The who’s who of the world’s environmental specialists will gather in Sydney this week for the IUCN World Parks Congress, a major international event held every 10 years.

sydney-cruise-vividConvened by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the world’s largest environmental network, the Congress will be held at Sydney Olympic Park from 12–19 November. It is expected to deliver a strategy that will shape National Parks management for the next decade: a collation of compelling and inspiring solutions to global challenges, the strategy will be called the Promise of Sydney.

After the last Congress was held in Durban in South Africa in 2003, a bid team led by Business Events Sydney (BESydney) and the New South Wales (NSW) and Federal Governments lobbied for the event that will see world conservation leaders gather to debate, innovate and collaborate on the most pragmatic solutions to conservation and developmental change.

BESydney CEO Lyn Lewis-Smith said the estimated economic impact of $34 million the Congress would bring to NSW made it one of the most lucrative business events staged in 2014 in Sydney.

Today, some 13 per cent of the planet’s land surface is dedicated as protected areas, and through the Convention on Biological Diversity, nations are aiming for a target of 17 per cent by 2020. However, major gaps remain in the marine environment, with less than two per cent of our seas and oceans currently under protection. The Congress will be the premier gathering to address these gaps.

Since the first Congress in Seattle, USA in 1962, the IUCN World Parks Congress has been the driving force behind conservation policy worldwide, addressing global challenges and opportunities, establishing standards to ensure that protected areas are effective and being a source of inspiration and innovation for the decade that follows.

The first event of the Congress was the arrival in Sydney Harbour on Wednesday (12 November) of a flotilla of traditional voyaging canoes carrying a number of Pacific Islander Heads of State. The flotilla is completing a 6,000 nautical mile journey from the Pacific Islands to plead for the world to help fight the environmental challenges facing the Pacific.

Arriving at the Australian National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour, the Pacific Island leaders participated in the opening ceremony with speakers including:

•           The Hon. Julie Bishop MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Australia

•           The Hon. Rob Stokes MP, Minister for the Environment, New South Wales

•           Ms Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director-General, IUCN

•           Mr Taholo Kami, Regional Director for Oceania, IUCN

•           Mr Kevin Sumption, Director, Australian National Maritime Museum.

The eight-day programme will also feature technical tours, World Leaders’ Dialogue sessions with key industry spokespeople from around the globe and conclude with a farewell Aussie barbeque.