Dear Delegates & Guests,
Make no mistake. Ezemvelo’s “Symposium of Contemporary Conservation Practise” offers a real national and international conservation platform.
We should be exceedingly proud of this. It has ballooned from something that was simply internal when it began about 5 years ago to its present status as the single biggest bio-diversity related conference in South Africa; transcending provincial, national and regional boundaries. I marvel at its inclusiveness, particularly our partnerships with, amongst others, Universities, NGOs, and Research Institutions to help expand its appeal.
Anything that stimulates frank and robust discussions across different disciplines and practice is to be encouraged. I recall last year’s event when I heard the attendance reached 360 delegates from throughout South Africa as well as eight African countries, Europe, the UK and the US. This was some 20% up on the previous year so there is every indication that this one will reflect greater attendance.
And let us take our hats off to our organisers. These people are the machine room behind this phenomenal achievement. I talk here of Wildlands Conservation Trust, the University of Zululand, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Environmental Law Association of South Africa. They were acknowledged for their efforts last year in our ‘Conservation: Everybody’s Business’ publication and I thank them again for everything they have done to make this year’s event possible.
Let me quickly provide an international context to this year’s symposium, which is wedged between two international meetings on biodiversity; Cop 12 (recently held in South Korea) and the upcoming World Parks Congress in Sydney.
Cop 12 (Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity) represents one of the biggest international meetings on biodiversity conservation. This was the 12th meeting and perhaps one of the key outcomes was the agreement of the Parties to put their money where their mouths are, if I can put it so bluntly! Essentially, it spoke of mobilising resources to ensure the full implementation of the national biodiversity strategic action plans and the achievement of the Aichi Targets by 2020.
Within our African context, the inauguration of the Nagoya Protocol on ‘Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits’ is significant. This effectively places on the international map, the critical need to develop and share the benefits that arise from using genetic resources and recognising and using indigenous knowledge for general benefit.
Another significant international meeting this year is the upcoming World Parks Congress in Sydney, just about a week from now. We are again encouraged by the theme of the conference “Parks, People, Planet: Inspiring Solutions”. For beyond addressing our bread and butter issue, that is; Protected Area Management, the theme also speaks to the centrality of humans in Protected Area Management. I’m delighted that Ezemvelo will be sending delegates to this very important meeting.
It’s necessary to situate our symposium within an international context of overarching global concerns, such as Climate Change, controlling the proliferation of alien plants and the illegal trafficking of wildlife. The twentieth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place from 1 to 12 December 2014 in Lima, Peru. (They will be alarmed that according to both NASA’s Global Land-Ocean Temperature Index and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Centre, the past six months were the warmest ever recorded).
It’s worth mentioning that Durban will be hosting the 14th World Forest Congress in September 2015; the first ever World Forest Congress held in Africa. I make mention of this conference on this platform, for I believe this unique community of practise, ought to be at the forefront of driving research and knowledge messages coming out of this World Conference. It would be pitiful for the combined work of scientists, planners, managers and practitioners gathered here to not be communicated at that level; perhaps an idea for finding means to communicate the proceedings of this gathering there.
Back in 2012 I spoke of the broadening, more developmental face of conservation and the formative contribution this plays in uplifting people’s livelihoods. I think we have come some way in achieving this. Certainly, biodiversity considerations and the valuing of natural areas are becoming notable considerations in our overall provincial growth and development plans. I talk here of job creation and lessening poverty.
We have interacted to some extent with a variety of players in advancing the conservation economy, such as legislators, the media, and more recently the business sector. This is an ongoing and critical process. And there are an increasing number of national and international researchers wanting to further evaluate Protected Areas for what they offer.
South Africa has also made some strides here in the development of a National Biodiversity Economy Strategy.
Let me close by reminding you of the weighty responsibility on your shoulders. Not only does the Province nor South Africa, but people of the world surely look forward, with excitement to the proceedings of this very conference. Hoping that with the many challenges facing conservation today (land transformation, habitat loss, climate change, illegal hunting and poaching, and securing critical biodiversity to continue to support human wellbeing) this rich mixture of delegates must provide solutions to our society.
Dr Bandile Mkhize
Chief Executive Office
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife