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:
- Recognition: acknowledgement of and respect for rights and the diversity of identities, values, knowledge systems and institutions of rightsholders and stakeholders
- Procedure: inclusiveness of rule- and decision-making
- 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 noted below, 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 (including an Annex with further guidance on recognizing and supporting areas and territories conserved by Indigenous peoples or local communities), 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.