A primer on 'other effective area-based conservation measures'


A new term being used within policy circles will play an increasingly important role in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the 21st century, namely: ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ (OECMs). This blog provides a brief background to ‘OECMs’, updates on the latest developments and looks ahead. 

Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Strategic Plan (2011-2020) refers to “networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures”. Parties to the CBD subsequently called for guidance on ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ as it was a new term in international law at that point. In response, the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) established a Task Force in 2015 to develop guidance for IUCN members and CBD Parties on the definition and application of OECMs. The Task Force convened three technical workshops in 2016–2017 and developed and shared draft Guidelines for Recognising and Reporting OECMs, which were reviewed widely by a range of stakeholders including CBD National Focal Points.

The draft IUCN-WCPA Guidelines proposed the following definition for an OECM: “A geographically defined space, not recognised as a protected area, which is governed and managed over the long-term in ways that deliver the effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity, with associated ecosystem services and cultural and spiritual values” (IUCN-WCPA, January 2018).

The draft IUCN-WCPA Guidelines were used as background materials at two expert workshops hosted in Montreal by the CBD Secretariat in February 2018 that considered OECMs as well as marine protected areas and OECMs as they relate to coastal and marine ecosystems. As an outcome of those workshops, a revised definition of OECMs and voluntary guidance for their identification and management were submitted to the 22nd meeting of the CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA 22). WCPA also published a Special Issue of the journal PARKS on OECMs to inform the discussions at SBSTTA. 

At SBSTTA-22, CBD Parties deliberated upon and eventually adopted a recommendation on ‘Protected Areas and Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures’. The recommendation contains a refined definition of an OECM, namely:

“A geographically defined area other than a Protected Area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in situ conservation of biodiversity, with associated ecosystem functions and services and where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio–economic, and other locally relevant values”.

The recommendation will be considered again and adopted as a decision at the 14th Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP 14) in November 2018 at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt.

Other effective area-based conservation measures can help deliver greater representativeness and connectivity within protected and conserved area systems and provide an exciting opportunity to recognise and engage a broader range of stakeholders in conservation governance and management. However, there are important qualifications if ecological and social safeguards are to be protected. Future blogs will focus on these issues. 

Note: This is an edited version of an IUCN news update written by Harry Jonas and Kathy MacKinnon.

Further Reading

WCPA Task Force on OECMs

CBD SBSTTA, Recommendation on ‘Protected Areas and OECMs’ (SBSTTA-22/5:

Jonas, H. (ed.)2018. Special Issue of PARKS on OECMs.

Jonas H. et al., 2017. Will Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures Increase Recognition and Support for ICCAs.’