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First national round table

14 September 2001

Lessons from the global experience in protected areas planning and management

Kishore Rao, Head of IUCN Asia region protected area programme

Evolution of the protected areas approach

This presentation covers the following key 7 issues that are of relevance to the review, to demonstrate how these developments in the field of protected area planning and management that have been distilled from the global experience could benefit the lower Mekong countries to more effectively manage their protected area systems:

  1. Evolution of protected area categories
  2. Protected areas and integrated planning
  3. Institutional decentralisation
  4. Protected areas and community development
  5. Management effectiveness
  6. Broadening the support base
  7. International frameworks

Evolution of protected area categories

IUCN definition of protected areas:
“An area of land 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”

Currently there are over 44,000 protected areas globally covering nearly 14 million km2 or 10% of the world's terrestrial area (UNEP-WCMC Global PA Database)>

The Lower Mekong countries have 232 protected areas covering about 141,000 km2 or 11% of their geographical areas (areas less than 1000 ha are excluded).

Considering marginal variations in names there are nearly 14,000 designations used for protected areas worldwide. Even when major differences are considered there are about 200 names in use.

The IUCN system (1994) classifies all protected areas under 6 management categories according to the principal objective of management:

ia scientific research
ib wilderness protection
ii ecosystem protection and recreation
iii conservation of specific natural features
iv conservation through mgmt intervention
v landscape conservation and recreation
vi sustainable use of natural resources

Graph showing degree of human intervention for each category of protected area

For example, irrespective of the legal designation, if an area is strictly protected, consists of largely unmodified ecosystems, is free of human intervention, and has limited access mainly for research purposes - it would qualify to be under category I of the international classification, i.e. a strict nature reserve.

Such an international classification system has been of great value in the global assessment of PAs coverage - it helps to reduce confusion of terminology, provides international standards, demonstrates the range of objectives that pas meet; and facilitates international accounting and comparison.

In spite of the fact that different management categories are available, the WCMC database shows that the most extensively used categories in terms of total area are categories II and IV, covering more than 6.5 m sq. km. And countries have not made used of other options that would have helped them to more effectively manage their pa systems and meet multiple objectives. Even in the lower Mekong countries these are the 2 most commonly used categories.


Protected areas planning and management

  • Focus has shifted from the site to the landscape scale - islands to networks; single use to multiple use; buffer zones; integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs)
  • Valuable contribution of biosphere reserves - integration of biodiversity, economic, social and cultural values; management committee
  • Bioregional approach to protected areas planning and management - matrix of conservation areas and categories
  • Partnerships with neighbouring communities and resource users - co-ordination and co-operation
  • New range of skills for managers - ability to work with people, possess business and financial skill

The concept of protected area design has shifted from an individual site focus to a larger landscape or ecosystem level focus. This change was prompted by the realisation that protected areass cannot be effective if they are managed as islands and isolated from their social and economic contexts. The problem was dealt with by creating a buffer zone around protected areas and undertaking social and livelihood development activities.

Then came the biosphere reserves, which perhaps made the greatest contribution to advancing this zonation approach through their strictly protected core, buffer zone, and transition area design. Through such zonation it became possible to integrate the ecological, social and cultural values. The biosphere reserve management board made it possible for all stakeholders to come together under one umbrella.

The bioregional approach is the latest in the evolution of protected area planning and management concepts. It is defined as a geographic space that contains one or several whole nested ecosystems, characterised by its landforms, vegetation, human culture and history, etc as identified by local communities, governments and scientists - used in Australia, US and Canada as a unit of planning and management. The bioregional approach can be viewed as several biosphere reserves that are networked together.

Diagram of the bioregional approach

This is a schematic representation of the bioregional approach showing a conservation matrix consisting of several core protected areas along with their buffer zones, which are connected to each other through corridors or transition areas. This approach allows for using the full range of protected area categories: categories I and II comprising the core; categories IV to VI as buffer zones and V and VI forming the connecting biological corridors or transition areas.

