Governance Assessment in Protected Areas

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Target 11 calls for “effectively and equitably managed… protected areas”, and goals 2.1 and 2.2, the CBD’s Programme of Work on Protected Areas (PoWPA) calls for parties to:

  • Assess the economic and socio-cultural costs, benefits and impacts arising from the establishment and maintenance of protected areas; and
  • Carry out participatory national reviews of the status, needs and context-specific mechanisms for involving stakeholders, ensuring gender and social equity, in PA policy and management.

While progress has been made on understanding and assessing effective protected area (PA) management, equitable PA management has not been defined, and there are few examples of a comprehensive approach to assessing local governance and social equity.

Over the last 3 years IIED has been leading a global effort to understand and assess local governance and social equity in a PA context with partners GIZ and IUCN. Our work addresses the gap between international policy intentions on ‘equitable management’ and actual practice by proposing relatively simple, low cost approaches to local governance and social equity assessment that are feasible under the typical constraints of human and financial resources affecting PAs.

IIED’s governance and equity assessment methodology comprises an analytical framework, a multi-stakeholder assessment process, and tools for the five phases of the assessment process – (1) preparation, (2) scoping, (3) information collection, (4) self-assessment and (5) action planning.  Eleven good governance and equity principles serve as the analytical framework of the assessment, with the first of the nine principles relating to both equity and management effectiveness, and principles ten and eleven dealing primarily with issues of effectiveness (see Table 1).

Table 1. IIED’s Good governance and equity principles for PAs.

  Good governance and equity principles for PAs
Legitimacy & Voice  Recognition and respect of all relevant actors and their knowledge, values & institutions.
Effective participation of relevant actors in decision-making.
Fairness & rights Recognition and respect for the rights of all relevant actors.
Fair and effective processes for dispute resolution.
Effective measures to mitigate negative social impacts.
Fair sharing of benefits according to a targeting strategy agreed by relevant actors.
Accountability Transparency supported by timely access to relevant information.
Accountability for fulfilling responsibilities, other actions and inactions.
Performance Fair and effective enforcement of laws and regulations.
Achievement of conservation and other objectives.
Direction Effective coordination and collaboration between different actors, sectors and levels.

The methodology is primarily designed for use by key local stakeholders (eg PA managers) to strengthen PA governance and thereby the effectiveness and equity of PA conservation at that site.

A comprehensive users’ manual on governance and equity assessment will be provided for testing at the sites supported by this project. A governance and equity assessment is expected to prioritize five (maximum six) of the principles for further interrogation during the assessment process, and not all eleven principles. This is due to the time it takes to facilitate a meaningful discussion on the principles, and principles are prioritized according to ‘hot’ issues at the site – as decided by all the rightsholders and stakeholders that are involved in the process through voting or consensus decision making.

Over a duration of eight months, this project will demonstrate practical methods to identify and diagnose governance and equity strengths and challenges as well as identify possible actions to strengthen governance and equity in the in the context of ICCAs and protected areas associated with these ICCAs.

Building on our previous efforts, the project will further develop and refine our multi-stakeholder approach to site-level governance and equity assessment as well as support the testing of new tools – such as a governance and equity scorecard for monitoring and reporting progress on site level governance quality.

This governance and equity assessment methodology has a strong emphasis on social differentiation so that the crucial cross cutting issues of gender and inclusion of marginalized groups are explicitly addressed under each of the governance and equity principles. Through applying and further improving our practical methodology for governance and equity assessment, this project will make a key contribution towards enabling conservation to achieve and report progress in addressing these key equity-related themes of the SDGs. 


The project has two focal countries – Zambia and the Philippines. The Zambia CBNRM Forum will be the lead agency at the national and local levels in Zambia and will organise and mobilise the relevant rightsholders and stakeholders to take part in the governance and equity assessment process.

The main objective of the Zambia CBNRM Forum is to facilitate local rights-holders and stakeholders to strengthen the governance of their ICCA and its relationships with other contiguous PAs, with a particular emphasis on social equity. A secondary objective of the is to feed into the further development, field-testing and refining of IIED’s governance and equity assessment methodology and site level guidance.

This project supported a governance and equity assessment at two CBNRM areas (GMAs) in Zambia, focusing on the “Community Resource Boards” that jointly manage the GMAs and their relationship with communities, the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW), local government, and the traditional chiefs. CBNRM-related governance challenges within the chiefdoms, and the relationship of CBNRM areas and contiguous national parks will also be covered. Each assessment will generate practical ideas for action and judging by experience at other sites we can be confident that some of these actions will be low cost measures that can be implemented with no need for external support.

The first site is Mumbwa GMA.

The second site is Chiawa GMA.

The Zambia CBNRM Forum will be responsible for convening the governance and equity assessments and will provide an expert facilitator that will lead the governance and equity assessment process. The CBNRM Forum will additionally be responsible for coordinating and convening a national workshop to disseminate the assessment results and suggested next steps.