7th World Ranger Congress (2012)
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264 delegates from 40 countries came together at Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge in Arusha, Tanzania from 4th to 9th November for the 7th World Ranger Congress.
Delegates made the most of social events such as a cultural night and evening videos, building connections throughout the international ranger family which will remain as people return home.
An indisputable highlight of the week was the field trips, with those going to Ngorongoro Crater the prizewinners as they witnessed lions take down a buffalo right in front of their eyes!
The program included a great variety of inspiring keynote speakers, field-based presentations and workshops tackling the Working Towards Healthy Parks, Dealing With Hungry People themes of: making it happen; marketing & networking; challenges facing protected areas; capacity building; and ranger challenges & solutions.
From all that was shared through the congress (formally and informally), it seems apparent that around the world protected areas and the rangers working in the field to look after them are coming under greater levels of threats than ever before. Additionally, those threats are accelerating at an unprecedented rate.
We are seeing attacks on wildlife; attacks on the jobs of rangers; threats to the careers of rangers; and on protected areas by competing land uses etc. There are many hungry people.
An approach of “business as usual” is not going to address the threats we are facing. If we want to improve the situation, or in fact simply maintain the position we are in today without it becoming any worse, we need to adapt our responses. It’s about aiming high, and then giving it our best shot.
Through the congress we saw that many associations, and other organisations, are working hard and achieving wins. They are out there tackling issues and projects locally, and internationally.
What we’re not doing so well though is sharing the stories of what’s happening out there on the ground, providing the opportunities to learn from each other in a tangible way, and to draw the inspiration from others – which then motivates us to keep up our own efforts.
A world ranger congress is a perfect place for sharing our stories. But of course a congress is only every few years, and only the people who are here. The next step is to ensure we are all actively using mechanisms such as the IRF website to continue sharing our challenges and achievements and inspiring each other to try new things.
A prevailing message throughout the sessions was the value, and indeed the necessity, of partnerships and collaborative working relationships. Our best achievements come when we are working together. We saw partnerships between protected areas and communities, partnerships between member associations, partnerships between associations and other organisations, and partnerships between other organisations and the broader vision of the IRF.
From this it became clear that if we hope to achieve big things, such as tackling the accelerating threats on our parks and our colleagues, we need to actively foster high level partnerships, such as with government agencies, international NGO’s, and the IUCN.
The congress consistently confirmed that we have a demonstrated strength in field operations, and an increasing strength in providing field support to our colleagues. This is not surprising, as we are rangers after all. It’s important that we hang on to these strengths and continue to build on them, for example through Rangers without Borders. We also need to go beyond our field-based comfort zone and towards effective representation and long term support or improvements, taking on the role of driving force from a high level and strategic perspective.
Another prevailing theme was commercial conservation crime internationally, with an extensive illicit trade in wildlife products – elephant, rhino, tigers, marine life . . . and vultures at a more local level. To tackle this massive problem requires communication and action across regions, and multi-level action . . . from better equipping patrols on the ground, right through to advocacy and lobbying with international governments such as the EU parliament, the UN, Interpol etc. As with most things, this is certainly not something we can tackle alone.
Capacity building! . . . another common theme. And one which has in fact been common to all World Ranger Congresses. We as the international ranger community have long since recognised the importance of rangers having sufficient skills, knowledge and resources, something which is still insufficient in many areas. We saw through the congress that the IRF is partnering with the WCPA on their Global Partnership for Professionalizing Protected Areas (GPPPAM) as one of the means to improve this situation.
Back to hungry people . . . rangers and protected areas are an integral part of society, subject to the social and economic influences of the day. An understanding of these interactions is fundamental for achieving conservation outcomes. Effective collaboration. To ignore this, and to ignore our neighbours and to not consider this wherever we work, is to our own detriment.
In conclusion – we saw various examples of delivery happening, and potentially happening, mainly through partnerships and collaboration. The take home message from the 7th World Ranger Congress: “Let’s pull together and work together as much as possible!”
Our thanks to everyone who helped us make the 7th World Ranger Congress the great week it was.
Congress Organising Team
Saturday 10th November 2012