A conference hosted by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, began today in Panama.

It is held under the theme: “Giving a voice to people and nature.” Outcomes from the Forum will feed into next year’s World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. The countries participating this week represent a “unique region on the global environmental agenda,” since Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean are among the world’s most vulnerable areas for climate change.

According to Grethel Aguilar, regional director of IUCN:

[quote_center]“It is a forum where the voices of those promoting actions in nature conservation and sustainable development in the region can share their experiences, good practices and build together a work plan for the period 2017-2020 under the framework of the IUCN´s global efforts.”[/quote_center]

In addition to almost 300 people from various NGOs, governments, private companies, civil society organizations and research institutions, the conference will be attended by IUCN’s President, Zhang Xinsheng and Director General, Inger Anderson.

Topics for Discussion

Each day of the event will be dedicated to a different area of environmental sustainability and human welfare.

Day 1: Sharing knowledge between leaders of environmental organizations. Special emphasis will be given to Panama’s conservation agenda.

Days 2 & 3: Discussion among IUCN regional members regarding the organization’s work program which includes initiatives in biodiversity conservation, natural solutions to climate change and strengthening environmental governance.

Results from the First Day

The Forum jumped off to a good start today by launching a new program, “The Caribbean Protected Areas Gateway (Caribbean Gateway),” which will host an online data and information platform known as a Regional Reference Information System (RRIS). The RRIS will give the Caribbean region free and open access to data and information on protected areas and livelihoods, ecological characteristics of listed protected areas, management effectiveness of these areas and the current governance of the areas.

According to Dr. Patrick McConney, Senior Lecturer at CERMES:

[quote_center]“The launch of the Caribbean Gateway was a critical moment for the UWI in terms of our role in regional networking and sustainable development as it concerns linking data to better decision-making.”[/quote_center]

“There is clearly considerable demand for the products that the Gateway can provide,” he continues. “However, the quality and quantity depends largely on the engagement and contribution of stakeholders, who will be the ultimate beneficiaries and users.”

The Gateway will be managed by European Union’s Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) Programme in the Caribbean and the University of the West Indies (UWI)’s Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES).

What Will Happen Next?

With such an exciting initiative launching on the Forum’s first day, it will be interesting to see where the next two days will lead. Stay tuned.