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IUCN Protected Areas Categories Summit – Almeria, Spain – May 2007
Front page: Title, authors and logos
The IUCN Summit on Protected Area Management Categories was held in Almeria, Spain in May 2007. It aimed to test the opinions of key thinkers and policy makers regarding the revision of guidelines to interpretation of the six IUCN protected area categories. The meeting was generously supported by the Junta de Andalusia, the Spanish Ministry of Environment and the foundation Biodiversidad.
The meeting operated through plenary sessions and a series of specialised workshops, with many presentations and time for detailed discussion. There were two field trips, midway through the meeting and at the end. More than a hundred people attended from over fifty countries around of the world.
The summit reached either consensus or overwhelming majority support on several key points; workshops agreed on other issues without dissent in plenary. While the summit was not a decision-making forum, which is the role of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Steering Committee, it did give IUCN a clear mandate to incorporate the conclusions in the draft IUCN protected area guidelines for further discussion. This has now been done and the main conclusions have so far been supported by IUCN members. The following proceedings outlines the main outputs and a summary of decisions regarding process and next steps.
Most significant plenary outputs
Main agreed workshop outputs – the guidelines should:
A revised version of the category guidelines is being developed and will be presented to the World Conservation Congress in late 2008 at Barcelona, Spain.
From Nik Lopoukhine?
The fact that IUCN was able to hold a major meeting to discuss the protected area management categories was due entirely to the generosity of various government and non-governmental institutions in Spain, which provided the funding for the meeting, along with a great deal of the logistical help.
We would like to thank in particular Fuensanta Coves Botella and Maria Rosario Pintos Martin of Junta de Andalusia; Serrano Rodriguez of the Ministry of Environment in Spain; and Antonio Serrano of Biodiversidad; along with their staff, for the fantastic support and welcome that IUCN received in Spain.
The complex and time-consuming logistics for the meeting were coordinated from the IUCN Mediterranean Office in Malaga by Andres Alcantara and Sophie Moreau and in Gland by Kari Lahti, on secondment from Metsahallitus Natural Heritage Services in Finland, assisted by Delwyn Dupuis, both of whom put in a huge amount of time and energy to make the event a success. Pedro Rosabal and David Sheppard at the Programme of Protected Areas at IUCN headquarters gave generous support to the ideas and practicalities of the meeting and the overall work of the task force.
The intellectual content of the summit was supplied through the medium of an impressive volume of papers, reprinted here, written mainly on a voluntary basis by task force members and other experts from around the world.
We would like to thank in particular: Robin Abel; José-Antonio Atauri; Brad Barr; Charles Besancon; Harry Biggs; Luigi Boitani; Grazia Borrini-Feyerabend; Jessica Brown; Neil Burgess; José Courrau; Roger Crofts; Nick Davidson; Jon Day; Charlie Falzon; Lucy Fish; Pete Frost; Dave Harmon; Marc Hockings; Craig Groves; Cyril Kormos, Ashish Kothari; Dan Laffoley; Josep-Maria Mallarach; Stephanie Mansourian; Kenton Miller; Brent Mitchell; John Morrison; Gonzalo Oviedo; Jeffrey Parrish; Andrew Parsons; Marc Patry; Adrian Phillips; Kent Redford; Liesbeth Renders; Carlo Rondinini; Deborah Bird Rose; Fausto Sarmiento; David Sheppard; Sue Stolton; Daniel Vallauri; Bas Verschuuren; Bobby Wishitemi; and Louisa Wood.
Finally, we would like to thank the people who took time to attend the summit, contributed their ideas and were prepared to meet the often demanding timetable set by the organisers. A list of people attending the summit is given in Appendix 3 at the back of this volume.
Twenty years ago, IUCN developed a preliminary system of protected area management categories. In the late 1980s and early 1990s the IUCN Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas (now known as the World Commission on Protected Areas - WCPA ), reviewed these, the IVth World Parks Congress in Caracas confirmed a number of changes, and the IUCN General Assembly approved them in 1994. They were published as IUCN Guidelines in the same year (IUCN/WCMC, 1994). Below we summarise the 1994 WCPA definition of a protected area and definitions of the six associated management categories of protected areas.
An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means.
Categorisation by management objective
Protected areas are categorised according to their primary management objective.
