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By Larry Hamilton and Trevor Sandwith
IUCN’s first overture in transboundary conservation was in 1988 when the then Programme on Protected Areas Coordinator Jim Thorsell organized a workshop on Border Parks during a Global Conference on Tourism – a Vital Force for Peace. It resulted in a 1990 publication produced by IUCN, Parks on the Borderline: Experience in Transfrontier Conservation. In this, the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) cooperated in identifying 60 sets of places where internationally adjoining protected areas occurred in 65 countries, and produced maps showing them (Thorsell and Harrison 1990). Thorsell followed up by writing several articles on transborder parks, including one in Natural History in 1990.
The next significant action was the result of a call for Regional Action Plans at the IUCN’s IVth World Parks Congress held in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1992. Europe responded with Parks for Life: Action for Protected Areas in Europe that was published by IUCN in 1994. Section 8.7 was on Transfrontier Protected Areas, and action Priority Project 22 was “Support to transfrontier protected areas.” It listed a series of actions, and suggested that these could be carried out by a Task Force of the Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas (now WCPA) and the Federation of Nature and National Parks of Europe (now EUROPARC).
Arthur Westing, in 1993 produced for the UNEP program his groundbreaking book Transfrontier Reserves for Peace and Nature: A Contribution to Global Security. This was not an IUCN effort, but Jeff McNeeley and James MacKinnon from IUCN contributed chapters to this book.
In 1995, Larry Hamilton planned and led an experts’ travelling workshop in Australia on Transborder Protected Area Cooperation, for pairs of protected area Directors or key personnel from some of the world’s abutting protected areas where some degree of transboundary cooperation was occurring. As well as a set of case studies, a set of guidelines as to the benefits and difficulties in achieving effective cooperation, and a typology of various kinds of arrangements, were all published in a booklet by IUCN and the Australian Alps National Parks in 1996 (Hamilton et al. 1996). These guidelines were subsequently used in several IUCN meetings and publications.
In carrying out Priority Project 22 of the Parks for Life Action Plan, workshops were held in Europe, including one in the White Carpathian Mountains in June 1995 led by Jan Čeřovský of the Czech Ecopoint Foundation. He and Ecopoint organized the next one, Biodiversity Conservation in Transboundary Protected Areas in Europe, in 1996 jointly with IUCN, at which both Jim Thorsell and Larry Hamilton gave presentations. One of the recommendations was that IUCN organize a Parks for Peace International Conference.
Another event in progress in Europe came at a 1997 “Parks for Life 97” Regional Working Session, in which a major component was a focus on Transboundary Protected Areas (TBPAs). Robert Brunner reported on a survey he had carried out of abutting and potentially cooperating protected areas, (200 of them in 80 complexes) and a follow-up workshop was held producing a set of recommendations for European action by IUCN, EUROPARC and PA Administrations.
The first official IUCN-wide initiative on TBPAs was the Parks for Peace International Conference, organized and led by WCPA and Peace Parks Foundation in 1997 near Cape Town, South Africa. It drew 72 participants from 32 countries. Case studies from around the world were presented, with 8 of the 17 being from Africa. Proceedings were published in 1998. One of the major recommendations was for IUCN WCPA to prepare a series of guidelines on best practices. It was at this meeting that Dorothy Zbicz, a graduate student at Duke University, with cooperation from WCPA and WCMC presented her report on the Status of the World’s Transfrontier Protected Areas, along with Michael Green of WCMC. This was the first relatively complete listing of transboundary PA complexes (136 at that time, in 98 countries) where transboundary cooperation and agreements were possible. The various levels of cooperation were classified for these (See Zbicz 1999, George Wright Society: On the Frontiers of Conservation.)
John Hanks of the Peace Parks Foundation and David Sheppard, Head of the IUCN Programme on Protected Areas in IUCN, was instrumental in convening the IUCN Parks for Peace conference, then in convening a series of working sessions/mini conferences to develop a set of guidelines for TBPAs. Great steps forward were taken by these working sessions in Bormio (Stelvio National Park), Italy in 1998 and then by a smaller group in Gland in 2000. The Italian Directorate for Development Cooperation (Alfredo Guillet) generously provided much-needed funding for all three meetings along with World Bank. Trevor Sandwith took responsibility for pulling together the various elements of these meetings into one of IUCN WCPA’s Best Practice Guidelines, with co-editors, David Sheppard, Larry Hamilton and Clare Shine. The result was the publication of the IUCN WCPA Best Practice Guideline Transboundary Protected Areas for Peace and Co-operation (Sandwith et al. 2001). The Zbicz survey was updated by her to show 169 complexes, involving 650 protected areas in 113 countries and published in this format for the first time. A further result was the establishment within the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, of a Task Force on Transboundary Conservation. Its primary task was to develop a wide network of practitioners who could share and extend the experience of those working on transboundary conservation issues, and begin to pull together a resource of materials and information. With support from the Italian Directorate for Development Cooperation, the German InWEnt (Internationale Weiterbildung und Entwicklung gemeinnützige GmbH - Capacity Building International, Germany; now merged with GIZ), Swiss Development Cooperation and the International Tropical Timber Organisation, the Transboundary Conservation Task Force, being led by Trevor Sandwith, was able to contribute towards a series of meetings and workshops, and to establish a website and portal for the exchange of information. Charles Besancon was hired to provide technical direction to these efforts in the preparations for the World Parks Congress in Durban in 2003.