The buffer zones, corridors and transition areas would generally lie outside the jurisdiction of the protected area agency requiring partnerships and co-operative agreements to be established with a range of stakeholders - sometimes this might extend across national borders to form transboundary conservation areas. Examples include the La Amistad biosphere reserve in Costa Rica and Panama; the proposed Central American biological corridor connecting protected areas in 7 countries; the proposed Terai arc conservation area connecting protected areas in India and Nepal; and the great barrier reef in Australia as an example from the marine environment. The other marine example is the Wadden sea agreement between Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. An example from nearer home could perhaps be the western forest complex in Thailand, consisting of 11 national parks and 6 wildlife sancturaries over 19,000 sq. km.

An example of the bioregional approach from western Brazil

Another example to illustrate the bioregional approach is the Pantanal biosphere reserve and world heritage site in western Brazil which was set up in November 2000 and covers 25 million hectares of mainly wetland habitat. It is extremely rich in biodiversity but under heavy pressure from a growing human population and the effort is to reconcile development and conservation interests and manage the area to yield sustainable benefits for all interest groups. It has 15 core areas consisting of national parks and nature reserves and all these are connected through their buffer zones and transition areas.

This expanded vision for protected areas to be networked into large complexes has required a corresponding shift in the role of a protected area manager. From being primarily concerned with protection and visitor services type of activities the requirement is now to be more outwardly looking and possess the ability to work with people, handle conflict resolution, negotiate agreements, and possess business and financial skills. It also means that agencies must learn to work together and co-ordinate their activities more effectively.


Institutional Decentralisation
  • Decentralisation and devolution - Spain, Italy and UK
  • Parastatals - Malaysia, East Africa, Caribbean
  • Conservation trusts and NGOs - US, South America, Africa, Nepal, Malaysia
  • Private protected areas - Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe
  • Private timber companies - Sweden; FSC stewardship by private landowners - South Africa, Ecuador, Brazil, Colombia, Chile - financial & fiscal incentives
  • Local/indigenous communities - Pacific, Philippines, Australia

Over the years, the mechanisms for establishing and managing protected areas have also become more diverse, although central and state governments still continue to share bulk of the responsibility- the trend is moving in favour of the civil society. For example, responsibility is being devolved to local levels of government like county and municipality, along with the process of administrative decentralisation that is taking place in Europe - Spain, Italy and UK. This has also happened through the process of recognising native and indigenous title over land, as in Brazil, Colombia, and Australia.

Parastatal organisations are successfully managing protected areas in Malaysia, and in east Africa and the Caribbean, as they have more financial autonomy and less of bureaucracy, and can retain revenues that they generate. NGOs and conservation trusts like TNC, Conservation International, the King Mahendra trust, are managing protected areas in Latin America, Africa, Malaysia and Nepal. protected areas are being established in private lands, and in Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe they are more in area than the government managed and legally designated protected areas.

Timber companies are also designating protected areas, as part of the forest certification requirement or even voluntarily. In Sweden the FSC regulations require 5% of forest holding to be protected and this has gone up even up to 15 - 20% through voluntary protection of areas that are not commercially viable to harvest.

Local communities are setting up and managing private or community based conservation areas.

Generally speaking, higher order categories like I to III lend themselves to government management, while IV to VI are more appropriate for the others. The challenge is to see how all these fit into the national system.


Protected areas and communities
  • Negative impact on access to resources and on subsistence and livelihood needs - conflict; failure of management; need for participation - social development and alternative livelihood activities through buffer zones and ICDPs
  • Evolving relationship - conflict to participation, and then to partnership and collaboration - from protection to management partnerships with all stakeholders
  • Collaborative management - stakeholders involved in a substantial way in planning and management
  • Continuing challenges - effective participation in decision making and benefit sharing; security of tenure, land and usufruct rights are crucial issues; need for stronger links to conservation

The conflicts and failure of management resulting from exclusionary approaches saw the need for involving people in protected planning and management. protected area managers started to involve people in buffer zone and ICDP activities. This involvement is now maturing into a partnership and collaboration, involving all the main stakeholders - i.e. local residents, resource users, and other agencies.

The genesis of the co-management approach lies in the experience with joint management of forests and it enables a more substantial involvement of all relevant stakeholders in planning and management activities. The process involves identifying the main stakeholders, and their interests and concerns in relation to the protected area; jointly developing a vision for the protected area; negotiating an agreement to achieve that vision with roles and responsibilities and benefits and rights clearly defined; then implementing, monitoring and reviewing the agreement - it is basically a process of consultation and seeking consensus on identified issues of mutual concern.