Further explanation: This type of classification system serves a number of valuable purposes as it:
Assignment to a category is not a comment on management effectiveness. This distinction is often overlooked. For instance, where category II areas are poorly managed, there is a temptation to re classify them as category V areas. This is not the intent of the IUCN guidelines, which categorise by management objective. There are, in fact, two questions:  “What is the aim of management?” leading to assignment of a category; and  “How well is the area managed?” leading to an assessment of management effectiveness.
The IUCN categories system has been designed for global use. The guidance is therefore broad and general rather than being prescriptive and specific. The system should be interpreted flexibly. Because it is based on broad guidelines, regions or countries should interpret them for their own applications.
There are hundreds of different national names for protected areas. The IUCN guidelines are not intended to result in the re naming of these reserves. All categories are equally important and equally relevant to conservation. It should be noted, however, that some countries may not contain the potential for using all categories. The categories imply a gradation of human intervention, ranging from effectively none at all in the case of some category I areas, to quite high levels of intervention in category V areas. Since category VI was added to the system later it does not fit neatly into the general pattern, but lies conceptually between III and IV.
As the system is based on management objective, it is essentially neutral about the managing agency or landowner. More particularly, there is no presumption that any category will be owned or managed by the State. Categories represent a compromise between the needs and situations of different countries. They are not a perfect fit for all areas, but serve as a guide for interpretation and application at the regional and national levels. Further, no classification system is perfect, and its value really depends not so much on whether each protected area can be 'allocated' to one of the six categories without doubt or difficulty, but on whether the objectives of categorisation are met. Experience since the publication of the 1994 guidelines suggests that this process has certainly led to increased assessment of the roles of protected areas, and better informed debate about how protected areas with different roles and objects relate one to another.
The task force has been established to address a number of urgent issues relating to the IUCN protected area management categories. The IUCN “summit” on the categories, was held in autumn 2006. The task force devoted a year in preparing for the summit, by developing a series of tools, analyses and policy positions that helped build up revised and more comprehensive guidance on use of the categories. Wherever possible, consensus was reached on key points before the meeting, enabling the latter to focus on the most critical issues and where necessary to negotiate on these more formally. The results have been used to develop new guidance on the application and use of the categories.
The “Categories Summit” reflects a major milestone in a lengthy process of assessing IUCN’s management categories for protected areas. Agreed in their current form in 1994, the categories are both a powerful instrument for managing and collating information on protected areas and a major manifestation of the philosophical approach to protected areas as reflected in the IUCN membership. As such, they attract interest and passion far beyond what might be expected for something that started out as little more than a statistical tool.
The categories have already been through various earlier iterations and have been the subject of a lengthy assessment coordinated by the University of Cardiff in Wales, UK, in association with IUCN. Understanding the current debate becomes much easier if a little of the history is also available.
To provide some background, the first two papers provide perspectives on the history of the categories from Adrian Phillips and Kenton Miller, both former chairs of WCPA and perhaps the two people who were most closely involved in their development.
2.1. A short history of the international system of protected areas management categories
The background to categorisation
The origins of the modern system of protected area management categories adopted by IUCN in 1994 can only be understood in the context of the history of protected areas themselves. Protected areas are cultural artefacts and their story is entwined with that of human civilisation. Over 2000 years ago, royal decrees in India protected certain areas. In Europe, rich and powerful people protected hunting grounds for a thousand years. Moreover, the idea of protection of special places is universal: for example, it occurs among the communities in the Pacific (“tapu” areas) and in parts of Africa (sacred groves). However, the modern protected areas movement had nineteenth century origins in North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Other countries were quick to follow suit. While the idea of protected areas spread around the world in the twentieth century, the driving force was different in different regions. Thus, in North America, protected areas were about safeguarding dramatic and sublime scenery; in Africa, the concern was with game parks; in Europe, landscape protection was more common,
By now, nearly every country has adopted protected area legislation and designated sites for protection. Many public, private, community and voluntary organisations are active in creating areas for protection. And many different terms are used at the national level to describe protected areas: for example, there are about 50 used in Australia alone. There are also international networks of protected areas created under global conventions (e.g. World Heritage and Ramsar Conventions) and regional agreements (e.g. Natura 2000 sites in Europe). In all, over 100,000 sites meet the IUCN definition of a protected area (see below).