IUCN and ITTO convened an international workshop in Ubon Ratchatani in Thailand from 17-21 February 2003, where several significant papers were prepared covering a range of topics relevant to transboundary conservation policy, law and practice, and which markedly increased the range and depth of the contemporary work on this topic. In parallel, the USAID-funded Biodiversity Support Programme (involving the World Resources Institute, World Wildlife Fund (US) and The Nature Conservancy), worked in conjunction with the IUCN Transboundary Conservation Task Force to publish research and analysis on Transboundary Natural Resource Management in many parts of Western, Eastern and Southern Africa. Further guidance on assessing the need for transboundary conservation management, as well as developing strategies and plans for implementation were included in these publications.
InWEnt also convened a series of five regional workshops together with IUCN and the IUCN Transboundary Conservation Task Force, to build capacity in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Apart from workshop reports, a publication entitled Security Considerations in the Planning and Development of Transboundary Conservation Areas was prepared by members of the Task Force.
The IUCN Transboundary Conservation Task Force established www.tbpa.net as a means to store and disseminate these materials, and also established a list-serve to communicate with the growing membership, the capacity for which was rapidly outgrowing the limited time and resources of the founding task force. Preparations for the World Parks Congress started in earnest, with the development of background materials (a portfolio of information and fact sheets) and the development of project proposals for which funding was sought.
At the 2003 IUCN Vth World Protected Areas Congress themed Benefits beyond Boundaries, in Durban, South Africa, transboundary conservation came into full flower as an IUCN programme, with strong endorsement by the Director General. The African experience was featured, and the work of The Peace Park Foundation. A strong call for transboundary action called the Didima Declaration came from a pre-Congress workshop in the Maloti-Drakensberg Mountains organized by Larry Hamilton, and Peace Climb and declaration was carried forward into one of the Congress stream plenaries by Trevor Sandwith who chaired that session along with the Chair of the Environment Portfolio Committee of the South African legislature. .
The Italian Directorate for Development Cooperation through its framework agreement with IUCN generously supported a further workshop held on the island of La Maddalena in Sardinia, in Italy, with the express purpose of developing a fundable project proposal, but also to capture further guidance on legal, institutional, community-based, economic and other considerations of transboundary conservation management. The scope of this proposal remains valid today, although it proved impossible for the volunteer network to mobilize significant funding following the World Parks Congress. The Task Force convened a series of workshops at the IUCN World Conservation Congress held in Bangkok, Thailand building on this work.
Task Force members contributed to another impressive publication published by Conservation International in conjunction with IUCN in 2005 entitled Transboundary Conservation: A New Vision for Protected Areas edited by Russell Mittermeier, Cyril F. Kormos, Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier, Patricio Robles Gil, Trevor Sandwith, and Charles Besancon. Many of the perspectives including definitions for the different kinds of transboundary conservation areas debated in La Maddalena were captured in this publication, the contents of which were rapidly incorporated also into a chapter by Trevor Sandwith in Managing Protected Areas: A Global Guide, by Michael Lockwood, Graeme Worboys and Ashish Khotari.
Other members of the Task Force tackled other conceptual and searching issues, including Saleem Ali, who edited and published Peace Parks: Conservation and Conflict Resolution, including a Foreword by the Director General of IUCN, Julia Marton-Lefevre, and Charles Chester, who gathered a scholarly analysis of issues in 2006 entitled "Transboundary protected areas" in the Encyclopaedia of Earth. Many other members of the Task Force have contributed towards influencing and creating awareness of transboundary conservation issues, most notably through those international instruments that directly include transboundary protocols, including the World Heritage Convention and the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere programme, which have contributed enormously to the compilation of principles and good practices in these arenas.
In 2007, on the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the world’s first international Peace Park (Waterton-Glacier) an international Parks, Peace and Partnerships Conference was held in Waterton Lakes National Park, with IUCN WCPA as one sponsor. All 87 presentations were relevant to TBPAs, and many were presented by WCPA Task Force on Transboundary Protected Areas members. Trevor Sandwith compiled and presented a summary synthesis of the whole meeting on this occasion. The opportunity was taken to convene a meeting of those members of the Task Force present in Waterton-Glacier, and the decision was taken by Charles and Trevor to recruit new leadership for the Task Force, which had been suffering since both of the Co-Chairs had assumed new full-time jobs, and also had new roles in the IUCN-WCPA.
Under a restructuring of WCPA in 2008, this Task Force became the Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group, to more correctly reflect its ongoing mandate to convene a network of transboundary conservation specialists. Maja Vasilijević was approached to be the leader of this group which she has managed since 2009. She instituted a newsletter titled TB eNEWS to better promote transboundary work of the Specialist Group members, and restructured the tbpa website. The new leadership of the Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group involves a newly established Executive Committee, consisted of the Chair, Vice Chairs, Senior Advisors and Regional Coordinators. The Specialist Group continues to work under the mission “To promote and encourage transboundary conservation for the conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values while promoting peace and co-operation among nations, through enhancing knowledge and capacity for effective planning and management of transboundary conservation areas, in fulfilment of the Durban Action Plan and CBD Programme of Work on Protected Areas.”