World Commission on Protected Areas

Capacity Development

The IUCN WCPA Capacity Development Initiative improves the capacity of both individuals and organisations engaged in the management and stewardship of protected areas.


Group Chair
Mike Appleton

Eleanor Sterling, IUCN WCPA Capacity Development Co-Vice-Chair

NEW: A Global Register of Competences for Protected Area Practitioners                                                  

  • Enabling people who work and live in protected areas to develop and use the competences required to do their jobs well builds individual capacity.
  • Establishing and sustaining entities of all types that take responsibility for protected areas and the people who work for their future builds organisational capacity.
  • When individuals and organisations are more effective protected areas are more effectively and efficiently managed.

The work of the theme is built around implementing the IUCN/WCPA Strategic Framework for Capacity Development in Protected Areas and Other Conserved Territories (SFCD). The SFCD is the result of two years of consultations, culminating at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Australia in 2014. It builds on a wealth of good practice from around the world to define four programmes that will help address the capacity challenge for protected areas in the next decade.

The SFCD has four programmes:

Programme 1. Promoting professionalization

We are developing a range of global tools, materials and initiatives to support the adoption of professional standards for protected area management.

Programme 2. Supporting indigenous peoples and local communities

Capacity development by, for and among indigenous peoples and local communities entails a distinct set of skills and tools, including application and maintenance of traditional knowledge and customary management systems by the recognized custodians of this knowledge.

Programme 3. Enabling capacity development

We are developing and supporting resources, materials and opportunities to provide wider and better access to learning for all those engaged in protected area management.

Programme 4. Measuring and assessing the impacts

We need to be able to measure the impact of different capacity development programmes and understand which approaches work best.

The full Strategic Framework for Capacity Development is available at

Working groups are being formed all the programmes of the framework. We have also set up a Facebook group called PA and Conservation Learning News, where members can post and find latest information about courses and other learning opportunities related to protected areas and biodiversity conservation. Anyone with an interest is invited to join.

Relevant publications

All the WCPA best practice and other guidance documents are relevant to capacity development. These include the following specific guidance on training.

  • ‘Capacity development’, Müller, E., Appleton, M. R., Ricci, G., Valverde, A. and Reynolds, D. (2015),  in Protected Area Governance and Management, G. L. Worboys, M. Lockwood, A. Kothari, S. Feary and I. Pulsford (eds)  pp. 251–290, ANU Press, Canberra.




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