Throughout the world, managing protected areas involves people and organizations in widely differing roles. Field managers, whether working for an agency or for a community, deal with concrete problems and responsibilities on a daily basis and directly enjoy the rewards that only nature and culture at their best are able to provide. Local authorities and residents – administrators, community members, land owners and businesses – “live with” the protected areas, face restrictions, harness benefits and are variously involved in relevant concerns and decision making. Agency managers at the national level are concerned with systems of protected areas and the conservation benefits they provide as a whole; they, in turn, are account able to the general public and taxpayers for official expenditure on protected areas. Natural and social scientists, and conservation and human rights advocates engage in under standing and refining management options and practices. And policy makers and legislators at the national and international level help shape the overall context in which protected areas exist.

Conventional protected area approaches dominant over the past 100 to 150 years have tended to see people and nature as separate entities, often requiring the exclusion of human communities from areas of interest, prohibiting their use of natural resources and seeing their concerns as incompatible with conservation. While some kinds of protected areas (e.g. those corresponding to IUCN categories V and VI) are assumed to accommodate human communities, more prestige seems to have been attached to those designed to exclude them both as residents and decision-makers (usually corresponding to IUCN categories I, II and III). Since most protected areas in the world have people residing within them or dependent on them for their livelihoods, the conventional exclusionary approaches have engendered profound social costs. This is particularly true when the affected indigenous peoples and local communities were already, even before the protected area intervention, among the most marginalized groups.

CEESP—in particular through its Theme on Governance, Equity and Rights (formerly Co-management Working Group) and Theme on Indigenous and Local Communities, Equity and Protected Areas— has been for a long time concerned with approaches and models that see conservation as fully compatible with human communities – as managers, decision-makers, residents, users, caretaking neighbours – and that regard such communities as an asset to conservation rather than a liability. Drawing on recent experience and best practice from around the world, as well as from reflections and guidance developed at the local, national, regional and inter national levels, CEESP members have developed numerous considerations, concepts and ideas that can be accessed through this web page and that revolve around two main concepts: Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas (ICCAs) and Shared Governance.

Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas:

Natural and modified ecosystems, including significant biodiversity, ecological services and cultural values, voluntarily conserved by indigenous peoples and local and mobile communities through customary laws or other effective means.

Shared governance:

Complex institutional mechanisms and processes are employed to share management authority and responsibility among a plurality of (formally and informally) entitled governmental and non-governmental actors. Shared governance, sometimes also referred to as co-management, comes in many forms. In “collaborative” management, decision-making authority and responsibility rest with one agency but the agency is required – by law or policy – to inform or consult other stakeholders. Participation in collaborative management can be strengthened by assigning to multi-stakeholder bodies the responsibility of developing technical proposals for protected area regulation and management, to be submitted ultimately to a decision-making authority for approval. In “joint” management, various actors sit on a management body with decision-making authority and responsibility. Decisions may or may not require consensus. In any of these cases, once decisions about management are taken, their implementation needs to be delegated to agreed bodies or individuals. One particular form of shared governance involves transboundary protected areas, which involve at least two or more governments and possibly other local actors.