Artículo | 28 Ene, 2022

Using the IUCN Green List Standard for integrated management of UNESCO multi-designation areas – lessons from Huangshan, China

So far, UNESCO has designated 1154 World Heritage Sites, 169 Global Geoparks, and 727 Biosphere Reserves. Among them, there are nearly 200 sites that hold two of these three designations, and 8 sites with all three designations. Huangshan is one of these eight. These sites are outstanding representatives of international natural and cultural value, and models of UNESCO sites management and sustainable development.

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Photo: Fan Qingtang

Though each UNESCO designation has its own specific content and focus, they share a common goal, that is to ensure proper management and conservation in these precious areas. This common goal makes integrated management of UNESCO multi-designations possible. But, there are indeed some differences among the three designations in boundary, functional zone, protection objective, core value and management measure. And these bring challenges to management effectiveness at international, regional level and specific UNESCO site.

IUCN is uniquely placed to support the Multi-Internationally Designated Areas (MIDAs). The WCC-2012-Res-052 Resolution adopted at the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju mentioned synergy of multi-designations. Later in 2016, IUCN published a book on Managing MIDAs.

UNESCO also takes actions on this issue. It set up a coordination team in 2016,a research centre in Korea in 2020 to do research and training for integrated management. However, a suitable tool for integrated management is lacking in present research and practical cases. But what inspiring is that this situation is changing.

Huangshan UNESCO Global Geopark (UGGp) became one of the first batches of China’s National Scenic Area in 1982, World Heritage Site in 1990, member of Global Geoparks Network in 2004, and a Biosphere Reserve in 2018. Its management organization, Huangshan Scenic Area Administrative Committee (HSAC) became an IUCN Member in 2011. In 2014,Huangshan was certified by the IUCN Green List of Protected Area and has passed their first certificate renewal in 2020.

Huangshan has taken the lead in China to research on integrated management of multi-designations. Their focus on internationalisation and reasonable path enable them to understand the management requirements of UNESCO sites and the resources and tools of IUCN, which also makes HSAC more advantageous than other sites in promoting UNESCO multi-designations integrated management.

With the help of IUCN China, after more than two years of research with the team of Associate Professor Liu Chao of China University of Geosciences in Wuhan and practical exploration in combination with the actual situation of Huangshan, HSAC successfully applied IUCN Green List standard to the design of UNESCO multi-designations integrated management plan.

Firstly, in terms of concept, the purpose of integrated management is to deal with challenges brought by multi designations in management effectiveness. The IUCN Green List standard is formulated to realize the effective and equitable management of protected areas. Therefore, it is very appropriate to use the concept of management effectiveness of IUCN Green List to guide the integrated management of UNESCO multi designations.

Secondly, in practice, IUCN Green List standard is the best tool to guide the design of integrated management plan. The standard has 4 components, namely good governance, detailed design and planning, effective management and successful conservation outcomes. Under those components, 17 criteria reside with their indicators. According to this logic, combined with synergetic theory, Huangshan has designed the plan of UNESCO multi designations integrated management, including comprehensive plan, management mechanism design, scientific research and risk identification, monitoring system, communication platform, display system and evaluation mechanism.

  1. Based on this design, Huangshan has carried out some practice in recent two years:
    Capacity-building. Huangshan UGGp has established an expert advisory committee, held exchange meetings for integrated management,invited experts to give training for managers, and send staff to cross-designations training.
  2. Research on multi designations integrated management. First, interdisciplinary research on value relevance among different designations is carried out to clarify the relationship between geology, biology, meteorology and culture. Two SCI papers are published. The second is to carry out correlation research on evaluation indicators of the three designations. The research on integrated management of multi designations in Huangshan has gained the support of UNESCO seed funding and achieved phase results.
  3. Build exchange platform for multi designated sites. The forum for UNESCO multi designated sites is initiated by the UNESCO Global Geopark of Huangshan, Shennongjia in China, Cilento in Italy, Jeju Island of South Korea and Azores islands of Portugal. This forum aims to exchange experience and solve problems encountered in site management. So far, 6 video meetings have been held to share cases and discuss statute of the forum.
  4. Joint promotion, education and exhibition. Education resources and forces are collected for their project —Huangshan Nature Lecture — to do environment education for residents in their community and surrounding areas. The lecture is warmly welcomed by their community and citizens. It has enhanced residents’ understanding of the value of Geopark, World Heritage and Biosphere Reserves, and their sense of honor for their hometown. The value of Huangshan,the features of different designations and concept of UNESCO are presented in their Geopark Museum, panels, website and brochures.

Mr. Zhang Yan, Head of IUCN China Office said

“as a Member of IUCN, HSAC has actively developed their international brand and participated in the IUCN Green List China Standard. In addition, they have made considerable advancement in using relevant IUCN standards and practices to improve their management and to protected their values, which reflects their commitment to IUCN”.

On December 15, at the 9th International Conference on UNESCO Global Geoparks,Huangshan shared their practice on integrated management to more geoparks to let them know about IUCN Green List.

In the next step, Huangshan will implement and better them in practice, and continuously improve the efficiency of integrated management. They hope their experience can bring some inspiration to other UNESCO sites and protected areas with similar situations for integrated management.

James Hardcastle, the Head of Protected and Conserved Area of IUCN HQ noted:

“Huangshan’s creative application of IUCN Green List standard to UNESCO multi designations integrated management is a meaningful exploration globally. It is innovative in integrated management of MIDAs by using IUCN Green List Standard. Huangshan’s experience is worth disseminating to MIDAs around the world”.

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