Federazione Italiana Parchi e Riserve Naturali

Towards a Federation of Mediterranean Parks: The Main Steps

- In recent years, there has been a huge quantity of events, meetings and documentation on the protected areas of the Mediterranean, ample evidence of how important, rich and lively these areas are. The main protagonists in this networking activity have been the IUCN Center for Mediterranean Cooperation and UNEP-MAP but there have also been many other institutions, associations, park management bodies, and international bodies who are each carrying out important jobs on behalf of the protected areas.

- In 2003, The Durban Accord signed at the WCPA-IUCN's World Parks Congress in South Africa, urges commitment “to expand and strengthen worldwide systems of protected areas, prioritized on the basis of imminent threat to biodiversity, natural and cultural heritage” and “to mainstream protected areas within overall development agendas”.

- In 2004, the Final Declaration of the IUCN Mediterranean Members Meeting held in Naples, Italy, urged “all Mediterranean countries and IUCN to coordinate their actions to promote specific strategic plans for the conservation of the major Mediterranean environmental systems” and to “support the establishment of an association of protected areas of the Mediterranean”.

- In 2004, in Bangkok, Thailand, during its World Conservation Congress, the IUCN voted various resolutions and recommendations regarding the Mediterranean Basin.

- From 2004 to 2005, a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings led to the presentation of the Call for Collaboration towards an Association among the Mediterranean Parks
The call was signed by the Generalitat de Catalunya, Junta de Andalucía, Regione Emilia Romagna, Diputació de Barcelona, Federazione Italiana dei Parchi e delle Riserve naturali, the Fédération des parcs naturels régionaux de France, the Italian association Legambiente and Depana catalana, and back by the IUCN's Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation.
The call was addressed to all of the authorities and institutions responsible for running and coordinating protected areas in the Mediterranean Basin (national Ministries, regional administrations, autonomous communities, local institutions, park representatives' associations, etc.).
The objectives of the Federation include providing support for national and regional policies to be drawn up which strengthen the experimental and pioneering role of protected areas, and lobbying international institutions so that when creating programmes which affect the Mediterranean region, they take into account the role, requirements and potential of protected areas in the Basin.

- In January 2006, in the Spanish city of Barcelona, the idea of a Federation was put forward by the promoters to the President of WCPA-IUCN who gave it official backing.

- In February 2006, Federparchi began consulting Southern Mediterranean and Balkan countries about the Call.

- In April 2006, in Rome, during ParkLife-Fiera dei Parchi e del Vivere Naturale (the Parks and Natural Living Fair) there was a Forum on the Federation, which saw the participation of IUCN officials, the Environment Ministries of Algeria, Lebanon and Egypt, regional government officials for the protected areas of Barcelona and Andalucía (Spain), of the Corsican Regional Park (France), UNESCO, environmental associations and Italian parks. They discussed the results of Federparchi's consultations and the path to establishing the Federation.

- In July 2006, Goletta Verde travelled from one Mediterranean park to another, to promote the Federation. Goletta Verde is a boat which every year cruises up and down the coasts of the Mediterranean to raise public awareness of how important it is to protect our shared sea. The initiative is backed by the Italian association Legambiente with the support of Federparchi and the Italian Environment Ministry. In 2006, Goletta Verde visited a number of Italian ports, as well as destinations in France, Spain, Algeria, Tunisia, Malta, Greece, Albania and Croatia: at each stop, Legambiente and Federparchi had official meetings with representatives of the governments, the protected areas, local associations and the press, and discussed with them the idea of a Federation.

- On the 30th September 2006, at Mediterre–Fiera dei Parchi del Mediterraneo, Bari, Italy, the Round Table on the Federation took place, with the participation of various representatives from Mediterranean nations and international institutions. There followed the signing of an agreement setting up the Promotion Committee for the Federation of Protected Areas in the Mediterranean, which has a remit to look into various aspects of the project, to work towards common solutions and prepare for the official birth of the Federation in 2008. In Bari, signatures were collected from representatives of Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Palestinian organisations, while further signatures are expected over the next few months.

- On 11th June 2007, the Promotion Committee for the Federation of Mediterranean Parks met in Malaga, Spain, at the IUCN Center for Mediterranean Cooperation. Not only the Committee's members (France and Portugal absent), but also the representatives of Junta de Andalucía and Malaga Center, as well as one representative of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) attended the meeting. The meeting has reasserted once again that the Federation should pursue a political and not technical goal, to stimulate and influence decisions on the Mediterranean environment and protected areas at an international, national, regional, and local level. In order to achieve this goal, the participation of high-level decision-makers is necessary. As it was already established, the members will be authorities and institutions in charge of the administration and coordination of the Mediterranean protected areas. The members of the Committee engage in acting towards this direction thanks to their international and national political contacts. To this aim, also the IUCN Center in Malaga will support the Committee. However, it has also been reasserted that the process will need time.

- From 5th to 8th September 2007, the IUCN Mediterranean Members Meeting was held in Malaga. The meeting represented an important occasion to introduce the Federation to strategic interlocutors and potential members, but also to check the need for a broader commitment by high-level institutions.

- On 27th September 2007, after a consultation with the other members of the Committee participating in the IUCN Mediterranean Members Meeting, Federparchi sent a letter to the IUCN Vice-President, the IUCN Director, and the Director of the Center for Mediterranean Cooperation to thank them for the support they have given to the initiative, but also to urge a direct action providing the initiative with a greater support. As a matter of fact, the process has reached a point in which it is necessary to combine the initiative "from the bottom" with a strong initiative by the IUCN core institutions and, possibly, by the organizers of the Barcelona Congress. In that occasion it will be essential to perform formal acts that need a specific preparation. Federparchi commits itself to keep its contacts and continue with its sensitization activities thanks to the network it has created, but at the same time urges IUCN to take the adequate decisions and implement the most useful actions with the governments of the Mediterranean Countries in order to assure a future to what has been already done.

- During the IUCN World Conservation Congress held in Barcelona from 5th to 14th October 2008, the several initiatives dedicated to the Mediterranean have highlighted the richness in actors and contributions the Mediterranean can offer to the global debate on nature conservation and sustainability. However, the wish for the official birth of the Federation of Mediterranean Parks has not come true, above all because of the difficulties found in involving top-level authorities (Governments, Ministries in charge of Protected Areas, etc.) in an initiative that wants to be essentially political, and not merely technical. This demonstrates that there is still a long way to go before the Governments of the Mediterranean Countries consider the protection of the environment a real political priority and international cooperation an essential instrument to achieve it.

- Meanwhile, the cooperation between Federparchi and the other promoters continues through joint projects and initiatives aimed at enhancing the network of relations and collaborations created in these years, waiting for the necessary favorable conditions for the birth of the Federation.

For further information, please contact Federparchi