A year since its formation, The Universal Ranger Support Alliance (URSA), a first of its kind coalition of global conservation organizations in support of rangers, has launched its detailed Action Plan, a pioneering five-year roadmap to bring much-needed reform, recognition and representation to the ranger workforce.
As we mark World Ranger Day 2021, URSA’s Action Plan will bring critical interventions in ranger advocacy and representation, community-ranger relations, equality and equity in the ranger workforce, among other key objectives. By ensuring that the urgently needed investments, tools, reforms, and policy changes are put in place, URSA’s Action Plan sets out to create an enabling environment for professionalising rangers so that they can serve their duties effectively and responsibly.
“We cannot underestimate the vital role played by our rangers globally. To support their incredible efforts, URSA has created an ambitious action plan to advocate for rangers, develop their capacity, create employment and welfare standards, and build an equitable and equal profession where the rights of all are respected. We encourage partners to join URSA and collectively work towards this vision,“ said Chris Gordon, chair of the URSA steering committee
Rangers play a vital role in maintaining planetary health. From helping avert future pandemics by protecting the world’s last remaining biodiversity hotspots to addressing water shortages among local communities by constructing water sources — their roles and contributions are as diverse as the layered challenges they tirelessly address.
In Colombia, rangers have produced research on how indigenous communities have been impacted by mercury contamination from illegal gold mining. In Cambodia, community rangers have developed indigenous-led patrolling models that have ensured the survival of the nearly extinct Siamese Crocodile, and the critical habitat they share. In addition, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many rangers have also been at the frontlines of the pandemic response, tasked with raising awareness on pandemic prevention, addressing food insecurity by delivering food rations to hard-to-reach communities, and responding to an uptick in illegal logging and wildlife crime in many parts of the world.
“This has been a particularly taxing year for rangers who have the unenviable task of having to tackle the twin global crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, which poses current and future threats to people, the environment and global heritage,” says Chris Galliers, president of the International Ranger Federation. “As if that were not enough, they have also had to do this in the midst of a global pandemic which has resulted in increased health risks and also threatened their job security. We thank those rangers who have passed, whose lives we will remember and celebrate, as well as the current rangers whose true value as planetary health professionals must be fully recognized.”
Despite their critical role, many rangers continue to work under extremely harsh health, welfare, and safety conditions with minimal support, pay, and insurance and sometimes without contracts. The pandemic has also taken a significant toll on the sector; In the wake of COVID-19, a global survey found that nearly half of rangers in Asia and Africa had no immediate access to healthcare. It also found that 1 in 4 rangers have lost their jobs, although many continued to work without contracts.
According to the International Ranger Federation and the Thin Green Line Foundation, in 2020-2021, 120 rangers lost their lives in the line of duty — due to homicides, wildlife attacks, motor accidents, and other daily threats to their safety. We also lost 500 rangers due to COVID-19. These numbers are likely only the tip of the iceberg.
“Rangers are planetary health workers, striving to conserve the world’s resources, habitats, wildlife, and communities. Surely, basic necessities for their safety and well-being are the least that they deserve,” said Linda Nunn, International Ranger Federation’s vice president.
Steps forward in addressing these gaps in the ranger workforce are already underway. In April 2021, the International Ranger Federation (IRF), with support from URSA, launched the world’s first Global Ranger Code of Conduct, and have begun working towards its implementation. In early July, IRF and URSA also announced the launch of the first comprehensive and global analysis of the challenges and opportunities for bringing gender equality into the ranger workforce. Evidence presented in this upcoming report suggests that bringing gender equality into the ranger workforce has the potential to improve conservation, relationships with communities, park management, and wildlife management.
URSA was formed in response to the Chitwan Declaration, a detailed list of needs and priorities for rangers — including calls to strengthen ranger capacity, introduce welfare standards, build ranger-community relationships, mainstream gender equality, leverage technology, and promote further inclusion of Indigenous and community rangers. Signed by more than 550 rangers from 70 countries gathered at the World Ranger Congress in 2019, it remains the largest public statement by world rangers in history.
Through its roadmap, URSA will continue working with the IRF, the conservation community, government partners, ranger associations, community organisations and other stakeholders to address the need for change and implement the Chitwan Declaration — for the benefit of biodiversity and people.
URSA's founding members are Fauna & Flora International, Force For Nature, Re:wild, International Ranger Federation, Panthera, IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, World Wide Fund For Nature, and Zoological Society of London. For more information, visit: ursa4rangers.org
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