World Urban Parks (WUP) is the international representative body for urban parks, open space and the recreation sector. WUP connects world leaders through key strategic initiatives and champions the benefits and best practice of parks around the world. Its mission is to promote and support effective management and use of urban parks, open space and recreation world-wide. It also aspires to complement and attain the same level of recognition as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which represents protected areas on the world stage. WUP is also a forum for the exchange of ideas on common environmental, social and economic challenges where urban parks, open space and recreation are part of the solution. To achieve this, WUP acts as an umbrella to national associations, which interconnects park agencies, non-governmental organisations, universities and research institutes – from the Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe and emerging cities.
In 2018-19 of the 467 individual members to the WUP, the Asia-Pacific region supplied 35% of total members, North America 29% and Europe 27%. Over half (56%) of the 97 organisational members were from park/city agencies, and 24% from national peak bodies/professional associations. Becoming a member opens program and professional development opportunities to improve recreation and parks in community settings and ensures members become part of the WUP mission to build open space and recreation world-wide.
The Significance of Urban Parks
In 2009, for the first time ever, the world’s population became more urban than rural. By 2050, around two-thirds of all people will live in cities and urban populations will grow by more than 2 billion people. Cities are major contributors to climate change. According to UN Habitat, cities consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, they account for less than 2% of the Earth’s surface. With the implications of climate change for the world’s biodiversity, conservation and protected areas, natural areas are vital to the biodiversity of the world’s unique flora and fauna. It is therefore imperative to ensure cities are liveable and that everyone has access to urban parks and green space.
History of WUP
It is no secret that the interconnectedness and unity of institutions such as WUP, is strengthened through a network of partnerships and affiliations. The concept of WUP came to fruition in 2015 out of a strategic review of the International Federation of Parks and Recreation Administration (IFPRA) and the International Urban Parks and Green Space Alliance (Parks for Life) in conjunction with other stakeholders.
The IFPRA was a unique international organisation representing and providing a forum for people, organisations and cities managing parks, recreation and conservation. It emerged at the first International Congress of the Institute of Parks Administration in London in 1957. During an open meeting at this Congress, at which there were 742 delegates, 609 from the UK and 133 from other countries, the IFPRA was created.
World Parks Academy
Established in 2013, the World Parks Academy (WPA) is a collaboration between WUP the open space and recreation organisation, and Indiana University, one of the United States’ leading universities in the field of parks, recreation, health and tourism. The IFPRA was absorbed into the WPA in 2015 and united under an international certifying body. The WPA provides competency-based certification and training programs for parks and recreation professionals worldwide. The WUP is also affiliated with WPA, through certification programs with Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and the USA.
WUP is constituted (World Urban Parks Constitution) as a non-governmental, non-profit membership-based peak body. From commencement on 1 April 2015, initial directors were appointed from full members. The Board and the Executive developed clear strategic directions for World Urban Parks, resulting in the World Urban Parks Strategic Statement 2018 (103MB). The WUP’s strategic priorities fall under four main themes:
The Strategic Statement aims to achieve responsibilities regarding World Urban Parks’ contribution to the United Nations Sustainability Goals. The primary goals to which World Urban Parks directly contribute include:
- Good Health and Well-being
- Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
- Climate Action
- Life below Water
- Life on Land
- Partnerships for the Goals.
Key Achievements and Initiatives
The Melbourne Statement
On the policy front, WUP has been actively promoting the value and benefits of urban parks and green spaces through the development of The Melbourne Statement (2018) (note: not the same as the Melbourne Communique) in response to the World Urban Parks congress that lays out key principles in conjunction with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In the statement, the Melbourne 2018 International Parks and Leisure Congress (IPLC) in partnership with Parks and Leisure Australia focused on addressing the pressing global impact and challenges that urban growth and density will have on the future. It outlined many of the challenges, but also addressed how the sector can comprehensively respond to ensure that open spaces are protected, communities improved, and lifestyles enhanced.
The Statement of Collaboration
At the International Parks and Leisure Congress in Melbourne, hosted by Parks and Leisure Australia, World Urban Parks and the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas entered a Statement of Collaboration. This Statement of Collaboration between WUP and the IUCN aims to advance a shared vision for inspiring and empowering people from all walks of life around the world to nurture and connect with nature, parks, and protected areas in and around urban areas.
World Urban Parks Congress
Among many of the initiatives developed by WUP is the World Urban Parks Congress. The Congress of city and community leaders, park professionals, partners, affiliates, and engaged citizens meets annually under the shared goal of advancing parks through intentional successful strategies. Emerging issues under discussion at the 2020 Tirana Congress and the 2021 virtual World Congress include the legacy for cities and communities in the face of global challenges from COVID19 to Climate Change.
Case Study – World Urban Parks Congress in Kazan, Russia (2019)
Kazan is a Russian city and the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. Kazan is identified as a growing, dynamic city with significant opportunities for improved liveability; Kazan has already been placed in the top 10 most sustainably developed cities in the Russian Federation.
Since 2016 the Institute for Urban Development of the Republic of Tatarstan has been implementing the Program for the Development of Public Spaces, under which more than 300 parks, embankments, pedestrian streets, public gardens and squares in all municipal districts of the region were improved.
The principles of sustainable development are reflected in Kazan’s long-term development strategies — from transport, housing and energy- saving technologies to the support of park, cultural and social programs.
Access World Urban Parks Congress Report for a debrief and review of the World Urban Congress Report, Kazan (2019).
Emerging Urban Leaders Program
Another program affiliated with WUP is the Emerging Urban Leaders Program , which addresses the growing demand for access to nature in urban spaces. The program is designed to create and build connections with urban leaders. An emerging urban leader is one who is new to urban parks work, has an idea but not a platform to build upon or is changing careers. Launched in 2021, this initiative has already created a network that includes architects, urban planners, community organisers, policymakers and conservationists, who are matched with mentors to develop innovative solutions and quality cities of the future. The program runs for 12 months with the goal of establishing two-hour monthly working meetings for cohort members to collaborate together.
The World Urban Parks Knowledge Hub (the ‘Knowledge Hub’) is an international platform that supports and informs policy, planning, decision making and contemporary good practices in urban parks. The Knowledge Hub highlights current and emerging themes in the sector, linking international guidelines with research and fostering collaboration among leading agencies and organisations. The Knowledge Hub also houses information on Parks of the World. The Knowledge Hub is initially divided into three sectors: Research and Knowledge, Yardstick Parks, and Parks of the World . The Knowledge Hub also promotes good practice and encourages the sharing of information and knowledge and supports approaches to benchmarking and setting standards such as Yardstick.