Protected areas are the cornerstone of the European Union's global strategy for the protection of nature and wildlife.
Protected areas are important for preserving biological diversity. They are also major economic assets and sources of formal employment in management, tourism and associated private enterprises. These opportunities arise not only inside the protected areas but also in their buffer zones and neighbouring areas.
The 10th Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP-10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya set ambitious new targets to be reached by 2020. These targets call for at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water and 10% of coastal and marine areas to be protected.
However, governments often only have limited capacities to establish, finance and manage protected areas. The European Commission has therefore been funding a wide variety of actions for many years.
These initiatives are designed to support the development and sustainable management of protected areas and their neighbouring landscapes, including buffer zones and biological corridors, the construction of access roads, ecotourism lodges, park headquarters, training for managers, and research and scientific monitoring. The central strategy is always to ensure that local populations are involved in the management of resources and receive benefits from them inside and outside the protected areas.