Already this very short history hints at some of the issues that gave rise to the development of the categories system. Thus protected areas have been set up for different reasons, exist in wilderness areas and in long-settled landscapes and are present in all kinds of terrestrial and marine habitats. They have been given many different names at the national level, and usually derive from national legislation or international agreements. They have come about through various types of governmental and other initiatives. Protected areas are owned by different interests and are run by different kinds of organisation.
The start of an international framework for protected areas
As protected areas were set up in one country after another, each nation developed its own approach, and there were initially no common standards or terminology. The only shared idea was that important scenic, wildlife or outdoor recreation areas should be identified and protected for the public good.
The first effort to clarify protected area terminology was made in 1933, at the International Conference for the Protection of Fauna and Flora, in London. This set out four protected area categories: national park; strict nature reserve; fauna and flora reserve; and reserve with prohibition for hunting and collecting. In 1942, the Western Hemisphere Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation also incorporated four types: national park; national reserve; nature monument; and strict wilderness reserve (Holdgate, 1999).
The emergence of a world-wide conservation movement after the Second World War encouraged the idea of a global framework for protected areas. In 1959, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) recognised that “national parks and equivalent reserves are important factors in the wise use of natural resources”. In response, IUCN’s newly formed protected areas commission – now the WCPA - prepared a “World List of National Parks and Equivalent Reserves”, the first version of the now familiar “UN List of protected areas”. It was presented at the First World Conference on National Parks in Seattle (1962), along with a paper on the ‘nomenclature’ of protected areas by C. Frank Brockman (Brockman, 1962).
In 1966, IUCN published the second version of the UN list, using a simple classification system was used: ‘national parks’, ‘scientific reserves’ and ‘natural monuments’. The IUCN General Assembly in New Delhi in 1969 defined ‘national park’ as: “a relatively large area where one or several ecosystems are not materially altered by human exploitation and occupation”. The assembly called on countries “not to describe as national parks” those areas that did not meet the definition.
IUCN’s Senior Ecologist, Dr Ray Dasmann, proposed the following system of protected area in a paper for the Second World Parks Conference (1972):
The 1972 Conference called on IUCN to “define the various purposes for which protected areas are set aside; and develop suitable standards and nomenclature for such areas” (Elliott, 1974). Between 1971 and 1975, IUCN published further editions of the UN List, and the World Directory of National Parks and Protected Areas in 1975.
By the mid-1970s, several trends were apparent. More protected areas were being set up, but there was confusion over the meaning of terms like ‘national park’ and ‘nature reserve’. While some people favoured a focus on national parks, with other types of protected areas covered by catch-all phrases like ‘equivalent reserves’ or ‘other protected areas’, others advocated a variety of approaches to protected areas to complement the attention on strictly protected areas. New international programmes and treaties were making an impact (e.g. the Man and Biosphere Programme, and the Ramsar  and World Heritage Conventions ), while there was an emerging debate on the need for an international terminology for protected areas.
The 1978 IUCN report on categories, objectives and criteria for protected areas
This was the background to CNPPA’s1 decision in 1975 to develop a categories system for protected areas. The work was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and led by Dr Kenton Miller, chair of the CNPPA Committee on Criteria and Nomenclature. He had already developed a matrix to illustrate his idea of classifying protected areas by management objectives and successfully developed this in field work in Latin America (pers. comm.). His group’s final report was issued in August 1978 as a “discussion paper”, but it quickly became seen as IUCN guidance, offering clarification where there had previously been much confusion (IUCN, 1978).
The committee incorporated the 1969 New Delhi definition of a national park, but recognised that this was only one approach among many to protected areas conservation. It advocated using a range of categories, based on management objectives rather than national names.
The report argued that this categorisation system would: show how national parks can be complemented by other categories of protected area; help each nation to develop management categories to reflect its needs; and ensure that “regardless of nomenclature used by nations …. a conservation area can be recognised and categorised by the objectives for which it is in fact managed”. It would also: help remove ambiguities and inconsistencies due to different “administrative, institutional, legal and political mechanisms among nations”; help IUCN assemble and analyse information on protected areas, which could then be “stored, recalled, udpated and printed”; and give the scientific community access to better data on conservation.
