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The Importance of Quality: Fourth APAP technical workshop promotes effective management of protected areas

From 19 to 21 June 2018, the Asia Protected Areas Partnership (APAP) hosted its fourth technical workshop in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea. The event addressed the effective management of protected areas, and focused in particular on Management Effectiveness Evaluation (MEE) and the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas – the new international standard for management.  

Fourth Technical Workshop group photo
Fourth Technical Workshop group photo © KNPS

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of protected areas over the last decade. However, in the drive to increase the number and size of protected areas, relatively less attention has been paid to the issue of effective management.  Although MEE is increasingly being used by many countries, much greater efforts will be required to meet the target of CBD Decision X/31, 19/a. Recently, the IUCN Green List has been developed as a new international standard for protected areas that deliver successful conservation outcomes through effective and equitable governance and management. In November 2017, the IUCN Council formally approved the IUCN Green List Standard, which is now ready to be implemented worldwide. 

Against this backdrop, the fourth APAP technical workshop was designed to: 

• Enhance APAP members’ understanding of protected area management effectiveness and the IUCN Green List;  

• Share experiences and lesson learned on effective management of protected areas among APAP member organisations; and

• Compile best practices and identify emerging issues within the Asia region on effective management of protected areas. 

Participants present groupwork to the plenary © KNPS

Jointly organised by the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Korea, the Korea National Park Service (KNPS) and IUCN Asia, the workshop involved 34 participants from 12 APAP Member countries. 

During the workshop, APAP Member countries delivered presentations about their experiences with using MEE. The Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT), METT+, and the Rapid Assessment and Prioritisation of Protected Area Management are among the tools that are commonly used. However, relatively few countries have used MEE in a systematic way and MEE implementation has often been driven by projects or donors. 

The status of MEE implementation also varies significantly among APAP member countries. For example, all protected areas in Bhutan have applied METT+, which was adapted to the Bhutanese context in 2016. In contrast, in Japan, there has been no MEE implementation to date; the Ministry of Environment is currently carrying out research to identify the most appropriate approach within the Japanese context. 

Participants agreed that MEE has many benefits, but noted that these do come with certain challenges. For example: MEE pays relatively little attention to issues related to governance and equity, results can sometimes be skewed by a subjective desire to show improvements to the donor, and MEE does not propose solutions for addressing identified management gaps. To help address these concerns, participants recommended that APAP could promote the sharing of best practices, provide technical and financial support, and assist with the development of standardised and user-friendly methodologies.

Field visit to Odaesan National Park
Field visit to Odaesan National Park © KNPS

APAP Member countries expressed great interest in the IUCN Green list. However, a number of challenges were also identified. These included: the complex and time-consuming nature of the process; the difficulty in preparing an adequate evidence base; and the need for capacity-building and financial support.  

Participants highlighted that IUCN’s support will be required to assist those APAP Member countries that have an interest in adopting the IUCN Green List. Participants also recommended a suite of measures to strengthen and streamline the IUCN Green List. For example, they drew attention to the need to avoid duplication of effort and overlap with the Conservation Assured/Tiger Standards that is being used in some tiger range countries.

APAP was designed as a regional platform to help governments and other stakeholders share experiences and best practices on protected areas. Since 2016, APAP has organised at least one technical workshop per year for its members. In addition to management effectiveness, topics addressed to date have included collaborative management, stakeholder engagement and human-wildlife conflict.