Workshop Steps up Refinement of Protected Area Professional Competences

20 November 2013

To effectively conserve biodiversity, and provide ecosystem services and other benefits, protected areas must have good management and governance, be well-connected, and have management integrated across the wider landscapes and seascapes. To reach these goals, protected areas also need a well-trained workforce that is competent, and which has the right combination of skills, knowledge and attitude.

A long-standing objective of the IUCN WCPA Protected Areas Capacity Development Program has been to make available competency standards for protected area professionals that are widely accepted and relevant to protected area systems worldwide. These standards were brought to a high level of refinement at the International Academy for Nature Conservation on the Isle of Vilm, Germany in September 2013. 

Seven individuals from IUCN WCPA’s Education and Learning Work Group convened for an intensive three-day Workshop to develop professional competences. The Workshop was hosted and partially funded by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), in addition to being funded in part by the IUCN Biodiversity and Protected Area Management (BIOPAMA) Programme. The Workshop objectives were:

To refine the existing competences product that had been developed by the work group to date. The group refined existing draft standards for five levels of protected area professionals, ranging from field level staff that carry out basic tasks to Ministry-level personnel responsible for planning and managing protected area systems.

To determine how to integrate the competences into the three other work group products in progress, which are being developed as part of the IUCN WCPA Global Partnership for Professionalizing Protected Area Management (GPPPAM). Those products are i) a leading edge, open source curricula for three levels of protected area professionals; ii) a certification program that assesses and certifies on the job performance of protected area professionals based on core competences; and iii) an exchange/mentorship program for protected area staff to encourage hands-on learning between peers. 

Both objectives were significantly advanced at the workshop. Thirteen competency categories that covered the five professional levels were determined, with competency standards listed under each. A refined competences document will soon be ready for wider review by WCPA members, protected area professionals and other specialists. In addition, plans were developed for the advancement of the other components up through the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014. Workshop participants included Gisela Stolpe, International Academy for Nature Conservation; Mike Appleton, Consultant and GPPPAM lead for competences; Eleanor Sterling, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History; Glenn Ricci, University of Rhode Island and GPPPAM lead for the Professional Certification component; Domoina Rakotobe, American Museum of American History, Madagacar; David Reynolds, IUCN Global Protected Areas Programme and Coordinator, IUCN Protected Areas Capacity Development Program; Allan Valverde, Universidad para la Cooperación Internacional, Costa Rica; and Sigrun Lange, ECO Germany. Joining the workshop via the web were Eduard Muller, Vice Chair, IUCN WCPA Education and Learning and GPPPAM Coordinator, and Andrew Nixon, GPPPAM Lead for its exchange and mentoring component.

For more information, please contact David Reynolds at:

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