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The IUCN Green List – Building Hope for Asia’s Protected and Conserved Areas

Posted Monday 31 July 2023
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Today there are more than 12,300 protected areas in Asia, in World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), these include 49 natural World Heritage Sites and 298 Ramsar Sites. Protected and Conserved Areas (PCAs) are the cornerstone of biodiversity conservation and one of the most important tools to halt biodiversity loss, promote climate change mitigation and adaptation, and strengthen social, economic and environmental benefits. With the launch of Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) In December 2022, adopted at the 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on Biodiversity Diversity (CBD) in Montreal, Canada, there is a pressing need both to expand Asia’s PCA systems in order to address gaps in biodiversity coverage, ecosystem representation and ecological connectivity, and to strengthen their governance and management effectiveness.

Despite the many benefits that PCAs provide, Asia’s protected and conserved areas face a wide range of challenges and threats, and stand at a crossroads. Many sites of critical importance for the long-term perseverance of biodiversity still remain outside protected and conserved areas. Many important ecosystem types remain inadequately represented, esp. the inland water (freshwater) and marine and coastal ecosystems. Many PCAs are poorly connected to their wider ecological landscapes and many PCAs are poorly resourced, inadequately managed or lack management altogether and have very poor governance and with little to no engagement with the Indigenous Peoples and local communities that live in the near vicinity of the PCAs.

IUCN in Asia is working with its members, partners and Commissions across the region to scale up the governance and manage of PCAs. The Target 3 of GBF has established the ambitious goal of placing at least 30% of the planet under effective conservation by 2030. For Asia to effectively contribute towards this target, it will be important to have well-designed, well-governed and well-managed protected and conserved areas, serving as effective tools for conserving nature, and provide a wide range of ecological, socio-economic, cultural and spiritual benefits. This Is where the IUCN Green List Standard will serve as an indicator to measure the quality elements for Target 3. The Decision XIII/2 of the CBD directs to “Promote the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas as a voluntary standard to promote and encourage protected area management effectiveness”.

Seven Countries in Asia are officially implementing IUCN Green List programme, namely, Bhutan, China, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Maldives, Republic of Korea, and Viet Nam with 50+ protected areas engaging at various stages to achieve their path towards meeting the Green List Standards. Asia has the largest share of the Green Listed sites, with 20 sites of the total 77 globally. In addition to these countries, others who have shown interest and are now engaging to initiate the process include Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor Leste.

Mekong River Commission (MRC) and IUCN – Asia Regional Office have collaborated for the implementation of IUCN Green List as a framework to be used for assessment & gap analysis of key Environmental Assets (watershed areas). This Is one of the best examples of use of IUCN Green List as a diagnostic tool for site-based governance and management across PCAs. The aim of this engagement is to plan the approach to undertaking the gap analysis of four sites against the IUCN Green List standard as a basis for informing the preparation of management plans for these environmental assets of regional importance in the Mekong Basin spread across Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam, with focus to undertake the gap analysis and develop an action plan for four sites against the IUCN Green List standard as a basis for informing the development of site management plans.

The framework that is a good fit for both protected areas and conserved areas (OECMs) and thus protecting biodiversity and supporting Indigenous people and local communities (IPLCs). Also providing multiple pathways to advance multisectoral collaborations to address biodiversity threats and achieve successful conservation outcomes. IUCN Green List framework will assist directly in contributing towards 12 actions under the GBF and overall delivery towards the long-term goals to be achieved through the 21 action-oriented GBF Targets for 2030.

Good governance in the Green List is all about inclusiveness, equity and rights. It is about giving a voice to the people that matter in conservation, and conserving area-based conservation efforts. Also ensuring that the diversifying Green List portfolio across the region has a good representation of inland water and marine PCAs too, which often receive little attention. Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area (SIMCA) is the first co-managed site in Sabah, Malaysia and the first Green Listed site in Borneo and the Coral Triangle region, as well as the first Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the whole of the Asia region.

Asia with its growing Green List portfolio aims to double the coverage with at least 15+ countries engaging in the IUCN Green List with an aspiring target of 500+ sites using IUCN Green List for equitable governance and effective management of PCAs and on their path to achieving Green List standards as being a beacon of optimism and hope to improve the management of protected and conserved areas in Asia.

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