Objectives and Structure

Objective and Structure of the Programme of Work on Protected Areas

The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, at its seventh meeting in 2004,adopted the programme of work on protected areas with an overall objective to establish and maintain, by 2010 for terrestrial areas and by 2012 for marine areas, “comprehensive, effectively managed and ecologically representative systems of protected areas” that, collectively, will significantly reduce the rate of loss of global biodiversity. Implementation of the programme of work on protected areas is expected to contribute to the three objectives of the Convention, its strategic plan, the 2010 biodiversity target, and the poverty alleviation and sustainable development targets of the Millennium Development Goals.

Contents of the programme of work

The programme of work on protected areas consists of four interlinked elements mutually reinforcing and cross-cutting in their implementation. In essence, programme element 1 deals with what protected area systems need to conserve and where. Programme elements 2 and 3 address the enabling activities that will ensure successful implementation of the other programme elements, including issues such as the policy environment, governance, participation and capacity-building. Programme element 4 covers the steps needed for assessing and monitoring the effectiveness of actions taken under programme elements 1 to 3. Each programme element consists of specific goals, outcome-oriented targets and related activities. The programme of work contains 16 goals with corresponding targets that set specific dates by which respective goals have to be completed. In many cases the programme of work identifies indicators needed for measuring progress towards the goals. A list of activities, 92 in total, follow each paired goal and target.

Programme elements

Programme element 1 “Direct actions for planning, selecting, establishing, strengthening and managing protected area systems and sites” is in many ways the essence of the programme of work. The goals, targets and activities of this programme element, taken together, define the objectives, nature and extent of the national protected area systems that will ultimately constitute an effective and ecologically representative global network of national and regional protected area systems. Programme element 1 includes establishing and strengthening national and regional systems of protected areas; integration of protected areas into the larger landscape and seascape, and into various sectors of planning; strengthening collaboration between countries for transboundary protected areas conservation; improving site-based planning and management; and preventing the negative impacts of key threats to protected areas. Achieving goal 1.1 is an essential precondition for achieving the overall objective of the programme of work.

Programme element 2 is on “governance, participation, equity and benefit-sharing”. Simply stated, achieving the ultimate goal of the programme of work—establishing comprehensive, ecologically representative and effective protected area systems—requires that serious and systematic attention be paid to socioeconomic and institutional matters, not just to biological factors and criteria. This programme element includes promoting equity and benefit-sharing through increasing the benefits of protected areas for indigenous and local communities, and enhancing the involvement of indigenous and local communities and relevant stakeholders. The central importance for protected areas of governance, participation, equity and benefit-sharing is underscored by devoting one of the four elements of the programme of work to this set of enabling activities.

Programme element 3 “Enabling activities” is about creating an environment that will ensure successful implementation of the other programme elements. It includes providing policies and institutional mechanisms; building capacity for the planning, designation, establishment and management of protected areas; applying appropriate technologies; ensuring financial sustainability; and strengthening communication, education and public awareness. Programme element 3 provides an umbrella for a number of crucial areas where action is needed to establish the conditions and generate the resources, capacities and public support to plan, establish and effectively manage comprehensive, ecologically representative systems of protected areas. Achieving the goals and targets under this programme activity clearly requires action by policy- and decision-makers in many sectors other than protected areas. Policies, laws and resulting economic incentives in the broader economy are the responsibility of a wide range of government agencies and legislative bodies. In many cases, they can only be changed with strong leadership from senior political leaders.

Programme element 4 “Standards, assessment and monitoring” includes developing and adopting minimum standards and best practices; evaluating and improving the effectiveness of protected area management; assessing and monitoring protected area status and trends; and ensuring that scientific knowledge contributes to protected area establishment and effectiveness. Programme element 4 addresses the need for Parties to put in place systems to assess and monitor the effectiveness of their protected area systems. To do so requires a set of standards and criteria against which to measure the effectiveness of management, a system for evaluating the effectiveness of management interventions, and ongoing monitoring of status and trends of both protected areas themselves and the biodiversity that they contain. In addition, it is widely recognized that scientific knowledge of biodiversity needs to be improved and more widely disseminated to those responsible for protected areas management. Implementing the goals under programme element 4 is therefore essential for determining whether the actions taken under programme elements 1 to 3 are having their intended impacts, and for allowing for changes in management strategies and actions where that is not the case.

  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme