Countries of the Region

Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curaçao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Dutch Special Municipalities (Bonaire, Saint Eustatius, and Saba), Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin-Saint Maarten, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands

Regional Context

The islands of the Insular Caribbean either border or fall within the Caribbean Sea, a semi-enclosed body of water. The shallow and semi-enclosed nature of the Caribbean Sea forms the basis for the International Maritime Organization’s designation of the Caribbean Sea as a Special Area under MARPOL Annex V. The peoples of the Caribbean are dependent on the Caribbean Sea to such an extent that there is a regional initiative to have the United Nations designate the Caribbean Sea as a special zone in the context of sustainable development. In addition to the importance of the Caribbean Sea to the 40 million people of the Wider Caribbean Region, the Caribbean is a biogeographical region of global significance, recognised as a Biodiversity Hotspot. Paradoxically, the Caribbean is also recognised as one of the regions most vulnerable to the effects of global climate change. In this context, protected areas development is of particular importance to the quality of life of Caribbean peoples.

The primary regional protected areas programme is the Programme on Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW), coordinated by UNEP as part of the Caribbean Environment Programme. Regional and sub-regional protected areas initiatives and projects are also periodically implemented by regional inter-governmental and civil society organisations.

In addition to IUCN’s Caribbean Initiative, WCPA Caribbean will support the SPAW Programme and the protected areas initiatives of IUCN member and partner institutions as practicable, in-so-far as these programmes address Caribbean priorities for protected areas management.


Priorities for protected areas development in the Caribbean were identified through a review of current initiatives and consultation with WCPA Caribbean members. WCPA does not possess the financial resources to address regional priorities, and therefore WCPA actions in the Caribbean will be dependent on collaborative agreements with current and new partners. Mobilising the WCPA Caribbean membership to build enthusiasm and support for a Caribbean Protected Areas Agenda is an important step in that regard.

Development of Sustainable Financing Mechanisms
The availability of adequate funds on a consistent basis is critical to achieving all objectives in protected areas management. WCPA Caribbean will support current funding initiatives, while simultaneously seek new partnerships and innovative ways of financing protected areas development on a sustainable basis.

Improving Capacity
Protected areas development in the Caribbean region usually draws on authorities, resources, and competencies resident in several institutions; and increasingly, such institutions fall within the public, private, and civil society sectors. Capacity building initiatives will therefore target the entire institutional framework at site and system levels, building critical thinking skills and competencies at all stages along the development continuum, from conceptualisation to operational management. Anticipated disruptions in the social-ecological systems resulting from climate change and increasing public debt require renewed attention to competencies in conflict management, design of adaptive management systems, and facilitation of participatory approaches to management.

Tourism is one of the main economic sectors in Caribbean economies, and though most countries use protected areas to support the tourism sector, the relationship between the two is often contentious and not fully understood. The WCPA Tourism Specialist Group was established to provide guidance on tourism-protected areas issues, and WCPA Caribbean will work closely with this specialist group to design initiatives for knowledge production and capacity development. A critical supporting element is data management, not only for improving management effectiveness, but increasingly for supporting public engagement strategies and demonstration of the social and economic benefits of protected areas.

A critical supporting element is data management, not only for improving management effectiveness, but increasingly for supporting public engagement strategies and demonstration of the social and economic benefits of protected areas.

Creation of Appropriate Management Frameworks
Protected areas are established to meet multiple objectives; social, ecological, and economic, responding to national and international obligations. WCPA Caribbean will support the continued development of appropriate enabling environments for protected areas management (policy, legal, and institutional frameworks), utilizing the tools and expertise of the network to support national and regional initiatives as requested. Evolving forms of governance for protected areas management provide opportunities for knowledge production and building the conservation community at national and regional levels.

Improving Management Effectiveness

WCPA has developed and promoted standard methods for assessing management effectiveness. However, management effectiveness assessments are not routinely undertaken in the Caribbean region, and utilize a range of methods. Not only must management effectiveness become routine, the outcome should be that protected areas achieve the objectives for which they were established. To achieve this outcome, management effectiveness assessments must facilitate better use of science in protected areas development (siting, design, monitoring, resource assessment, adaptive management theory and practice, and research and evaluation). The Caribbean region faces significant threats from climate change and invasive species, and information on the most effective means of managing these threats would be a considerable contribution to the global protected areas effort.

Building Resilience in the Social-Ecological Systems
Ecosystems in the Caribbean provide a range of goods and services that form the basis of the individual and collective economies, yet the development pathways have gradually eroded the integrity of these supporting ecosystems. This interdependence between human activities and the natural environment will be brought into sharper focus by the stresses associated with the adverse impacts of overwhelming public debt and climate change. Protected areas development is one of the most cost-effective mechanisms to secure the many ecosystem benefits, while simultaneously mitigating the impacts of climate change. To achieve this dual purpose, protected areas development must be brought more centrally into the development planning process, ensuring that economic strategies and land use plans recognize the critical contributions by protected areas to sustainable development.

Building the Conservation Community

Building support for protected areas require that outreach programmes focus more on articulating and demonstrating the contributions by protected areas to local communities and national economies. In doing so, public education programmes must transition to public engagement; that is, building partnerships to strengthen social structures, improve community livelihoods, facilitate investment in social infrastructure, and support education and other forms of community development.