New Alliance to Generate Environmental Awareness Across Priority Hotspots

2/20/2003

"Pride Campaigns" Working to Save Species & Habitats

A multinational corps of community educators will soon begin reaching out to millions of people around the globe with a single mission: to promote local pride in the environment in some of the planet's most threatened ecosystems. The project, called Building a Global Constituency for Biodiversity Conservation, is based on a methodology that has already been successful in protecting endangered species, and creating new reserves and environmental legislation in more than 30 countries.

The project is the result of an alliance between the RARE Center for Tropical Conservation and Conservation International's International Communications Department. While RARE has successfully used "Pride Campaigns" for nearly two decades, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) recently committed nearly $2 million to expand the initiative to include 13 sites within priority conservation areas, or "Hotspots," in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Southern and West Africa and Central and South America.

"RARE is the institution of choice when it comes to demonstrated leadership in the conservation awareness business," said Jorgen Thomsen, executive director of CEPF. "With this grant - the largest we've ever issued - we will not only help to take RARE to a new level but significantly increase the number of new conservation leaders that result from RARE's awareness campaigns."

CEPF, a joint initiative of Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the World Bank and the Japanese government, aims to invest at least $150 million in biodiversity hotspots — highly threatened regions where more than 60 percent of terrestrial species diversity is found on only 1.4 percent of the Earth's surface.

To prepare for this project, selected participants from environmentally strategic sites will travel to universities in England and Mexico to receive specialized training. After 10-weeks at UK's University of Kent at Canterbury or Mexico's University of Guadalajara , they will return to their communities to design and implement intensive 10 ½ month awareness campaigns with CEPF's financial support. These campaigns will be followed-up with an additional 14-month strategy to consolidate the gains through additional community outreach, environmental education, conservation marketing, and monitoring and evaluation programs.

As part of the grant agreement, RARE will also launch 13 new campaigns in additional areas, matching the CEPF investment dollar-for-dollar.

In the past, RARE's strategy has been instrumental in generating concrete conservation results. New nature reserves have been created throughout the Caribbean, and the program — which focuses awareness efforts around a charismatic flagship species — has helped protect the St Lucia parrot, Grenada dove, hawksbill sea turtle, great green macaw, giant swallow-tail butterfly and resplendent quetzal, among others.

"Pride campaigns are effective because they can make an entire island, region, even nation excited about conservation, by helping people realize that their natural resources are worth protecting," said RARE Vice President Paul Butler who created the Pride Campaign concept in St. Lucia and is now based at the University of Kent. "Through this project, we will have the opportunity to scale up our program and more widely share our experience with local groups and environmental leaders dedicated to protecting biodiversity in some of the world’s most imperiled ecosystems."

In 1994, the newly created Palau Conservation Society (PCS) was trying to take a stand against the numerous threats jeopardizing 77,000 acres of unique tropical forest. But widespread public apathy and lack of political will on the Micronesian island were hampering their efforts.

With RARE training, PCS implemented a campaign to rally public support behind the endemic fruit dove, called the Biib, as a symbol of Palauan pride. The strategy worked and within seven years five protected areas were created thanks to PCS' advocacy.

"Conservation International's vast experience in regional, national and international campaigns will allow us to leverage the impact of this work," said Haroldo Castro, vice president of International Communications at Conservation International. "We are certain that partnerships with local media outlets and environmental journalists will help boost the impact of future campaigns and will guarantee concrete benefits for conservation."

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