Spiritual values are of major importance in protected areas, and even though a large proportion of visitors shows special interest in them, they are often neglected when it comes to the identification, assessment and effective ways of adequately integrating them into protected area planning and management. Approaches to the management and governance of protected and conserved areas need to be grounded not only in solid scientific research and practice, but also in deeply held cultural, spiritual and aesthetic values and ideas capable of inspiring conservation of nature and culture. Otherwise, they risk failing to win the broad support of key stakeholders, ranging from Indigenous Peoples and local communities to followers of mainstream religions and members of the general public.
The workshop “Cultural and Spiritual Significance of Nature in the Governance and Management of Protected and Conserved Areas” organised by the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Specialist Group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas (CSVPA) in collaboration with the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, took place in the International Academy for Nature Conservation on the Isle of Vilm, Germany on the 12th – 16th June 2017. Irini Lyratzaki from MedINA, Secretary of the DELOS Initiative on Sacred Natural Sites in technologically developed countries was invited to participate and contribute to the development of IUCN Best Practice Guidelines (BPG) on Promoting the Cultural and Spiritual Significance of Nature in Protected Area Management and Governance. The workshop, which was attended by approximately 25 participants from around the world, was the second one to be organised on the island of Vilm – a nature reserve – on the same topic.
The workshop combined presentations in plenary and work undertaken in three parallel working groups so as to take forward the development of Best Practice Guidelines. Throughout the three day workshop significant progress was made on various aspects of the BPG, ranging from its structure and chapters to the case studies it will put forward and the related training module for users. Workshop participants had the opportunity to walk on the paths of Vilm Island, a biodiversity hotspot unique to the Baltic region and they also participated in a field trip in the South-East Ruegen Biosphere Reserve on the island of Ruegen.
The ultimate aim of the BPG is to contribute to expanding the scope of protected area management and governance to acknowledge and take into account the rights and aspirations of stakeholders from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds. The workshop participants will further contribute to the finalisation of the BPGs, which should be completed by November 2017. The activities are part of the WCPA Specialist Group on Cultural and Spiritual Values of Protected Areas’ (CSVPA) programme on the cultural and spiritual significance of nature in protected and conserved areas governance and management.