The EUROPARC Conference is the event of the year for those working in Europe’s Protected Areas and Natura 2000 sites. In 2020, due to the extraordinary health circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event had to move ONLINE.
In these challenging times, international cooperation and connection is more important than ever. That’s why EUROPARC wanted to ensure the opportunity to bring members together, albeit virtually!
The innovative 2-day ONLINE event took place on the 8th and 9th of September. After we have looked at the value of nature across multiple sectors of society at EUROPARC Conference 2019, in 2020 we tried to look to the future… We explored what skills and capacities Protected Areas need to implement the 2030 biodiversity strategy, and in the post COVID-19 world. In the interactive online experience, we made sure to enable delegates to connect with colleagues from across Europe, and to bring the best of EUROPARC networking in these challenging times.
Those working in Protected Areas need to feel equipped with tools, skills and competencies to juggle competing priorities, manage community engagement, maintain and develop partnerships, articulate political arguments and pitch new communications.
The year 2020 brought challenging times and uncertainty, all that on top of the many planned changes around the corner. From the response to COVID-19, to the new EU strategies, parks and Protected Areas need to be involved in discussions about the future of society and be prepared with solutions to ensure they are part of a safer and more sustainable Europe. These big issues were therefore the main focus of this year’s EUROPARC Conference.
You can watch the recordings of Conference sessions here (accessible for delegates only).
OUR NEW FUTURE: HOW READY ARE WE?
For 2 days, 220 delegates from 24 countries connected to ZOOM and discussed the future of Protected areas, listened to inspiring speeches, participated in interactive workshops and took the stage in the Conference Speakers’ Corner. Here is a quick look-back to the two intense and fruitful days:
Who better to hear from then one of the driving forces behind the new EU strategies: Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries? In the first Keynote address of this Conference, the Commissioner elaborated on actions for a greener society, biodiversity protection, sustainable economy, as well as human well-being and planet’s health. He shared the Commission’s strategy and plans for the future.
Prof. Dr. Christian Baumgartner talked about how we can bring “the camel through the eye of the needle”. He explained that we are living in the VUCA-World: Volatility Uncertainty Complexity & Ambiguity. In this context, he delved into 5 topics: Biodiversity/Protection, Climate Change, Tourism and Leisure, Education/Edutainment and Regionality and the importance of communication.
We need to move to where we have Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility.
On the second day of the Conference, Mike Appleton from Global Wildlife Conservation and IUCN WCPA spoke about the Competence Approach in Protected Area management. He emphasised that it raises the standard of the whole profession, as the approach helps to diversify the sector and opens opportunities to a wider range of people.
Finally, Erika Stanciu from the Romanian ProPark Foundation for Protected Areas talked about the urgent need to develop capacities of Protected Area professionals, and to use capacity building plans based on Training Needs Assessment.
Launch of the eNatura2000 app
During the first day of the Conference, EUROPARC was also proud to announce the launch of the LIFE e-Natura 2000 app – one of the many outcomes of the LIFE Preparatory project, LIFE e-Natura 2000.edu.
In line with this year’s Conference topic, the app has been specially designed to enable Natura 2000 site managers and private landowners to connect, discuss and learn in an innovative and future-ready way. The app is available on Google Play and App Store!
New ambitious targets have been agreed at European level to address the main drivers of biodiversity loss. In the Panel Discussion, we asked our guests how will these translate into practice and what roles should Protected Areas have?
Taking into account the current coronavirus crisis and related management challenges, what implementation measures and future priorities can we anticipate?
In this session the Conference delegates had the chance to interact with Protected Area managers and decision makers from the EU, national and local institutions. The first part focused on how the new EU biodiversity strategy targets, together with the COVID challenges, will influence the way we manage our Protected Areas over the coming years. Our guest speakers Olaf Holm (Parc Naturel Montagne de Reims, France), Daniel Aberg (Kullaberg Nature Reserve, Sweden) and Johannes Ehrenfeldner (Neusiedler See National Park, Austria), discussed new measures and practices we can anticipate, management competencies and capacity building initiatives that we need in order to face the current challenges and contribute to achieving progress towards the biodiversity targets.
In the second part, we looked at the process from strategic planning to prioritising and implementation. This time, panellists Humberto Delgado Rosa (European Commission – DG Environment, Jan Plesnik (Nature Conservation Agency of the Czech Republic and Carles Castell (Barcelona Provincial Council), shared the perspectives of the European Commission, a national and a local authority, and discussed decision making processes together with measures required to ensure Protected Areas can contribute addressing the main drivers of biodiversity loss.
Eight interactive workshops took place during the conference. You can download the workshop presentations here.
At the Conference 2020 we wanted to provide ample opportunity for the exchange of best practice and experiences. This is why we created the “Speakers’ Corner” and opened the stage to members and conference delegates, to come and present their work to their peers. In 4 different Speakers’ Corner rooms, delegates could join 12 different presentations. To name just some of them, we heard about projects such as ENVISION and its Inclusive Conservation, GoGreeen Routes H2020 promoting urban health using nature based solutions, digital and social innovation, or Euro Large Carnivores.
Conference in Austria rescheduled!
The conference originally scheduled for 27-30th October, Neusiedler See – Seewinkel National Park Austria, will take place in MAY 2022. We will gather then, to consider Communicating in the 21st Century? Question your mindset! Perhaps even more important as we will have absorbed the implication of a post-COVID world, and indeed will be in year one of what will be by then the new EUROPARC strategy.
The EUROPARC conference in May 2022 in Austria, will also incorporate the TransParcNet meeting so will have an emphasis on transboundary cooperation and communications.
The General Assembly of 2020 will also be ONLINE and will take place at the originally scheduled date of 27th October.