Management bodies of protected areas: Present and future

Ioli Christopoulou was one of the panelists during the day-long consultation process titled “Management bodies of protected areas: Present and Future” organized by the Greek Ministry of Environment and Energy on October 9, 2019.

Ioli Christopoulou emphasized the globally recognized contribution of protected areas towards biodiversity conservation as well as the globally recognized need for greater effectiveness of protected areas. The designation of protected areas alone is not sufficient in halting biodiversity loss and in safeguarding the ecosystem services they provide.

During her presentation, she outlined the results of a rapid assessment of the governance of Greece’s protected areas system, based on IUCN methodology.

In this context, she highlighted that biodiversity conservation has a significant appeal in Greek society, as this is reflected in the recent Eurobarometer survey on biodiversity. A large percentage of Greeks (62%) have heard of Natura 2000, even if they do not all know exactly what it is, a percentage significantly higher than the EU average (40%). In addition, the majority of Greeks (57%)  are against a potential damage or degradation of a protected area such as a Natura 2000 site as a result of economic development, or would accept it only in the case of a major project of public interest and if it is fully compensated (40%). Only 1% of those asked note that damage to protected areas is acceptable because economic development takes precedence.

The rapid assessment concludes that following the adoption of Law 4519/2018 on the management bodies of protected areas and other recent actions progress has been noted. Nonetheless, the system of protected areas is marked by gaps mainly due to delayed and weak implementation. Hence, there is significant room for improvement.

The presentation concluded with a set of proposals under the following axes:

1) conclusion of the transitional period of the operation of the management bodies of protected areas;

2) strengthening of the support provided by the central authorities to the management bodies and the concurrent reinforcement of the role of the Nature 2000 Committee;

3) the creation of a new brand “Nature/Parks Greece” so that the protected areas of the countries can become models and nuclei of sustainable development and nature conservation can be connected with such important sectors as the primary sector, education and tourism.