Reaching Potential – Building Capacity Development for Protected Areas

27 August 2014

In the face of rapid population growth and climate change, protected areas are critical to safeguarding the services we rely on such as the provision of clean water and food, and safety from natural disasters. There are now more than 200,000 protected areas worldwide. They cover over 13% of the land surface, 6% of coastal areas, but still only very little open ocean. 

But it is not enough just to create protected areas. To reach their full potential and provide essential services, national parks, marine reserves, territories cared for by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and other protected areas, must be effectively managed and practice good governance. Effective management requires a skilled, motivated and properly resourced workforce that has access to the latest thinking and best practice.

In spite of the critical role played by capacity development to improve protected areas management, most governments are not treating this with the priority it demands. Protected area management is not broadly seen as a distinct profession with its own standards, qualifications and career structure. As a result, in many places, the necessary resources are not allocated to develop and support the profession. This results in protected area staff lacking the necessary range of skills to become effective managers.

To address this situation, capacity development will be a focus of the IUCN World Parks Congress, taking place in November. IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and Global Protected Areas Programme, supported by the BIOPAMA programme (Biodiversity and Protected Area Management), have developed products and partnerships to help countries meet their protected area capacity development needs.

One of the key messages that will be promoted at the Congress is that to improve the capacity of protected areas, it is sometimes necessary to focus efforts not only on raising the individual capacity of protected area professionals, but also the capacity of the organisation and society where the protected areas are found.

A number of tools are being developed and will be featured at the Congress including:

Strategic Framework for Capacity Development

Designers and implementers of capacity development (CD) activities on the ground need to have an understanding of where their projects fit within the larger range of activities being implemented across sectors. A broader conceptual strategic framework is being developed for CD initiatives that will help evaluate needs and results within and across levels.

Guidance for Capacity Development in Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas

An important outcome from the World Parks Congress will be the launch of an Indigenous Peoples and Local Community Capacity Building Initiative. For Indigenous Peoples and local communities, capacity building focuses on strengthening culturally-appropriate management approaches undertaken by communities themselves. These approaches support the application of traditional knowledge, along with scientific knowledge, and are based on respectful and equal relationships between scientists and traditional knowledge holders.

Core competence standards

A comprehensive global register of competences for protected area staff will be launched at the Congress. This specifies over 240 specific skills and associated knowledge requirements (competences) relevant to protected area work around the world, covering all the main functions of protected areas and all types of people involved, from senior government officials to local field workers.

Body of knowledge

An open source database will be managed by recognised protected area professionals. This will include the best existing materials in the field of protected area management to help develop staff and organisational performance. Materials will include a new e-book on protected area governance and management, IUCN Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines, technical reports, and training resources such as presentations and videos.

Formal curricula leading to certificates and degrees

Based on the competences and the body of knowledge, a limited number of curricula will be developed and made available online to individuals or organisations, allowing them to test the products and work towards common standards of skills and knowledge around the world.

Assessment and certification

Guidance will be launched at the Congress that describes how protected area agencies can develop professional certification programmes that recognise the qualifications of protected area staff, based on the competences demonstrated by the individual.

Mentoring and exchanges

A global mentorship and exchange pilot programme will provide examples and guidance on how countries can participate in on-site training and learning through exchange programmes. Mentoring and exchange can significantly improve the competencies of professionals who can share time and work with experienced and well-qualified staff.

Global Partnership for Professionalising Protected Area Management (GPPPAM)

A partnership of NGOs, training institutions and organisations involved in protected areas, GPPPAM has been formed to promote the professionalisation of protected areas. It will use and support the guidance and tools listed above and ensure protected area managers continue to learn throughout their careers.

During the Congress a draft Road Map on Capacity Development, which will form an integral part of The Promise of Sydney, will be discussed for endorsement by the Congress. This Road Map will guide priority actions on Capacity Development for the next 10 years until the next IUCN World Parks Congress.

More information on capacity development activities is available on the World Parks Congress website.

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