Management plans are again at the heart of this direction. To optimize the support that is provided to PAs, we have to proceed strategically and in an organized way: this is done through a common, shared, simple and pragmatic document that meets the expectations of all the PA partners, who will in turn respect and abide by it. We too often see sorcerer’s apprentices financing their own ideas without any consideration for the existing knowledge, the people’s know-how, the site’s history… and without taking into account the stakeholders’ capacities to act. Very often too, without consideration for on-going or planned actions, without real synergy with other supports, without sincere intention to collaborate beyond what is necessary to obtain some needed co-financing. These projects follow their own logic, that could be described as de-constructive and short-term oriented, and generally create imbalances that will take years to be compensated for. Heritage of past times, they are not building capacities of the future but on the contrary, they strengthen yesterday’s gaps. We know that this can be easily corrected and the first three directions of the road map will contribute accordingly to that purpose (improve consultation and supervision for stronger decisions, share them, and raise all actors’ awareness on conservation issues related to PAs). However, we can go further now by clearly defining new rules for all of us to make sure that we walk in the same direction. Thinking of more sustainable financial and technical supports, with means that will evolving over time alongside the existing needs, and according to the users’ abilities, avoiding short cycles for projects and shortages of funds, mixing sources and supports to avoid partial and arbitrary decisions, sharing objectives, methods, indicators for common accountability of all projects and programs, imposing management plans as the backbone for positive achievements, respecting those who are in charge of implementing them… In one word, defining and following a sort of good conduct code for project implementation. This is not utopia, but will certainly change some habits!
Therefore, the seventh direction proposed by the road map deals with the emergency to review the way we are working, in particular for development partners when they are involved in conservation. We must think of a common basis of key principles to make sure that our supports contribute their best to conservation. We must think of guides or codes that will govern projects (whatever their size) for them to strengthen each other and promote the best practices, the best stakeholders, the best impacts.
There is much flexibility to be kept over time, and much to be learnt from successful experiences.
Apart from the support, often crucial, of donors (see direction 7), there is a multitude of potential resources for PAs, many of which are still unknown or under used. And yet, it is by significantly diversifying the sources of revenues that we’ll build sustainable PAs that will, at last, be independent of temporary, therefore risky, financing. As usual, the first step is to spend the money more efficiently and, if need be, to save money as much as possible. It is simple and however, rarely done as annual PA budgets are locked in procedures and habits (the same budget is conducted again every year) that limit their optimization. Then comes the search for resources. Some are already known (tourism, sustainable exploitation of a few resources, taxes…) and can, most of the time, be profoundly improved, provided that their management is delegated to the good operators, within the good partnerships, thus opening the PA management decision-making circle (direction 1). Some have not yet been mobilized (funding for ecosystem services, carbon storage, REDD+…) and managers will have to learn how to call for the required competences without losing tracks of their management plan goals. And some other external financing sources also exist, like trust funds, donations, sponsoring… that can usefully complement all the other resources once they are optimized. These are ways, there are others… but we can imagine that they require many competences and new skills; this also goes in the sense of widely opening parks’ governance to include and enhance new profiles who will bring on board these new competences and make decisions more efficient and reliable.
Therefore, the eighth direction of the road map proposes to continue and strengthen the progresses that have been underway for years and which aim to enhance all the resources the territory can benefit from. However, this will happen only if managers are not left alone in face of these evolutions (that they cannot fully manage) and if they accept to diversify governance bodies in order to give them the capacity to draw the best from all these forms of revenues, in transparency and professionalism.
The last direction of the road map is the continuation of all the previous ones and cannot be implemented unless all of them have been followed (and certainly some others this road map could not list). This direction is about identifying and recognizing the territories that have made progress, the successful partners, the parks where conservation has finally been achieved, today and for the future. Very few in reality are already at this stage in Africa, but some exist, depending on the regions, depending on the management categories, depending on leaders’ political commitment, depending on managers’ technical capacities, depending on partners’ support, depending on the history etc. But all together, these territories do not form the required critical mass to expect to sustainably conserve the continent’s natural resources. Much more is needed, better is needed, more coverage of the territory is needed, more connectivity, new exemplary practices, more men engaged, more favourable practices, more perceptive and efficient donors… As this will not happen by itself, a driving force is needed, a label, an acknowledgement that counts, shows successful examples, rewards the best initiatives. Not an « additional » label that endures even when all indicators are already red and values are lost, like for example that of the “World Heritage” today in some sites of Africa, but a glowing report for those that are working, day after day, a label depending on stakeholders’ efforts that would collapse if they stopped working. Of course, this movement is not only African, and the green list of the best protected areas will be global (to enable each one to position themselves), but the continent must join this movement and proudly show its successes and heritage. It is in the light of those successes that the incredible degradation of all the rest will become unbearable to us and that, let us hope, discussions, workshops, forums, conferences… road maps (!)… will become acts then results, then impacts.
The ninth direction proposed by the road map will guide us towards recognizing the best PAs of the continent. Not the most important ones, not the richest ones, not the biggest ones… but those where the best work is achieved, those that have developed the best methods, applied the best practices and eradicated all the other, those that are proud of their results, in their own context, those which managers, partners, friends… can and should be congratulated. They exist, they have to be identified and recognized on the basis of clear and transparent criteria. Then we’ll build on this network an exemplary PA group that will attract money and energy and will open the way towards new PAs…safe, effective and sustainable.