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1. What is an ‘other effective area-based conservation measure’?

In 2018, Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity defined an ‘other effective area-based conservation measure’ in Decision 14/8 as:

A geographically defined area other than a Protected Area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in situ conservation of biodiversity with associated ecosystem functions and services and where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio–economic, and other locally relevant values.

The term ‘other effective area-based conservation measure’ is often abbreviated to ‘OECM’.

2. What is the difference between a protected area and an OECM?

Protected areas are defined by IUCN as:

A clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.

While protected areas must have a primary conservation objective, this is not necessary for OECMs. OECMs may be managed for many different objectives but they must deliver effective conservation. They may be managed with conservation as a primary or secondary objective or long-term conservation may simply be the ancillary result of management activities.

Protected areas and OECMs complement each other in landscapes and seascapes and should be recognised and supported within well-connected conservation networks.

3. Which kinds of areas might meet the criteria of an OECM?

The following three kinds of areas are likely to meet the criteria of an OECM:
•    Areas of ancillary conservation: This refers to areas that deliver in-situ conservation as a by-product of management activities, even though biodiversity conservation is not a management objective. For example, sacred natural sites or military areas have specific objectives – to protect sacred values or military purposes - but may also lead to the conservation of important biodiversity.

•    Areas of secondary conservation. This is achieved through the active management of an area where biodiversity outcomes are a secondary management objective. For example, enduring watershed protection policies and management may result in effective protection of biodiversity in watersheds, even though the areas may be managed primarily for objectives other than conservation. Sites managed to provide ecological connectivity between protected areas or other areas of high biodiversity, thereby contributing to their viability, may also qualify as OECMs.

•    Areas of primary conservation: These are areas that may meet all elements of the IUCN definition of a protected area, but which are not officially designated as such because the area cannot be recognised as a protected area or the governance authority does not want the area to be recognised or reported as a protected area. For example, in some instances, indigenous peoples and local communities may not want areas of high biodiversity value that they govern to be designated as protected areas or recorded in government protected area databases. Assuming an area meets the OECM criteria, the governance authority has the right to withhold or give its consent to the area being recognised as an OECM.

4.    How can OECMs contribute to the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework?

Enabling the appropriate identification, recognition, support and reporting of OECMs across landscapes and seascapes, promotes:

•    Equitable governance, effective management and conservation outcomes;
•    An increase in coverage of ecologically representative areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services;
•    Enhanced connectivity between protected and conserved areas and across landscapes and seascapes;
•    Engagement with a diverse range of rights-holders and stakeholders who contribute to area-based conservation outside of protected areas;
•    Transformation in sectoral practices; and
•    Climate change mitigation and adaptation, contributing to net-zero climate targets and building resilience to the physical impacts of climate change through nature-based solutions.

5. What is the difference between identifying, recognising, supporting and reporting OECMs?

Identifying OECMs is the process of working with full consent of the site’s governance authority to determine whether the site meets the CBD criteria of an OECM. A site-level methodology for identifying OECMs is available from the IUCN WCPA OECM Specialist Group. OECMs that have been correctly identified can then be recognised in law and policy or through other institutional or programmatic arrangements. OECMs should then be provided appropriate support and be reported to the World Database on OECMs. Please see below for more information on each element.  

6. What are the benefits of identifying OECMs?

Identifying OECMs offers a significant opportunity to recognise de facto effective long-term conservation that is taking place outside currently designated protected areas under a range of governance and management regimes, implemented by a diverse set of actors, including by indigenous peoples and local communities, the private sector and government agencies.

OECMs can contribute to ecologically representative and well-connected conservation systems, integrated within wider landscapes and seascapes, and in doing so, generate a range of positive conservation outcomes, as noted above (4).

7. Do OECMs need legal recognition?

An OECM does not need to be legally recognised. For example, a site can be assessed with the free, prior and informed consent of the governance authority and if it meets the criteria of an OECM it can be reported to the World Database on OECMs (see question 9). However, areas that have been identified by OECMs will likely benefit from appropriate recognition in law and policy or through institutional or programmatic means. Which measures will be most appropriate should be developed with the full and effective involvement of all relevant stakeholders.

8. How can OECMs be supported?

OECMs should be supported by appropriate measures to enhance the governance capacity of their legitimate authorities and secure their positive and sustained outcomes for biodiversity. While national circumstances will differ, any related support should recognise existing governance systems and not seek to supplant or unnecessarily alter those local arrangements that are effective.

9. Can OECMs be reported internationally?

The CBD encourages parties to submit data on OECMs to the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) managed by UNEP-WCMC. UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre has established a database for OECMs under the Protected Planet initiative, to complement the WDPA. The Protected Planet initiative encompasses several databases that can be accessed and downloaded through its website, www.protectedplanet.net. UNEP-WCMC uses data in these databases to measure progress against international conservation goals, such as Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 and Sustainable Development Goals 14 and 15.

Area-based measures that qualify as protected areas or OECMs should be reported to the WDPA or OECM database, respectively. Such reporting should be done with the free, prior and informed consent of the relevant governance authorities. Please see the World Database on OECMs for more information.

10. What are indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights within the OECM framework?

CBD Decision 14/8 and the IUCN guidelines for Recognising and Reporting OECMs underscore that recognition of OECMs in areas within the territories of indigenous peoples and local communities should be on the basis of self-identification and with their free, prior and informed consent. The CBD also states that the best available scientific information, and indigenous and local knowledge, should be used in line with international obligations and frameworks - such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and instruments, decisions and guidelines of the Convention on Biological Diversity - for recognizing OECMs, delimiting their location and size, informing management approaches and measuring performance.

11. What is the relationship between OECMs and Ramsar sites or Biosphere Reserves?

Both Ramsar sites and Biosphere Reserves can contain areas that are not protected areas. Areas within Ramsar sites or Biosphere Reserves that are outside protected areas can - after the free, prior and informed consent of the relevant governance authority is provided - be assessed against the CBD criteria of an OECM. If the site is identified as an OECM, the respective Ramsar site or Biosphere Reserve will then also include one or more OECMs.

12. What is the relationship between OECMs,  Key Biodiversity Areas and Important Bird Areas?

Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) and Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are classifications that speak to sites’ biological significance, not their legal status. Therefore, particular KBAs or IBAs may be full covered by one or more protected areas. If not fully covered, the remainder of the site could be identified as one or more OECM. Birdlife International conducted a study on KBAs and OECMs, the findings of which can be downloaded here.  

13. Are OECMs being identified in Asia?

At the time of writing, a number of countries have begun processes on OECMs. The South East Asian Rainforest Research Partnership is running a project to identify OECMs in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. The Ministry of Environment and Forests India has begun a process to identify OECMs in its forest estates. IUCN is working with partners in Viet Nam to develop an enabling framework for identification and recognition of OECMs.  

14. Can OECMs be inscribed on the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas?

The IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas is a flagship initiative that aims to increase the equity and effectiveness of area-based conservation worldwide. It relates to both protected areas and OECMs. OECMs that meet the Green List Standard can be inscribed on the Green List. More information on the Green List can be found here.   

15. What additional materials are there on OECMs?

Please see the IUCN WCPA OECM Specialist Group for more information, including guidelines for Recognising and Reporting OECMs and a methodology for identifying OECMs, as well as a video of a presentation provided to APAP members in August 2020.