A survey by the WCPA has shown that a large number of protected areas are under co-management, e.g. nearly 20 % protected areas in central America, and the approach is rapidly spreading in Africa and Asia - in fact most protected areas have some form of co-management.


Management effectiveness

  • The number of protected areas is growing but less than half are effectively managed due to a lack of resources, capacity and response to threats
  • Several assessment frameworks have been tested at national and regional scales in Latin America, Europe and Asia
  • There is no standard system for comprehensive assessment, so international comparisons and global assessments are not possible; greater accountability, threat assessment; prioritise funding; advocacy
  • WCPA guidelines - design issues at site and system levels; appropriateness of management; delivery of objectives
  • There is the possibilty of a global certification system (like FSC) and a citizen watch programme

On the management effectiveness issue the main concern now is that of quality not quantity. The WCMC data shows that there has been a steady increase in the number and coverage of protected areas in the last 10 years but many are inadequately protected and managed. John Mackinnon's report on the Indo-Malayan realm showed a 50% increase in protected areas between 1985 and 1995 but declining standards of management. A review of marine protected areas also showed that less than 50% are effectively managed. Another survey by Conservation International of 93 protected areas in 23 countries found 73% having people living inside them and most having high levels of hunting, logging, grazing, etc.

There is now a growing interest in measuring protected area management effectiveness; several frameworks have been used by TNC, WWF, IUCN and World Bank but there is no comprehensive system. This has several advantages: it helps in identifying threats and problems; in prioritising management effort; in enhancing management and accountability; and also helps in advocacy.

WCPA of IUCN has developed a framework for assessing protected area management effectiveness that looks at the design of individual protected areas and design of the protected area system; at the management systems and processes; and at how the objectives are being achieved. WCPA, UNESCO and TNC are now collaborating to test this framework for use in the reporting requirements of the WHC - which could lead to international standards being established. WCPA is also considering a system of protected area management certification on the lines of the FSC; possibly also a citizen watch program to monitor compliance with standards.


Broadening the support base

Low budgets constrain effective management

Global Annual Mean Expenditure

US$ 893 per km2

Developed Country

US$ 2,058 per km2

Developing Country

US$ 157 per km2

Southeast Asia Mean Budget

US$ 428 per km2

Southeast Asia Required Mean Budget

US$ 742 per km2

Lao and Cambodia

< US$ 1 per km2

Limited funding is a major factor constraining the effective management of protected areas. Government funding is becoming more and more difficult and most protected areas are under resourced. Studies in Africa in 1998 revealed that the mean annual expenditure in protected areas was USD 52 per sq. km, as against the requirement of USD 230 per sq. km for effective protection. A global survey by the WCMC in 1999 came up with the above figures, which show the wide disparity between demand and supply.

Protected areas are being required to build an economic justification in order to compete for limited public funds, and in recent years a lot of work has been done on economic valuation of protected areas. The WCPA has also published guidelines on economic valuation of protected areas for protected area managers that help in establishing the true value of protected areas to economic development and building the required justification for supporting their conservation.

  • WCPA guidelines state that economic valuation helps quantify the benefits of protected areas and raise resources
  • Innovative financing mechanisms being used: WCPA guidelines - local level (user fee, sponsorships); national level (taxes and charges, incentives, endowment funds); international level (bilateral and multilateral donors and lending agencies)
  • Transfer payments for environmental services (Costa Rica)
  • Debt for nature swaps (Belize, Philippines, Costa Rica) biological prospecting (Costa Rica, China, Brazil)
  • Carbon offset projects under CDM of the Kyoto Protocol (Costa Rica)
  • Taxes (Belize);
  • Trust funds (Bhutan, Mexico, Philippines, Africa)
  • Retention of revenues; over commercialisation

The WCPA has also come out with guidelines on financing PAs, which review a number of innovative mechanisms that are being used to raise resources for PAs at the local, national and international levels. The first one is the use of transfer payments for environmental services e.g. Paying for the watershed services of a PA in supporting a downstream hydroelectric facility. In Costa Rica, a company pays USD 40/ha/year to the protected area for such services.

