Case studies and commentary on conserved areas

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In the closing moments of the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2010, negotiators agreed the final text of the Strategic Plan on Biodiversity 2011–2020. Aichi Target 11 calls on Parties to conserve by 2020 at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland waters and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas through “well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures”. (Note: the term ‘other effective area-based conservation measures has been referred to by the acronym ‘OECMs’ and increasingly by the abbreviation ‘conserved areas’. We use the acronym and abbreviation interchangeably in this blog.)

In response to calls by CBD Parties for guidance on the interpretation and application of the term ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’, IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) established a Task Force in 2015 to develop technical guidelines for Parties and other rights- and stakeholders. The Task Force’s work has been submitted to the CBD and is currently finalising the definition and core guidance. See this blog for more on the background and process-related updates.

From the first meeting of the Task Force in 2016, the need to carefully balance the opportunities offered by conserved areas against any associated concerns has been at the core of the process. On the one hand, it was clear that appropriately recognising, reporting and supporting areas beyond protected areas that are successfully contributing to the in-situ conservation of biodiversity can diversify the range of actors involved in effective conservation as well as expand the conservation estate and improve ecological representativity and connectivity. On the other hand, there were concerns that introducing a ‘new’ conservation designation might divert attention away from the important role of protected area systems and even lead to recognition of new areas of lesser biodiversity value in order to meet international targets. 

IUCN-WCPA produced a Special Issue of the journal PARKS to set out for CBD Parties and the broader community a clear update on the development of guidance on conserved areas and provide a number of case studies to illustrate the diversity of governance and management of areas that could qualify as conserved areas.

The Editorial Essay by Harry Jonas (Future Law) and IUCN colleagues provides an overview of the CBD- and Task Force-related processes and the contribution that conserved areas can make to achievement of Aichi Target 11 and the post-2020 Biodiversity Framework.

The rest of the Special Issue is dedicated to case studies of ‘potential OECMs’, which are areas that have been identified as having conserved areas-like characteristics but which have not yet been assessed against any criteria, also including consideration of the rights of the governing authorities (such as the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples and local communities). Conserved areas can be governed by the same diversity of governance types as protected areas, namely by: governments (at various levels); private individuals, organisations and companies; Indigenous peoples and/or local communities; or under a shared arrangement between two or more of these governance authorities. The case studies are presented according to this typology. 

Government: Hiltz et al., in their paperDisko Fan Conservation Area: A Canadian Case Study, provide an overview of interim guidance on OECMs developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and consider the Disko Fan Conservation Area (a fishery closure in Canada’s Eastern Arctic).

Gray et al., in their paper, assess two areas governed by Ontario Conservation Authorities (Canada) in the context of work by the Canadian Council on Ecological Areas and IUCN’s draft Guidelines on OECMs. 

Private: Mitchell et al. compare private protected areas (PPAs) to OECMs on private land, clarify misconceptions and provide case studies for how Australia and South Africa are working through the application of these categories in the context of local, private land conservation mechanisms.

Utomo and Walsh, in Hutan Harapan ecosystem restoration concession, Sumatra, Indonesia: a potential OECM?, provide an overview of the innovative ‘Hutan Harapan’ ecosystem restoration concession where a private governance authority is managing designated production forests for conservation rather than exploitation.

Indigenous peoples and local communities: Eghenter analyses the applicability of OECMs to tana’ ulen (restricted forested land) conserved by the Dayak Kenyah people in the interior of Kalimantan, Indonesia.

Focusing on Kenya, Mwamidi et al. examine territories and areas conserved by Indigenous peoples and local communities in northern Kenya and consider whether the areas fit the criteria to be recognised as OECMs.  

Shared governance: Matallana-Tobon et al. explore three ‘Complementary Conservation Strategy’ case studies and analyse whether and to what degree these include elements related to OECMs.

Waithaka and Warigia Njoroge, in The role of potential OECMs in safeguarding space for nature in Kenya: A case study of wildlife conservancies, provide an historical overview of land rights and ‘conservation’ in Kenya, describe ‘conservancies’ and report on a workshop held in 2017 that explored whether such conservancies are potential OECMs.

The inclusion of the term ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’ in Target 11 provides an exciting opportunity for greater and more appropriate recognition, reporting and support for areas that contribute to the effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity outside protected areas. The effectiveness and utility of the conserved area/OECM concept will largely be determined by the exact terms of the CBD decision on guidance that is adopted at COP 14 and its subsequent interpretation and implementation. It is hoped that this Special Issue contributes to those discussions and further promotes the openness and inclusivity with which the process has run thus far.


* This is an edited version of the Editorial by Harry Jonas (Future Law) that appears in the Special Issue of PARKS



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.’

WCPA Task Force on OECMs

Conserved areasHarry Jonas