World Commission on Protected Areas

WCPA Europe

Cabo de Gato, Andalusia, Spain

Andrej Sovinc, IUCN WCPA Regional Chair for Europe

IUCN WCPA Regional Vice-Chair Europe




Countries of the Region
Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Gibraltar, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro. Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey,  Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Key issues

With more than 120,000 sites designated in 52 countries, Europe accounts for more protected areas and networks of protected sites than any other region, which is reflected in their value for the conservation status of species and habitats. Natura 2000 and Emerald sites proved to be successful conservation tools, especially for species and habitats which are better adapted on co-habitation of man and nature through traditional land use practices. However, the pressures on land, water, sea and natural resources are increasing in particular from economic activities such as agriculture, transport and urban sprawl. More effective management is needed to ensure that protected areas and networks of protected sites meet their conservation objectives. Further efforts invested in the coverage, management effectiveness, and governance of protected areas and other conservation initiatives are essential, if we are to safeguard nature in Europe.

In Europe, protected areas are, and must remain, at the heart of all nature conservation efforts if regional biodiversity targets are to be met, and development planning must be built on this foundation. What we invest in protected areas in Europe today will determine the success of our sustainable development pathway in the future

The Little Sydney: Protecting Nature in Europe conference in Hainburg, Austria in May 2015 was organized around four key themes: Reaching Conservation Goals, Supporting Human Life, Influencing Policy and Institutional Responses, and Partnerships, Governance, Capacity Development and Resources; discussed through 20 working sessions. The Conference highlighted key findings from the IUCN World Parks Congress and discussed how to realize, bring out and implement those elements of the Promise of Sydney most relevant to Europe. The outputs of this major WCPA protected area event are the basis of the WCPA programme in Europe, in line with the IUCN programme orientations for the years 2017 – 2020.

Objectives and priorities for PARKS in Europe

  • Strengthen systematic conservation planning and ambition for protected areas across Europe to ensure ecological representation and effective management, with a particular focus on Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA), geoheritage and marine areas,
  • Enrich diversity and resilience of protected area networks like Natura 2000 and Emerald sites emphasising connectivity opportunities through transboundary and wilderness areas and other corridors including restoration efforts as appropriate,
  • Improve protected area management performance through the application of IUCN Green List standards to protected areas and Natura 2000 sites, and promote the use of other quality and data management measures, including the standards within the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA)/Protected Planet.

Objectives and priorities for PEOPLE in Europe

  • Enhance governance and management approaches that place protected areas at the heart of multifunctional landscapes,
  • Value and take into account protection of ecosystem services while managing natural landscapes with the involvement of different sectors, including agriculture, business and industry,
  • Strengthen cross-sectoral linkages between protected areas and other sectors, in particular health, tourism and natural resource uses and urban planning,
  • Reconnect people with nature: using protected areas as a powerful tool to create inspiring experiences which will trigger positive emotions with visitors and help to build a constituency for conservation,
  • Promote activities in protected areas to connect people with nature through experience and local action, including the involvement of youth groups and urban populations as part of “inspiring a new generation”.

Objectives and priorities for PLANET in Europe

  • Strengthen policy advocacy and better integrate protected areas in spatial planning with other sectors for sustainable development, at local, national and EU level, in particular through the policies and incentives for economic growth,
  • Consider connectivity conservation and investments in green infrastructure as key tools in using natural solutions to support sustainable development,
  • Increase attention on economic valuation as a tool to emphasise the value of protected areas and natural habitats, and to make the argument for appropriate financial flows and investments in conservation,
  • Design and manage protected areas for change, including climate change. Use policy platforms to discuss climate change and other environmental issues as a forum to communicate and demonstrate the value of protected areas to address such challenges.

Cross-cutting issues through European policies and PA agenda

  • Mobilize support for strong advocacy for professional development standards and investment in protected area professionals through existing European frameworks and protected area agencies,
  • Ensure that the process of development of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will include full consideration of conservation objectives,
  • Ensure better coordination between EU networks of protected and conserved areas and international designations, such as World Heritage, MAB, Ramsar, European Diploma (Council of Europe), and Geoparks.


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