Debt for nature swaps have been used successfully to fund protected area conservation projects like in the La Amistad BR in Costa Rica. More recently, TNC and the US government agreed on a deal which reduces the debt of Belize by one-half, and the money will be used to protect several protected areas in the country. Since 1987 one billion USD has been raised of in Asia Philippines has raised 18 m USD and these funds are usually put into trust funds.

Biological prospecting is another mechanism that has yielded benefits to Costa Rica with its agreement with the multinational drug company Merck. This is also now being used in China and Brazil. Once again, Costa Rica was the first to float carbon bonds under the clean development mechanism of the Kyoto protocol. It has sold several million dollars worth to industrialised countries, which get credit for offsetting carbon pollution and Costa Rica has used the money to help pay for the management of 20 national parks and 80 other protected areas.

User fee at the site level, particularly from tourism activities and service providers generates over 50% of the funding required by the nature conservation service of the Kwazulu Natal province in South Africa. Trust funds are also being used widely throughout the world.

The challenges are to enable protected areas and their agencies to retain such locally generated revenues; and to guard against over commercialisation of the resource base.


International frameworks
  • WORLD HERITAGE SITES - 690 Sites: 529 Cultural, 138 Natural; 23 Mixed; More tolerant of human presence in natural sites
  • RAMSAR CONVENTION - 907 Sites: from habitat for water birds to all aspects of wetland conservation & wise use
  • CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY - 180 Parties Article 8 - In situ Conservation and Protected Areas
  • Ecosystem Approach (CBD) - Connectivity and Scale; Integrated Management; Involvement of Local and Indigenous People; Protection of their Rights and Interests; Inter-sectoral Co-ordination; Decentralisation; Equity and Benefit Sharing

We have already seen the contribution of the Biosphere Reserves programme to the changing vision for protected areas, and will now briefly review some of the other major international frameworks. The WHC has designated 138 natural and 23 mixed (natural & cultural) sites to protect protected areas of outstanding universal value. In the lower Mekong countries, however, there are currently only 2 World Heritage sites. In recent years the convention has started to value the interaction of people with nature and its contribution to preserving biodiversity and it does not advocate eliminating human presence, but managing it to contribute to identified values.

Listing of a site under the WHC has not only brought prestige to countries but also some assistance from the World Heritage Fund and more importantly from other international sources. Listing has also helped to ward off potential threats to the sites.

The Ramsar convention was originally established to protect wetlands of international importance, especially as waterfowl habitat. But over the years, the value of wetlands to human welfare in general has seen greater recognition being given to all aspects of wetland conservation and sustainable use.

The Convention on Biological Diversity is yet another international agreement that has made very significant contributions to protected areas. Article 8 of the convention, of course deals directly with protected areas and their effective management. Besides, the ecosystem approach, which was endorsed by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2000 advocates all the best practice elements of protected area planning and management that we have reviewed previously.

Global Environment Facility (GEF)

  • Between 1991 and 2000, US$ 1.1 billion and 2 billion in co-financing for biodiversity conservation in 123 developing countries & countries in transition
  • Ramsar sites - US$ 210 million for 47 projects
  • World Heritage Sites - US$ 274 million and US$ 475 million in co-financing
  • Protected areas - US$ 350 million for 320 protected areas

One of the most significant contributions of the Convention on Biological Diversity has been the establishment of the GEF as the financial mechanism for its implementation. Over the last 10 years, substantial funds have become available to protected areas from the GEF directly, as well as through co-financing of GEF projects to pay for the incremental costs of conserving biodiversity for achieving global benefits.


Summary and conclusions
  • Protected areas categories
  • Islands to networks
  • Protection to social and economic objectives
  • Innovative financing mechanisms
  • Central control to civil society
  • Quality versus quantity
  • National to international concern

This presentation has tried to highlight the value of the management categories in helping protected areas to integrate with the surrounding landscape. It has shown how protected areas are being managed as large clusters and even across national borders. It has underscored the mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations that are being established with local communities. Looked at the variety of mechanisms that are being used to raise funds for protected areas. It has tried to show how management responsibility is diversifying, and how the international conventions and agreements are supporting these new directions for protected areas.