Protected Areas

IUCN Green List

The IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas (the ‘IUCN Green List Standard’) is a new global standard for protected areas in the 21st Century. In line with IUCN’s core mission of ‘A just world that values and conserves nature’ the aim of the IUCN Green List Standard is to improve the contribution that equitably governed and effectively managed protected areas make to sustainable development through the conservation of nature and provision of associated social, economic, cultural, and spiritual values.

Access the IUCN Green List Standard or IUCN Green List User Manual, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook, and use the #IUCNGreenList hashtag!

The IUCN Green List objectives

Protected areas are a universal approach to nature conservation, present in all countries, for both land and sea. Conserving nature is essential for the future of humanity by securing the persistence of natural diversity that supports human life. Well-governed, well-designed and well-managed protected areas are our most effective tool for conserving nature, and provide a wide range of ecological, socio-economic, cultural and spiritual benefits.

Green List Standard

The IUCN Green List Standard and its supporting implementation programme aims to encourage, achieve, and promote effective, equitable and successful protected areas in all partner countries and jurisdictions. The overarching objective of the programme is to increase the number of protected and conserved areas that are effectively and equitably managed and deliver conservation outcomes.

This high-level objective will be reached through a set of underlying objectives:

  1. To ensure that the IUCN Green List Standard provides a suitable measure for strengthening conservation outcomes and improving equitable and effective management of protected and conserved areas
  2. To position the IUCN Green List Standard programme as an accessible channel for conservation capacity-development for protected and conserved areas
  3. To promote collaboration and investment in implementing effective and equitable conservation management in protected and conserved areas committed to the IUCN Green List Standard.

At the heart of the IUCN Green List Standard programme is the globally applicable Standard. It describes a set of Components, Criteria, and Indicators for successful conservation in protected areas and thereby provides an international benchmark for quality that motivates improved performance and achievement of conservation objectives. By committing to meet this standard, site managers seek to demonstrate and maintain performance and deliver real nature conservation results. The objective of the Standard is:

To encourage protected and conserved areas to measure, improve and maintain their performance through globally consistent criteria that benchmark good governance, sound design and planning, effective management, and successful conservation outcomes.

The IUCN Green List Standard

The IUCN Green List Standard is organised into four components of successful nature conservation in protected and conserved areas. The baseline components concern:

  • Good Governance
  • Sound Design and Planning
  • Effective Management

Together, these support the component on Successful Conservation Outcomes attesting to the successful achievement of an area’s goals and objectives. Each component has a set of criteria and each criterion has a set of indicators to measure achievement.

Globally Consistent, Locally Relevant

The Criteria are globally consistent requirements that collectively describe the efforts needed to fully achieve the Standard. A ‘Green List’ site is one that is currently evaluated to achieve all criteria, across all four components. The Standard is implemented through a jurisdictional approach, tailored to each country or region where it is adopted. The programme allows for flexibility for each jurisdiction to implement the Standard. For each criterion in the Standard, a set of Generic Indicators and associated Means of Verification is maintained by IUCN. These generic indicators may be adapted to the co

ntext of each participating jurisdiction, to allow for reflection of regional and local characteristics and circumstances in which protected and conserved areas operate. The guidance for this process is detailed in the accompanying IUCN Green List User Manual.

This User Manual describes: how the IUCN Green List Standard is developed; how the different roles in the supporting programme are defined; how PAs voluntarily commit to the Standard; how PAs are evaluated against the Standard through a set of adapted indicators; and, how observance of the rules and procedures of the User Manual is verified. In addition, the User Manual contains guidance on various aspects that help users implement the rules and procedures of the IUCN Green List Standard process. The User Manual is intended for all participants in the IUCN Green List Standard Programme.

Assurance and Evaluation

The IUCN Green List Standard Programme assures that ‘Green List’ sites are effectively and equitably managed, and achieving successful conservation of their values. A global partnership with Accreditation Services International (ASI) provides the programme with a proven Oversight Body tasked with assurance of the Programme. The assurance mechanisms and procedures in place ensure independence and credibility of decision-making. Participation by individual protected areas, conserved areas, and their governing agencies is entirely voluntary, through commitment to promote continuous improvement through the Standard.

Global Codes of Good Practice for Sustainability Standards

IUCN is committed to ensure the Green List Standard and its implementation follows best practices for inclusive, credible and effective standard-setting and implementation processes.

The ISEAL Alliance represents the leading movement of credible and innovative sustainability standards. ISEAL's mission is to strengthen sustainability standards for the benefit of people and the environment. ISEAL is the global leader in defining and communicating what good practice looks like for sustainability standards.

ISEAL's three Codes of Good Practice (Standard-Setting Code, Impacts Code, and Assurance Code) are seen as global references for developing credible standards. All steps in the standards and certification process, including standard-setting, impact evaluation and assurance (certification and accreditation) have a role to play in the effectiveness of a system.  ISEAL builds understanding of good practices for standards systems and sets internationally applicable good practice guidance for the implementation of credible standards systems. These Codes of Good Practice are applied by leading standards systems and compliance is an ISEAL membership requirement.

The IUCN Green List Standard is seeking to comply with ISEAL requirements by 2019.

More about ISEAL’s Code of Good Practice:

The IUCN Green List Standard development phase 2012 to 2016

In 2012 an IUCN Resolution (WCC 2012-Res-041-EN) called for the development of objective criteria for ‘Green Listing’. The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and IUCN’s Global Protected Areas Programme accordingly convened a global development and consultation process to create and test a new Standard for protected areas. A pilot phase in eight jurisdictions was undertaken with results presented at the IUCN World Parks Congress, Sydney, November 2014. A total of 25 protected and conserved areas received a ‘Green List’ certificate for their achievements.

Pilot phase 2014 - the first Green listed sites

The sites have been evaluated against a set of demanding criteria, including the quality of protection of natural values, based on the IUCN Green List pilot phase Standard. They demonstrate fair and transparent sharing of the costs and benefits of conservation, effective management and long-lasting conservation outcomes. These criteria are tailored and measured according to the challenges and opportunities faced in each country.

Sites were announced during the launch of the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas Standard in Sydney, November 2014, and their recognition on the provisional IUCN Green List will last for two years. During this time, they will need to update their portfolio to show how they continue to meet the required performance, and can meet any additional assurance and performance criteria that the new phase of the programme requires.






Learn more about these protected areas:

The IUCN Green List Standard User Manual

The Standard is backed by a User Manual describing the rules and procedures that entities involved in the programme have to follow. The provisions of the User Manual are meant to ensure that the processes for evaluation and standard development are transparent, objective, impartial and inclusive. At the same time, the provisions aim to be easy to implement and allow the programme to go to scale. As with the Standard, the User Manual went through a public consultation process in 2015.

In 2016, Version 1.0 of the IUCN Green List Standard and accompanying User Manual were launched at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. (Go to top of page for the links)

Additional Green List web pages:

Work area: 
Protected Areas
North America
Polar Regions
South America
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