Green List
How does it work?

The IUCN Green List User Manual guides implementation. It describes the procedures that all participants in the IUCN Green List community should follow to ensure that procedures are consistent and objective.


The sections below summarise key implementation steps, from jurisdiction to site level, with much more additional detail provided in the relevant User Manual chapters.

Three key steps to the IUCN Green List!

Steps explained

1. Commit

Voluntary commitments of jurisdictions, sites and organisations

Assign an Independent Reviewer

Convene, train and accredit a local Expert Assessment Group for the Green List (EAGL)


2. Adapt

EAGL adapts global indicators

Stakeholder consultation

Approved version


3. Implement

Site commitments


Stakeholder engagement

Action plans

Site visits

EAGL evaluations

Jurisdiction Commitment

The Green List implementation process starts with a voluntary commitment from a site or organisation in a jurisdiction. New jurisdictions meet these four enabling conditions that demonstrate their commitment and capacity to engage in the Green List Programme.

Four Enabling Conditions

The Management Committee accepts new jurisdictions into the IUCN Green List Programme when they meet the four enabling conditions.

Jurisdictions are typically established at a country level but can also be established at a regional or multi-country level (e.g. North Africa) or sub-national (e.g. California) level.

Usually, it is individual sites that commit to implement the standard, but multiple sites can also apply under one application if they meet the criteria for multi-site applications.

MSAs are where one application includes two or more protected or conserved areas. To be considered and assessed together,  each site in the MSA must:

  1. Meet the IUCN definition of a protected area[1], or the definition of a conserved area[2]
  2. Be connected ecologically to other sites in the MSA, have key shared values, and have common, coordinated or harmonised governance and management arrangements;
  3. Be able to demonstrate how it meets all IUCN Green List criteria and indicators for the duration of the listing (if any of the sites do not meet the IUCN Green List Standard at the time of renewal, the network would revert back to Candidate Status until all sites demonstrate compliance); and
  4. Demonstrate how the protection and management of all sites together contribute to achieving broader conservation values as an ecological network.

Sites that meet these conditions can be assessed together for green-listing. The most common cases are:

  • Sites that are adjacent, and where the successful conservation of key values (outcomes) of each site are co-dependent (i.e. a site cannot deliver its conservation objectives without effective management of another site); and/or
  • Sites that are adjacent and are managed by the same or collaborating agencies for related or complementary values and outcomes; and/or
  • Sites that are not adjacent, yet the outcomes of the sites, in relation to the IUCN Green List Standard, are co-dependent and are being actively managed under clearly coordinated and harmonized governance arrangements (especially Marine Protected Area designations and networks, flyways, river and other freshwater systems); and/or
  • Transboundary sites with joint designations (e.g. a transboundary World Heritage Site, or a transboundary Biosphere Reserve or Ramsar site), when there is a joint management plan or explicit harmonization of management across the international boundary.


Following the acceptance of a jurisdiction into the programme, an Implementing Partner and an Independent Reviewer facilitate the formation and training of an Expert Assessment Group for the Green List (EAGL) for the concerned jurisdiction.

The primary tasks of the EAGLs are to ensure that the Indicators and Means of Verification of the IUCN Green List Standard are adapted (where necessary), to properly reflect the intent of the IUCN Green List Standard in their jurisdiction, and to evaluate PAs against the Standard leading to recommendations towards green-listing.

[1] Dudley, N. (ed.) 2008. Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

[2] CBD/COP/DEC/14/8

Adapting the Standard

The IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas Standard consist of 17 globally applicable CRITERIA categorised under four COMPONENTS, supported by 50 generic INDICATORS. It provides an international benchmark for quality that motivates improved performance and helps achieve conservation objectives. A green-listed site is one that meets all criteria, across all four components. The indicators provide more detailed information about how the criteria are being achieved.

The generic indicators can be adapted to the jurisdictional context to reflect the diverse thematic, legal, cultural, social and bio-geographical conditions of protected and conserved areas around the world. This is how the Standard maintains global consistency and also local relevance.

The Generic Indicators may only be adapted when the context of the respective jurisdiction makes it necessary. The generic indicators are already designed to be universal in application, so not all of them (or any of them) have to be adapted, if they have been evaluated to meet the regional or local context.

It is up to the respective EAGL to determine which indicators need adaptation and to draft adapted versions that reflect local circumstances. A public consultation may be necessary prior to the EAGL finalising the adaptation and submitting the adapted Standard to the Standard Committee, which reviews them to ensure alignment with the 17 global criteria, and to maintain the integrity of the global Standard.

Generic Indicator Adaptation

Site Implementation

Three Phases

Sites wishing to achieve ‘Green List’ status must demonstrate, and then maintain, successful implementation of the IUCN Green List Standard. This is evaluated in three Phases:

1. Application Phase:

The first step is a voluntary commitment to the IUCN Green List Programme. This commitment is made through an online registration. Sites provide initial evidence for five indicators drawn from the first three components of the IUCN Green List Standard to demonstrate readiness.

