In 2012, IUCN launched the Green List of protected areas. Geoffroy Mauvais, coordinator of PAPACO (Program on African Protected Areas & Conservation) explains how it creates a reference model on how to manage these protected areas.
What is the Green List of protected areas?
The Green List is a tool whose ultimate objective is to improve conservation conditions in parks and reserves at global level. It is an initiative which allows protected areas to be measured and encouraged to achieve sound management and good governance standards.
It is developed with the World Commission on Protected Areas, which brings together experts in this field from all over the world. They have defined criteria to identify parks which work well and promote their success. This is a major development compared to recent years, where we focused on evaluating effectiveness without actually proposing a model to refer to in order to decide what has a positive impact or not.
Is the Green List a stand-alone initiative?
No, the Green List is closely linked to the international biodiversity commitments made by States. It has been designed to guide governments and their conservation partners in achieving their commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity (convention signed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992) and, in particular, Target 11 of the Aichi Targets (target dedicated to the equitable management of protected areas).
The Green List is led in partnership with the institutions responsible for protected areas management, including territories managed by communities or private actors. This partnership ensures that the process is relevant, while taking into account the specificities of the contexts by fully involving all the management stakeholders. Nominations for the Green List are assessed by a group of independent experts which must be set up in each country and recognized by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
Consequently, through this approach, IUCN seeks to support international conservation efforts, while proposing a tool tailored to each local situation.
What are the main difficulties facing protected areas?
There are many technical challenges to address in order to ensure that protected areas will be managed more effectively: develop better management plans, implement them more efficiently, optimize the available resources, build the capacities of staff. All this needs to lead to a better protection of sites. They must be more inclusive of peripheral populations, more economical, more sustainable…, but in reality, efforts must especially focus on the governance of these territories: who decides and how. It is much more difficult than the technical aspects of management, but improving governance will have an infinitely greater impact than just working on what we are doing or trying to do in the field.
In what way will the Green List provide a response to all these challenges?
In terms of management, the Green List can provide direct benefits by giving greater visibility to marketing, strengthening advocacy for conservation or preventing unsustainable uses of natural resources in and around these protected areas. It will also help the search for funding, etc. The management can easily be described by measurable criteria and indicators, for example, the number of guards per hectare to prevent poaching, or the number of visitors to a tourist area in order to ensure it is profitable.
With regard to governance, the Green List will allow models to be defined which may inspire institutions responsible for protected areas management at national or regional level. It will thereby allow a more objective measurement of network performance, based on standards to be respected: on equity, in or around the reserve, on the way in which decisions are made, accountability is conducted, local populations are included, or how efforts are made to respond to their aspirations. The transparency which this generates will also motivate staff to improve their working methods and skills, make monitoring actions more understandable or acceptable, etc.
How can protected areas get onto the Green List?
Candidate protected areas for the Green List are required to demonstrate that they meet international standards for sound management and good governance, in the light of their local, national and regional contexts. To do so, specific questionnaires are developed and must be filled in, with supporting evidence. There is subsequently a strict control protocol, based on the certification model, with a review by external experts. It is a fairly cumbersome process, but which aims to be robust and ensure that registrations are homogeneous all over the world.
What progress has been made with the implementation of the Green List worldwide?
Eight pilot countries (Korea, France, Spain, Italy, Kenya, China, Australia and Colombia) tested the process during the Green List pilot phase, which lasted two years and reached completion in November 2014 with the registration of 24 sites. The pilot phase helped to prepare the standards, the quality assurance procedure, and to establish the various actors in charge of analyzing and validating the registration applications.
We have now entered into the development phase to consolidate and further develop what has already been achieved during the pilot phase, while including new countries such as Benin. The objective is to arrive at a reliable process, which has been tested in the field and is sustainable. It is, as we can imagine, a lengthy process.
There are other labels concerning protected areas, such as, for example, the World Heritage List. What is the difference?
Unlike the World Heritage List, the Green List is not a tool to measure the intrinsic values of a site. The World Heritage List recognizes the importance of certain values of the site, such as beauty, the geological history, or the wealth of biodiversity. While the World Heritage properties are assumed to be well-managed, some are, however, not, to the extent that they are listed as being in danger. These sites will consequently not be able to be registered on the Green List.
Conversely, a number of protected areas are eligible to be registered on the Green List, whereas they will never be able to be World Heritage sites, as they do not have exceptional universal values. There is consequently a degree of complementarity between the labels. The interest of the Green list lies in the fact that it focuses more on what is done than on the value of the site itself. It is obviously more complicated, but also much more powerful in terms of motivating the staff responsible for conserving these sites.
The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of their institutions or of AFD.