Ensuring trust and credibility in the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas
ASI is the global company that assures the integrity of leading sustainability standards, including the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and others. With its team of terrestrial and aquatic natural resource managers, stakeholder engagement and assessment experts, ASI oversees sustainability audits in up to 80 countries annually (see www.accreditation-services.com). ASI is pleased to have been appointed by IUCN to provide input in the development of an adequate assurance mechanism for the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas.
Put simpl,y and perhaps not surprisingly, the most important aspect of a sustainability standards system is the content of the standard itself – is it verifiable, outcome-based and does it deliver improvements on the ground?
An assurance system is required to make a standard credible - to ensure consistency, impartiality and rigour in its global application. In developing a “fit for purpose assurance process”, ASI has been guided by feedback from IUCN members and stakeholders, who have highlighted that the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas process should be inclusive, independent, transparent, objective and be based on a standard adapted to local circumstances.
Working together with the GLPA Management Team, ASI has compiled a methodology starting by aligning existing terms of references developed for:
- The IUCN GLPA Committee, which is the body responsible at global level for the GLPA Standard and Assurance Procedures, strategy and operation, and the final say on all Green List decisions;
- Reference Groups (RGs), which are expert, yet voluntary, advisory groups formed to manage the GLPA at a jurisdictional level. Their role includes: promoting the GLPA to protected areas; registration of PAs, assisting PAs to prepare their GLPA Prospectus; ensuring the Prospectus meets the GLPA Standard; nominating compliant Prospectuses to the GLPA Committee for listing on the IUCN Green List;
- Independent GLPA Reviewers, who are appointed by IUCN to ensure that the work in partner jurisdictions is compliant with the Assurance Procedures.
A core element of the GLPA is effective engagement with local communities and stakeholders, as enshrined in the GLPA Standard. As a result, this principle of transparency and equitability has been included in the assessment methodology itself. Stakeholder engagement includes a mapping and engagement plan, by which the applicant PA lays the foundation for meaningful stakeholder input into the process. Recognizing that effective stakeholder engagement varies with local and cultural circumstances, the methodology is not overly prescriptive on the “how to engage” with interested parties, but rather asks the applicant PA to implement suitable means of stakeholder engagement, subject to the RG’s and reviewer’s endorsement.
ASI sees a major strength of the IUCN GLPA framework in the role of the RGs, being comprised of WCPA and other expert members. The RGs will adapt the standards to local needs, review prospectuses of PAs, highlight further improvements needed and eventually make a nomination to the IUCN GLPA Committee. While the RGs are at the heart of making IUCN GLPA a success, assurance will be provided by an accredited Reviewer who is proposed to support RGs, but as well to challenge them occasionally. Reviewers, being conservation experts with an “out of country perspective” will provide feedback to a respective RG, for instance when considered that its membership may need broadening, or when evidence put forward for green listing is not complete or not compelling enough. The Reviewer may also highlight and share best practice implemented by other RGs. Reviewers are not foreseen to overrule decisions made by RGs, but to capture and share their view of the activities of the RG, which will be informative for the GLPA committee final decision making process.
The pilot phase Assurance Procedures were presented in Kenya at a partner meeting in June 2014. The Assurance Procedures were discussed in depth, and agreed, with minor modifications, as a sound basis for conducting the pilot phase up until the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 in November. After this phase they will be reviewed, the lessons learned will be incorporated, and the whole process opened up to wider public consultation.
Anyone interested to learn more about the Assurance Procedures and its drafting process, is encouraged to contact ASI under firstname.lastname@example.org
Sönke Fischer, Director of Assurance Services International (ASI)
The GLPA Reviewers: Who are they?
With an M.Sc in Forestry; Liviu Amariei is GLPA Reviewer for France, Italy and Spain. He has expertise at the international level in standards development relating to natural resources, auditing against voluntary standards (FSC and RSB) at both accreditation and certification level, training and auditor competence. His experience includes working with high conservation values relating to forests and other ecosystems.
Dr Matthew Durnin has spent the last 20 years working on environment, natural resource, and development-related issues in Asia. Most recently, he has served as Chairman of the Board of the Jane Goodall Institute in China and worked for The Nature Conservancy’s Asia Pacific Region as Director of Science. His role for the GLPA is to assist in the development and review of GLPA Reviewer Accreditation materials and to pilot the accreditation process as reviewer of nominated PA’s in China, New South Wales and South Korea.
Amos Bien is a tropical forest ecologist by academic training, with more than 20 years of experience in managing sustainability issues concerning private and public protected areas. He has also worked with local communities, and on certification, and sustainable tourism standards. He is the president of the Tropical Science Centre, Costa Rica’s oldest environmental NGO, which owns the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. He is Professor at the Universidad de Cooperación Internacional; former President of the Costa Rican Network of Natural Reserves.