A strong presence at the IUCN World Parks Congress (WPC) in Sydney, this week, is high on Gaia’s agenda – building on the momentum for greater protection of indigenous sacred natural sites, and leading the call for protected areas and all critical areas for biodiversity, food production and water systems, to be off-limits (no-go) for extractive industries.

The Congress, which takes place during 12th-18th November and draws a crowd of over 5,000, is a prime time to reflect on national and global conservation goals, CBD Aichi biodiversity targets, and safeguarding ecosystems. We are delighted that all our events will involve partners from our EU-funded project “Strengthening African CSO Networks to Respond to the Rapid Growth of Extractive Industries”.

The amphitheater of Sydney’s Olympic Park will provide the backdrop for our main session, advancing strategies for indigenous sacred natural sites protection – with presentations and powerful stories, from a remarkable diversity of biocultural landscapes and sacred sites- Russia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central America, Hawaii and the Amazon. Indigenous people and protected area managers will share their experiences of how, by reviving local knowledge and traditional practices, they are reaching conservation goals and building resilience. Practical tools and best practice – from community, eco-cultural mapping, through to drafting national legislation and working hand-in-hand with protected area authorities.

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The second of this two-part session brings together courageous stories of indigenous and local community resilience, with a search for strategies. We will invite the audience to join the debate with custodians, indigenous and community leaders, protected area managers and World Heritage experts on what steps we need to take – to ensure that indigenous sacred natural sites and territories, along with other protected areas, are off-limits from mining, extractive industries and other destructive activities.

The call for limits will be echoed at two side-events – enabling high-level speakers, scientists, indigenous leaders and others to set the context, build consensus, and decide on current policy and where we should be headed.

Ironically, the Congress takes place at the same time as the G20, where the Australian government, as host, has prioritised economic growth ahead of any consideration of climate change. As voiced by Julia Marton Lefèvre, the outgoing IUCN President, “That kind of economic argument doesn’t really understand what Nature brings us. Nature provides us with our life support system. Leaving forests standing is worth far more than cutting them down.

Keep linked with Gaia’s twitter for updates the World Parks Congress – much more than protecting beautiful places and landscapes.