The key points to note about the 1978 system are these:
But limitations in the system soon became apparent. It did not contain a definition of a ‘protected area’, so the ‘universe’ covered by the categories as a whole was not clear, and it caused confusion that several terms were used to describe the entire suite of ten categories: ‘categories for conservation management’, ‘conservation areas’ and ‘protected area categories’. Also it included two international categories (IX and X), while acknowledging that many such sites might also be classified under another category. Some of the distinctions between the categories were unclear; and the system was terrestrial in its concepts and language, and lacked a marine dimension.
Box 1: The protected areas categories system advocated by IUCN in 1978
Group A: categories for which CNPPA will take special responsibility
I Scientific Reserve
II National Park
II Natural Monument/National Landmark
IV Nature Conservation Reserve
V Protected Landscape
Group B: other categories of importance to IUCN, but not exclusively in the scope of CNPPA
VI Resource Reserve
VII Anthropological Reserve
VIII Multiple Use Management Area
Group C: categories that are part of international programmes
IX Biosphere Reserve
X World Heritage Site (Natural)
The adoption of the 1994 system of protected areas management categories
The 1978 system was used to compile the 1993 UN list of protected areas (which set out protected areas under categories I-V). It was also taken up in some national legislation. However its shortcomings soon became evident. In 1984, therefore, CNPPA established a task force under the chairmanship of Hal Eidsvik to consider up-dating the categories system. It had to take on board not only concerns about the 1978 system but also subsequent IUCN General Assembly resolutions on topics like wilderness areas, indigenous peoples, and protected landscapes and seascapes. The task force conducted a wide-ranging debate, initially amongst Commission members, then more extensively. It reported to CNPPA members in 1990, advising that a new system be built around categories I-V of the 1978 system, whilst abandoning categories VI-X (Eidsvik, 1990). The report was adopted by CNPPA at its meeting in Perth (27 November, 1990) and tabled for information at the IUCN General Assembly next day. However CNPPA referred it to the upcoming 1992 World Parks Congress for review before any action was to be taken.
This Fourth World Congress on National Parks and Protected Areas (a title that suggests that even then that national parks were seen as somewhat different from other protected areas), was held in Caracas, Venezuela2. It included a three day workshop on the category system. Participants addressed the task force’s recommendations, and were informed by a paper from an IUCN consultant (Foster, 1992). A major feature of the workshop debate was a move, led by several experts from developing countries, to add a new category to the first five of the 1978 system, so as to accommodate the idea of protected areas for sustainable use of natural resources.
Acting on the workshop’s conclusions, the Caracas Congress adopted Recommendation 17. This called on CNPPA and the IUCN Council to endorse a system of six protected area categories based on management objectives, recommend this to governments, and explain it through guidelines. In fact, the IUCN Council referred this matter to a higher level. In January 1994, ten years after the review of the 1978 system had begun, the IUCN General Assembly, meeting in Buenos Aires, approved the new system, commended it to governments and called on CNPPA to finalise guidance to explain it.
Later in 1994, IUCN and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) published “Guidelines for Protected Area Management Categories”, in English, French and Spanish (IUCN, 1994). The guidelines provide an introduction to the system, explain each category in turn and set out a number of worked examples of the application of the system to existing protected areas.
The system explained – the main points from the 1994 guidelines3
Introducing the 1994 guidance, the then Chair of CNPPA, P.H.C. (Bing) Lucas wrote: “These guidelines have a special significance as they are intended for everyone involved in protected areas, providing a common language by which managers, planners, researchers, politicians and citizens groups in all countries can exchange information and views”.
The guidelines aimed to alert governments to the importance of protected areas and encourage them to develop systems of protected areas with management aims tailored to national and local circumstances. The also aimed to: reduce the confusion around the use of many different terms to describe protected areas; provide international standards for global and regional accounting and comparisons between countries, using a common framework for the collection, handling and dissemination of protected areas data; and generally to improve communication and understanding between all those engaged in conservation.
The 1994 categories system was not originally intended to set, or drive up, management standards, nor to lay down a template for use at the national level. The idea was that protected areas should be established to meet national or local needs and then “labelled with an IUCN category according to the management objectives”.