Updates on ‘Other effective area-based conservation measures’

In July, governments at the 22nd meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Science, Technology and Technological Advice (SBSTTA22) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed a draft decision on 'Protected Areas and Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures' (OECMs). For the first time the decision provides a definition for OECMs and guidance to Parties for their identification and management.  The IUCN-WCPA Task Force on OECMs provided valuable input to the CBD process.

Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California, Mexico © IUCN Elena Osipova

Harry Jonas and Kathy MacKinnon

Aichi Target 11 calls for conservation of areas of land and sea through ‘networks of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures’. Until now CBD Parties have focused on reporting coverage of protected areas, yet OECMS can clearly make a valid contribution to the Target. Consequently, the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) established a Task Force in 2015 to develop guidance on the definition and application of the concept of ‘other effective area-based conservation measures’. The Task Force convened three technical workshops in 2016–2017, and ultimately developed and shared draft “Guidelines for Recognising and Reporting OECMs”, which were reviewed by a range of stakeholders including CBD National Focal Points.

The draft IUCN/WCPA Guidelines proposed the following definition for an OECM: “A geographically defined space, not recognised as a protected area, which is governed and managed over the long-term in ways that deliver the effective in-situ conservation of biodiversity, with associated ecosystem services and cultural and spiritual values” (IUCN-WCPA, January 2018).

The draft IUCN-WCPA Guidelines were considered two expert workshops hosted by the CBD Secretariat in February 2018. The resulting revised definition of OECMs and voluntary guidance for identification and management were submitted to SBSTTA 22. WCPA also published a Special Issue of the journal PARKS on OECMs to inform the discussions at SBSTTA.

SBSTTA22 adopted a draft decision on ‘Protected Areas and Other Effective Area-Based Conservation Measures’. 

The draft decision contains a refined definition of an OECM, namely:

 “A geographically defined area other than a Protected Area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in situ conservation of biodiversity, with associated ecosystem functions and services and where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio–economic, and other locally relevant values”.

The draft decision will be considered again at the 14th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP14) in November at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt. The SBSTTA recommendations also provide voluntary guidance on ‘Governance and Mainstreaming of Protected Areas’. The Parties recognized IUCN’s contribution and recommended that IUCN should be requested to assist Parties in identifying OECMs and in applying the scientific and technical advice. This is an excellent example of how IUCN, through the Commission Task Force, can contribute to international policy discussions and their implementation.

OECMs can help deliver greater representativeness and connectivity in protected area systems and provide an opportunity to recognize and engage a broader range of stakeholders in conservation management. IUCN WCPA and the Task Force are committed to further developing and testing the OECM guidance in pilot countries to enhance delivery of Aichi Target 11, and to promote conserved areas beyond 2020.  

For more information: harry@naturaljustice.org and kathy.s.mackinnon@gmail.com

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