Introduction to Protected Areas

Protected areas (PAs) have received much attention for their role in the conservation and sustainable use of global biodiversity, and multilateral agreements call for increasing their global coverage. In addition, the establishment and management of PAs raise complex social and economic issues due to the control, and often exclusion, of human uses in areas designated for protection. Several MEAs have responded, including WHC, Ramsar and MAB, which focus on the variety of different aspects of the protection of areas and more recently the CBD has produced a Programme of Work on Protected Areas.

A relatively broad definition of PA has been used when selecting obligations for this module; managed areas not officially recognized as PAs are not, therefore, excluded. The IUCN definition of PA (“an area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means”) and its associated categories is the most widely used system. IUCN PA categories have not been interpreted consistently or assigned systematically, however, and some managed areas are not officially recognized as PAs. Obligations and commitments that deal with the management or protection of any specifically mentioned habitat or area are, therefore, included.

The PA module has eight sections; the first seven of which mirror the core design of the other issue-based modules, facilitating information gathering across these modules. One additional section deals with an issue requiring special attention for PAs: Stakeholders and indigenous and local communities. It is widely recognized that the involvement of these communities is crucial to the successful establishment and sustainability of PAs and this section brings together obligations and commitments relating to this topic. A brief description of the sections is provided below.

  • Assessment: including information-gathering and evaluation on all PA processes and the methods used to do this, such as monitoring, research and inventories; assessing projects; developing standards and indicators for assessments or management of PAs; and establishing mechanisms to document knowledge.
  • Legislative measures and national policies: including existing policy and legislation, national-scale plans, programmes and strategies, the establishment, development and promotion of policies and legislation, and the establishment of PAs.
  • Management: including management planning and intervention, the application of the results of assessments, and the conservation and restoration of habitats.
  • Economic instruments: including incentives, market-based mechanisms, valuation, financial strategies for PAs, and the distribution of benefits from PAs including compensation to local communities.
  • Provision of resources: including obligations and commitments relating to the provision of funding and technical resources for biodiversity conservation in PAs. Technical resources include training, the transfer of technologies and the building of institutional capacity.
  • Communication, education and public awareness: including raising awareness of biodiversity conservation in PAs, evaluating campaigns specifically targeted at raising awareness, disseminating scientific research, providing information to others and reporting on progress to conventions and Parties.
  • Cooperation: including coordination across sectors, internationally and nationally, and partnerships between Parties and organizations.
  • Stakeholders and indigenous and local communities: including all obligations relating to stakeholders and indigenous and local communities at any stage of PA implementation and management.

There are obvious linkages between sections. Obligations and commitments are preferentially assigned to one section, but are duplicated in other sections if they contain multiple strong themes. Author commentaries are used to highlight specific relations between duplication of obligations and commitments or to specify other details with regards to the convention text. If users are interested in a particular section, they are advised to view similar sections, which are pointed out in section introductions.

Sections are divided into activities. Activities are ordered to begin with the general obligations on Parties regarding PAs, followed by the more specific obligations. It is anticipated that this order would allow a user to start at the beginning of each section and work his or her way through in a logical order. Under specific activities, relevant articles of MEAs are listed first followed by decisions, resolutions, etc., which occur in chronological order, with the most recent obligations listed first. Some of the activities are further divided into components. Within components or activities, obligations are first grouped by whether they are directly or indirectly relevant to the PA module. Directly relevant obligations and commitments refer to PAs specifically. Indirectly relevant obligations and commitments are those that should be taken into consideration in dealing with PA issues but do not necessarily refer to PAs. Indirectly relevant obligations should be useful to those dealing with processes in PAs and may apply to areas that are managed but not officially recognized as PAs.