Protected Areas

2.1 - Equity, benefits and governance

Goal 2.1: To promote equity and benefit-sharing


Establish by 2008 mechanisms for the equitable sharing of both costs and benefits arising from the establishment and management of protected areas.

Suggested activities of the Parties

  • 2.1.1. Assess the economic and socio-cultural costs, benefits and impacts arising from the establishment and maintenance of protected areas, particularly for indigenous and local communities, and adjust policies to avoid and mitigate negative impacts, and where appropriate compensate costs and equitably share benefits in accordance with the national legislation.

  • 2.1.2. Recognize and promote a broad set of protected area governance types related to their potential for achieving biodiversity conservation goals in accordance with the Convention, which may include areas conserved by indigenous and local communities and private nature reserves. The promotion of these areas should be by legal and/or policy, financial and community mechanisms.

  • 2.1.3. Establish policies and institutional mechanisms with full participation of indigenous and local communities, to facilitate the legal recognition and effective management of indigenous and local community conserved areas in a manner consistent with the goals of conserving both biodiversity and the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities.

  • 2.1.4. Use social and economic benefits generated by protected areas for poverty reduction, consistent with protected-area management objectives.

  • 2.1.5. Engage indigenous and local communities and relevant stakeholders in participatory planning and governance, recalling the principles of the ecosystem approach.

  • 2.1.6. Establish or strengthen national policies to deal with access to genetic resources within protected areas and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their utilization, drawing upon the Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits Arising out of their Utilization as appropriate.

Key activities include:

  • Assess the costs, benefits and impacts of establishing and maintaining protected areas
  • Recognize and promote a broad set of protected area governance types
  • Establish policies and mechanisms to legally recognize indigenous and local community conserved areas
  • Use protected area benefits to reduce poverty
  • Engage indigenous and local communities in participatory planning
  • Establish and strengthen policies to address fair and equitable benefits from access to genetic resources

What are the costs and benefits of establishing protected areas?

The costs of establishing and maintaining protected areas include both direct and indirect costs, such as the purchase of land, the relocation of communities, and the loss of potential tax revenue. Protected area benefits are defined as the material and non-material benefits, goods, values and services that flow to community members living in or near a protected area. Equitable distribution is the dispersal of these benefits to a variety of stakeholders based on principles of fairness, justice, social equity and ethical considerations.

What is an assessment of the costs and benefits of establishing protected areas?

An assessment of costs and benefits of protected areas, therefore, includes an assessment of the costs of establishing protected areas, and the degree to which benefits are distributed equitably among stakeholders and communities.

What steps are involved in assessing protected area costs and benefits?

Typical steps involved in assessing protected area costs and benefits include:
  1. Assess the range of costs associated with establishing and maintaining protected areas, and identify who bears these direct and indirect costs.
  2. Identify the range of benefits provided by the protected area system, and identify who benefits from each of these. Some general principles and best practices to consider when assessing protected area costs and equitable benefits sharing include the extent to which :
    1. the protected area policy environment promotes equitable benefits sharing of goods and services;
    2. indigenous and traditional knowledge and practices are safeguarded, particularly in the economic use of genetic resources;
    3. sites of cultural significance are adequately protected, particularly where there are high levels of ecotourism;
    4. a portion of protected area benefits are reinvested toward poverty reduction of local and indigenous communities;
    5. legal and de facto tenure and use rights are considered when determining equitable distribution of benefits;
    6. multi-stakeholder groups are used when setting policies and monitoring practices related to benefits sharing;
    7. ethnic, intergenerational and gender representation is included when negotiating the distribution of benefits;
    8. principles of full prior consent are maintained at all times during negotiations;
    9. any resettlement of community members is fully compensated, and only with full prior consent;
    10. laws and legal agreements are clear, transparent and fully understood by all parties, particularly those with limited educational backgrounds; and
    11. clear policies and guidelines for sharing benefits are developed within management plans.
  3. Identify a range of strategies to improve the equitable distribution of protected area benefits, following best principles and practices for benefits sharing.

What is an assessment of protected area governance?

Protected area governance is defined as the degree to which protected area decision-making practices and structures follow fair, equitable and ethical principles across an array of different protected area management types and categories. An assessment of protected area governance, therefore, entails two aspects: an assessment of the type and category of protected areas within a given system, and the extent to which protected areas follow recognized principles of good governance.

What steps are involved in assessing protected area governance?

Typical steps involved in assessing protected area governance include:
  1. For each protected area within the country, identify the category (e.g., the IUCN Category) and the governance type (e.g., governed by national or local government; shared governance through trans-boundary or co-management arrangements; private governance through individual, non-profit or corporate owners; and community governance through indigenous people’s territories and community conserved areas.
  2. Identify the extent to which major protected areas follow principles of good governance, including: i) legitimacy and voice in protected area management, particularly the level of participation and the degree of consensus in decision making; ii) accountability of the protected area management to local communities, the public and other key stakeholders, including transparency of decision making; iii) performance of protected area management, including responsiveness, efficiency, effectiveness and efficacy; iv) fairness in decision making, including equitable benefits sharing among key stakeholders, and application of the rule of law; and v) leadership of protected area policy makers, including strategic vision and clear direction based on the ecological, historical and socio-cultural complexities of protected areas.
  3. Incorporate the results of the governance assessments within the ecological gap assessment, in order to better understand the levels of protection for each focal biodiversity feature.
  4. Based on the results of the analysis, develop strategies for strengthening governance. This may include diversifying governance types and categories by changing the type or category of existing areas, and by promoting innovative forms of new protected area governance through the creation of demonstration projects and financial and policy incentives.
  5. Based on the results of the analysis, develop mechanisms, policies and procedures to improve principles of good governance (e.g., through public review boards and improved public participation mechanisms).

External forum

Protected areas and governance

For those interested in protected area governance, participation, equity and benefit sharing.

E-learning module

Module 6: Protected area governance, equity and benefit sharing

This module covers aspects related to governance, equity and benefit sharing (PoWPA Goal 2.1), including best practices for promoting innovative forms of governance.

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