2. Candidate Phase:

Once admitted as a Candidate, the site considers the full set of criteria, provides evidence for meeting eall indicators and addresses any identified shortcomings over a period of time. This candidate phase may take months or even several years depending on the issues that must be addressed. A stakeholder consultation and a site visit by an EAGL representative are also required in this phase. Once complete, candidate sites are put forward for nomination to the Green List by the EAGL.

3. Green List Phase:

Once a Candidate site is awarded IUCN Green List status, the management and representatives of the site will be provided a certificate. The area will be afforded the right to use the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas logo and claims (in accordance with guidelines), and will be recognised and promoted by IUCN as a global exemplar in conservation achievement. After a site achieves IUCN Green List Status, the focus shifts towards supporting the site to maintain and enhance that status.

How long does it take?

The time taken from application to certification depends on the management quality of the site at the time of application. Sites choose when they are ready for evaluation, and have up to a maximum of five years to achieve certification, which is then valid for a five year period. Typically, sites can achieve the IUCN Green List standard in three to six months (if there are no major actions needed), or perhaps from one to twoyears or longer if major remedies are needed. It is the site’s decision to submit their nomination when they consider themselves to be ready.

Community Roles

The participants with key roles for implementation extend beyond its main governing entities (Green List Committee, Standard Committee, Management Committee and Operations Team).

Other participants and their roles are:

  • Oversees the review and maintenance of the IUCN Green List Standard and its adaptations
  • Admits evaluated areas that achieve the Standard to the IUCN Green List and oversees their renewal
  • Acts as ambassadors to promote the Green List to a wide constituency
  • Convenes Technical Expert Groups (including the Standard Committee)
  • Chair is the Chair of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) or their appointee (non-voting)
  • 7-9 Members are appointed by WCPA Chair through a transparent process of nomination/selection
  • Leads the consultation and review to update the Standard, to ensure it reflects current scientific and technical best practice and remains relevant.
  • Provides technical review of any adaptations of the Generic Indicators proposed by EAGLs in participating Green List jurisdictions and makes recommendations to the Green List Committee for approval.
  • Convenes technical working groups when necessary and provides guidance and training
  • Co-Chairs are appointed by Chair WCPA
  • A further 8-10 Members are appointed by the Co-Chairs of the Standards Committee


  • Oversees the strategic development and management of the IUCN Green List Programme, and ensures it achieves and maintains compliance with ISEAL Codes of Good Practice for standard-setting, assurance and impact assessment.
  • Accepts new jurisdictions in the Green List Programme
  • Ensures global procedures for standard-setting, assurance, and impact assessment are fully ISEAL compliant
  • Approves the IUCN Green List User Manual and ensures that it is fit for purpose
  • Guides the Operations Team on the implementation of the Programme
  • Reports annually to DG
  • Serves as the Secretariat for the IUCN Green List and implements the Programme, acting upon decisions taken by the Management Committee.
  • Implements relevant decisions taken by the Committees
  • Develops globally applicable procedures and thematic work plans
  • Convenes thematic working groups when needed
  • Manager is the Director IUCN Global Protected Areas Programme (GPAP) or nominee
  • Members appointed by GPAP Director
  • Includes IUCN Regional Office focal points and partner organisations
  • The IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) is organized by 13 regions with each region represented by a Regional Vice‐Chair (RVC).
  • RVC’s form and oversee the Expert Assessment Groups for the Green List (EAGLs), with the leadership and guidance of the WCPA Chair.
  • EAGLs are jurisdictional expert bodies convened by WCPA and approved by an assigned Reviewer. The jurisdiction of an EAGL is geographic (e.g. a country or region within a country) and is established and operates within the jurisdictions that have been approved by the Management Committee
  • The primary tasks of an EAGL are to ensure that the IUCN Green List Standard is applicable in their jurisdiction and to evaluate PAs against the indicators of the Standard.
  • Reviewers are independent qualified auditors with with relevant experience working in a specific jurisdiction or across various jurisdictions. Their primary role is to ensure that the rules and procedures of this User Manual are applied consistently in the Green List process.
  • The Independent Assurance Provider is an expert body assigned by the Management Committee on behalf of the Director General. They advise on the rules and procedures laid out in the User Manual and thereby ensure independence of standard-setting and evaluation.
  • Green List applications can be submitted by the PA representative, who may be PA management, PA staff or the respective PA agency
  • Mentors assist PAs in participating in the Green List Programme. The use of Mentors is not mandatory for green-listing. Mentors can be IUCN staff, WCPA experts (e.g. members of the WCPA Green List Specialist Group) or any other competent individual. However, they cannot be a member of an EAGL, a member of the Green List or Standard Committees, the Management Committee, the Operations Team or a Reviewer to avoid Conflict of Interest.
  • Implementing partners are the organisations, agencies or associations that help implement the IUCN Green List Programme in jurisdictions. In addition to IUCN regional or country offices, they may include IUCN National committees, or IUCN member organisations. They may also be government agencies, academic institutions, civil society organisations or private sector organisations.
  • Implementing Partners have no direct role in the evaluation or independent assurance of the Green Listing process. Rather, they help promote and encourage full participation in the Green List Programme by a full range of stakeholders.

The User Manual is also available in the following languages:

Extra guidance and list of topics included in the User Manual

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