At a meeting of the International Coral Reefs Initiative (ICRI), the United Nations Foundation (UNF) announced today funding for a pioneering project aimed at reversing the decline of the world’s coral reefs.
The International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), which has potentially secured up to $10 million from the UN Foundation – the largest to date in the Foundation’s environment portfolio – will support “flagship” coral reef management demonstration sites in four Regional Seas: the wider Caribbean, East Africa, East Asia and the South Pacific (see Attachment “A” for detailed site information). These sites will become blueprints for managing threatened coral reefs worldwide – protecting them from over-fishing, pollution, oil spills and growing coastal populations.“
Coral reef management and sustainability are pressing challenges for the international community. And ICRAN is an innovative and exciting approach to meet this challenge,” said Timothy E. Wirth, President of the UN Foundation. “ICRAN’s approach is an example of the kinds of partnerships that are needed to effectively respond to new and emerging threats to marine habitats.”
“The time for talking is over and the time to act is now,” said Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). “We need a response on a regional and a global scale. The ICRAN project, with generous funding from the UN Foundation, offers practical solutions and real hope of stemming the tide in favor of these beautiful and economically important marine areas.”
ICRAN’s four-year Action Plan is being implemented by an impressive coalition of organizations – a result of previous UNF funding for a “start-up” phase (see Attachment “B” for more information). The coalition includes UNEP, the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre; Regional Seas Programmes for the Caribbean, Eastern Africa, and East Asia; World Fish Centre; World Resources Institute; International Coral Reef Initiative Secretariat; Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network; Coral Reef Alliance and South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.
ICRAN has three major components – assessment, management and communications. ICRAN is a key activity of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), a government-NGO partnership that is committed to the conservation and management of coral reefs. ICRI was established in 1994 and is endorsed by 80 countries.
Under the UNF-funded initiative, a minimum of three reef projects in each of the four Regional Seas involved will be selected as demonstration sites or “centers of excellence” that will highlight some of the best available examples to reverse the decline of coral reefs. Demonstration sites could include Si’an kan Biosphere Reserve (Mexico), Malindi and Watamu Marine Parks and National Reserve (Kenya) and Arnavon Islands Conservation Area (Solomon Islands). In addition, “target communities” are being identified to benefit from the information learned at the demonstration sites, and in turn, educate other local communities to replicate these successes. Target sites include Portland Bight and Negril (Jamaica), Dar es Salaam Marine Reserves System (Tanzania) and Bunaken Park (Indonesia).
“Communication with the wider public will be a major priority for ICRAN,” said a spokesperson for the ICRI Secretariat in the Philippines. “It is only through wide-spread public awareness and grass-roots support for coral reef conservation, especially at the local and village level in developing countries, that the current over-use and degradation of coral reefs can be reversed.”
“Coral reefs have survived everything from tropical cyclones to rising and falling sea levels. But human threats are becoming their greatest challenge yet,” said Dr. Meryl Williams, Director General of the World Fish Centre. “ICRAN’s education component will not only benefit coral reefs, but their surrounding human communities as well.”
Through education programs, ICRAN will also promote environmentally safe activities near reefs, including eco-friendly tourism, and will provide funding for the monitoring and recovery of threatened reefs.”ICRAN is a historic first step in the global effort to preserve coral reefs. But UNF’s funding is only laying the foundation for this innovative approach,” said Wirth. “ICRAN estimates that an additional $20-$30 million must be raised to ensure success. We all need to work together to mobilize both public and private support in order to preserve these natural treasures for future generations.”
For more information, please visit the following websites:
International Coral Reef Action Network: www.icran.org
International Coral Reef Initiative Forum: www.icriforum.org
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration: www.coralreef.noaa.gov
The United Nations Foundation: www.unfoundation.org
The United Nations Environment Programme: www.unep.org
The United Nations Foundation was created in 1998 with businessman and philanthropist R.E. Turner’s historic gift to support UN causes. The United Nations Foundation promotes a more peaceful, prosperous, and just world through the support of the United Nations and its Charter. Through its grantmaking and by building new and innovative public-private partnerships, the United Nations Foundation acts to meet the most pressing health, humanitarian, socioeconomic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century.