Equitably governed

Summary Global Guidelines Technical and interactive resources

Governance concerns how and by whom decisions are made and upheld, including power, voice and accountability. Equity is a multi-dimensional concept, closely related to fairness and justice. The Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CDB) Voluntary Guidance on protected areas looks at three dimensions of equity:

  1. Recognition: acknowledgement of and respect for rights and the diversity of identities, values, knowledge systems and institutions of rightsholders and stakeholders
  2. Procedure: inclusiveness of rule- and decision-making
  3. Distribution: equitable sharing of costs and benefits

This CBD Guidance points to a framework for assessing these three dimensions.

Equity is a core component of governance quality. IUCN identifies legitimacy and voice, direction, performance, accountability, and fairness and rights as principles of equitable and effective protected and conserved area (PCA) governance. Other frameworks and approaches may include different or additional elements/principles for equity (e.g., for marine conservation) and governance (e.g., the governance assessment resources, as well as the Governance Principles for Community-Centered Conservation and the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership).

Governance assessment is one way to understand and improve the current situation. Assessments can be done at both systems and site levels, supported by a variety of participatory approaches and tools.

These include CBD voluntary guidelines and IUCN WCPA good practice guidance on site- and systems-level assessments, the SAGE framework of 10 principles of effective and equitable governance, a self-strengthening process for territories of life, the IUCN Natural Resource Governance Framework, and the Green List for Protected and Conserved Areas among others. PCA governance assessment has been done less frequently than protected area management effectiveness (PAME). However, lessons for good practice include that:

– Governance of the assessment matters – including who convenes, who participates, how (and why) assessment is done, how outcomes are shared, and who decides. Inclusive, context-appropriate processes are crucial.

-There is value in (inclusive) assessment processes (e.g., shared reflections).

–Assessment also means a responsibility for responsive action. The path from assessment to action requires commitment.

– Governance is dynamic; assessment is only one step in ongoing learning and adaptation.

Currently, global indicators on the quality of protected area and OECM governance and management are limited. UNEP-WCMC, IUCN, WCPA and other partners are working to develop reporting systems and indicators to support Parties in reporting to Protected Planet on all aspects of effectiveness – management, governance, conservation outcomes, and design and planning.

Equity in conservation – what, why and how?


This resource provides an overview of equity in the context of area-based conservation and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). It discusses the meaning of equity, which is a component of good governance and encompasses three dimensions: recognition, procedure, and distribution.

The publication contains four main sections: 1. “What does equity mean?”, which includes equitable governance principles for protected and conserved areas; 2. “Why is equity important?”, which described both an ethical argument and an instrumental one; 3. “Why is equity so important for achieving the 30×30 target?”, and 4. “What can be done to improve equity?”.

Overall, the aim of this resource is to highlight the importance of equity in achieving the 30×30 target (CBD Target 3), emphasising that equity in conservation is crucial for ethical and effective reasons, and outlining governance and social safeguard actions that can improve equity in existing and new protected and conserved areas.

Key Take Aways

  1. Conserving 30% of land and sea requires a greater focus on equity, which is crucial for both ethical and effective conservation.
  2. Equity in conservation governance includes recognition and respect for actors and their rights, equity in procedure, and equitable cost and benefit distribution.
  3. Improving equity in protected and conserved areas will require action on governance informed by assessments and social safeguards

Governance of protected areas: from understanding to action


This resource provides concepts, methods, and tools to understand and improve governance. Governance can be defined as “The interactions among structures, processes and traditions that determine how power and responsibilities are exercised, how decisions are taken and how citizens or other stakeholders have their say”. There are four main types of governance, which are governance by (1) governments, (2) private actors, (3) Indigenous Peoples and/or local communities, and (4) various stakeholders and rightsholders together (shared).

This publication is divided into two main parts: Part 1 is focussed on understanding governance, whereas Part 2 is action-oriented and provides practical suggestions. Within these two overarching parts, there are ten main sections: 1. Key concepts; 2. Conservation, protected areas and governance; 3. Governance types; 4. The IUCN Protected Area Matrix and the finer nature of governance types; 5. Voluntary and ancillary conservation; 6. Governance quality (“good governance”); 7. Assessing and evaluating governance for protected areas; 8. A framework for assessing and evaluating governance for a system of protected areas; 9. A framework for assessing and evaluating governance for individual protected areas; 10. Reporting and action.

Overall, the aim of this resource is to raise governance capacities for protected area systems worldwide by detailing both conceptual information on governance, as well as action-oriented guidance.

Key take aways

  1. Good governance that is appropriate for the context is critical for effective and equitable conservation. Principles of good governance include (a) legitimacy and voice, (b) direction, (c) performance, (d) accountability, and (e) fairness and rights.
  2. There are four broad types of governance: (i) governance by governments, which could be at various levels; (ii) governance by private individuals and organisations; (iii) governance by Indigenous Peoples and/or local communities, and (iv) shared governance, which could include any of the other governance types working together.
  3. An ideal approach towards effective action for governance is a process that includes (a) a preliminary workshop to prepare the team that will lead the effort; (b) a period to collect information, identify necessary expertise, raise awareness about governance concerns, and encourage self-organisation among participants; (c) a “core event” during which interested parties collaborate to gather the required information and expertise for governance assessment and evaluation, and devise an action plan, and (d) a follow-up period, during which steps are taken to enhance governance.
  • Site-level assessment of governance and equity (SAGE) Led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), the SAGE initiative aims to improve the governance and equity of a protected and conserved area (PCA) and any associated measures designed to support conservation. It is based on the relatively simple SAGE methodology, which enables protected and conserved area stakeholders to assess the status of governance and equity, plan actions to improve, and monitor progress
  • Article: Nature and equity (Conservation Letters 2023)