Protected Areas (PAs) are one of the oldest techniques used to protect places and resources for achieving conservation-related goals, and are widely recognized as a cornerstone of conservation policy and action. Over the past decades, understanding of protected areas has evolved from a narrow definition of government-controlled strictly protected reserves to an expansive conception that encompasses a range of governance types and management categories in effective and equitable protected area systems that are integrated into the wider landscape or seascape.
In order to be effective, PA systems, as well as individual PAs, must be supported by a firm legal infrastructure. The IUCN Environmental Law Programme (ELP) has consistently worked towards creating and improving PA law. This has been a two-pronged effort, aimed first at improving international/regional binding commitments towards protected areas (for instance through the obligations of the CBD at global level, and of the revised African Convention at regional level), and second at creating or modernizing national legislation in this field.
As a result of a joint effort led by the ELC, the IUCN Guidelines for Protected Areas Legislation were published in 2011. They provide state-of-the-art guidance on key elements of a modern and effective legal framework, attuned to the present roles and corresponding diversification of protected areas, as well as to the emergence of new scientific understanding about protected areas management and new governance approaches. These Guidelines are intended for those interested in strengthening protected areas legislation, including legal drafters, protected areas professionals, policy-makers, governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders and members of the academic community. As a complement to the Guidelines, a Concept Paper on the Legal Aspects of Connectivity Conservation was published in 2013. It focuses on identifying legal measures to protect and restore linkages between protected areas through ecological networks and other forms of connectivity conservation at local, national, and regional levels. Both the Guidelines and the Concept Paper are accompanies by case studies that illustrate key features and challenges in developing and implementing legal frameworks for protected areas systems.
In 2015, IUCN launched a set of educational tools for teaching and learning about protected areas law and governance. They are designed for use by trainers and educators in a wide variety of settings, including training sessions, workshops, university courses and practitioner seminars. The resources are arranged into 12 interactive modules, which include seminar presentations, interactive exercises, and videos and cover key legal aspects of management and governance of protected areas and connected landscapes, systems and processes in the terrestrial and marine contexts. The tools are available at www.protectedareaslaw.org.
One of the key challenges in ensuring effective and sustainable protected areas is financing. The IUCN Environmental Law Centre, with the Global Protected Areas Programme and the Business and Biodiversity Programme, has begun an initiative to incubate innovative protected area finance solutions in sites across the world. Lessons from successful projects will be shared and used as a model to scale up financing for protected areas.
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Resources and Publications
Concept Paper on the Legal Aspects of Connectivity, EPLP 85 Vol.1 (2013)
Case Studies on the Legal Aspects of Connectivity, EPLP 85 Vol.2 (2013)