Under-funding of protected areas is a universal challenge. The UNDP supported GEF financed project “Strengthening Governance and Financial Sustainability of the National Protected Area System” sought to improve the financial sustainability of the Ukraine’s national protected area system. To do this, the project: a) developed a comprehensive national strategy for protected area financing, b) introduced business planning for protected areas and piloted options for PA revenue generation. The project also worked to build individual and institutional capacity to raise funds to support PAs through training for PA management and financing and establishment of a national association of protected areas. The project was executed from 2008 to 2012 by the Ukraine’s Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources (MoENR), through its Department of Protected Areas (formerly the State Service for Protected Areas, which was re-structured under a new government in 2010).
In 2008, the government of the Ukraine decided to expand the national PA system to cover a larger area and to improve its effectiveness and representativeness (at that time fewer than 100 PAs of the country’s 7,000 were of international, national or regional biodiversity importance). But there were insufficient funds for PA management and expansion to facilitate this. In 2008, Ukraine’s PAs received approximately 95% of their funding from the government, but this only met about 60% of their financing needs. The project aimed to address this by improving the financial sustainability of the national PA system, establishing mechanisms for revenue generation to supplement the government allocated budget, and improving institutional capacity to establish, manage and finance new protected areas.
National PA financing strategy. The national PA financing strategy reviewed the situation of PAs in the Ukraine, set key objectives for achieving the goal of financial sustainability and identified options for pursuing this. This strategy focused on seeking government approval for policy and legal tools PAs need to diversify and develop new financing options themselves. An action plan to implement the strategy at the national level, assigning the responsible institutions, was also developed.
PA Business planning. The Ukraine’s first ever PA business plans were developed for the project’s pilot sites, Shatsk National Nature Park (NNP) and Pripyat-Stokhid NNP, to demonstrate the business planning approach. These were followed by a national seminar on PA business planning to promote business planning for PAs to more than 20 PA Directors.
Investment in public-private partnerships and tourism infrastructure. The project worked to develop and invest in partnerships between protected area administrations and the private sector as means of generating revenue for both. Mini-grants were offered for projects such as the renovation of a historic building in Pripyat-Stokhid National Nature Park into a ranger station and education centre and development of a horse-riding trail in Shatsk National Nature Park. The project also invested in development of potential tourism itineraries and routes that could then be implemented by a private tourism company and in tourist rental cabins managed by the PA administration.
Systemic change is rarely possible without the full support of all key stakeholders. The level of support from the most critical government stakeholder, the MoENR, shifted following the change in government in 2010. As a result, institutionalising the adoption of products developed under the project, including the national strategy for PA financing and replication of business planning approach became challenging.
Fully integrate business planning processes into national PA management planning. Business planning needs to be well integrated and directly linked with all elements of standard PA management planning to ensure that business plans are fully implemented.
Education and awareness activities can contribute to success. School eco-clubs, special park events and campaigns helped to raise the profile of parks, attract eco-tourism and build stakeholder support for parks as part of the financial sustainability strategy. Innovative public events that required relatively little financial investment, such as a hand hay-mowing tournament held in Pripyat-Stokhid NNP, generated significant benefits in terms of public buy-in, awareness, publicity, and revenue generation.
Improved PA financial sustainability scores. Despite operation during a period of political change and economic hardship, the combined effects of the project’s work were reflected in major improvements in the financial sustainability scores of Ukraine’s national PA system during the project’s lifetime.
Enhanced capacity. A significant achievement was the establishment of the Ukrainian Association of Protected Areas. This Association united 24 out of 45 national parks to strengthen coordinated action and enable exchange of experience among their staff, thereby increasing their capacity to raise funds to support their protected areas.
PAs seen as asset for local economic development. The project’s advocacy efforts helped to influence the local population and government’s view of PAs. Over time they began to see PAs as an asset to the economy and a driver of sustainable local economic development.