeing of their people, who depend on nature for food, crop pollination, seed dispersal, clean water and more.
Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International, said: “The large participation of African leaders and conservation practitioners at the first ever African congress on protected and conserved areas has sent a clear and strong message that Africa is owning its conservation agenda and is committed to protecting its natural heritage and capital as a foundation for sustainable economy and development. African leaders have also clearly indicated their commitment to increase domestic resourcing to protected areas, and to ensure that expansion and effectiveness in management is promoted through inclusive governance and fair benefit sharing with Indigenous Peoples and local communities.”
He added: “APAC represents a great opportunity for Africa to embrace a sustainable agenda and build a carbon-neutral and nature-positive society, and to make nature everyone’s business. We urge African leaders and society to bring this strong commitment into the ongoing negotiations of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Montreal where the world has the opportunity to agree a Paris-style agreement for nature.”
WWF has also lauded the Kigali Call to Action as a highly significant outcome of the APAC which moves the world in the right direction – towards a future where people and nature are at the heart of Africa’s sustainable development journey.
“African governments, conservation organisations, private sector, civil society, and society at large must build on the enthusiasm, energy and momentum we have generated here in Kigali to ensure the call to action is fully implemented. In particular, recognising the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities to their land and resources is central to achieving this ambition,” Alice Ruhweza, WWF Africa Region Director said.
During a closing plenary, representatives of youth and indigenous peoples groups delivered statements, followed by the formal adoption of the Kigali Call to Action and closing remarks by the co-conveners of the event, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), AWF, and the Government of Rwanda.