Capacity to Manage

The capacity to manage is the product of willingness, competence, skills, capability, and adequate resources. This strategic direction focuses on strengthening the capacity of protected area agencies and the men and women who work in them. It is built on the basic principle that investment in capacity only comes through an understanding of the full values of Protected Areas and also that strengthening capacity requires knowledge that must be turned into effective action.

Future action needs to focus on widening the awareness and understanding of the values of protected areas, including their contribution to biodiversity protection and supporting sustainable development, and especially their value to indigenous peoples and local communities.

During the past decade, there has been little growth in the resources available for protected areas in many countries. Yet, the role of protected areas in supplying environmental goods and services, such as clean water, as reservoirs for sustaining populations of marine and terrestrial species (including those of commercial importance) and as a buffer for absorbing land- and air-based pollutants, must be better researched and promoted.

Stronger links need to be made between protected areas and the cultural heritage of communities and society, including the sacred and spiritual qualities of these areas. The benefits that protected areas (that include their municipal parks and recreation areas) offer to major towns and cities – including education and human health, watershed protection, biodiversity conservation and income from tourism – need to encourage much greater recognition.

The skills now required to manage protected areas are more specialized and are increasingly getting more complex in light of global changes. In parallel to gaining knowledge, it will be equally important to strengthen science capacities at individual, institutional and societal levels.

The voluntary sector should be encouraged to play a greater role in promoting the benefits of protected areas to communities and individuals living within and outside them. Visitors to protected areas are increasing in numbers and demand will continue to grow. It is important to realize the many positive benefits this can bring, such as revenue generation, increased understanding and awareness of protected areas’ natural and cultural values, and greater awareness by local communities of their local heritage. But tourism must be properly planned for and managed to minimize the environmental and cultural damage and costs that can occur.


  • To strengthen the capacity of protected area agencies and managers around the world; and
  •  To provide guidance and expert advice on options for awareness raising, conservation education, development of skills, sustainable financing and knowledge management, to enhance the planning and management of protected areas.


Building awareness

Particular emphasis will be placed on web-based communication and interaction. The WCPA website and the PALNet website are integrated and are part of the IUCN Knowledge Management System. These websites are designed to serve the needs of the WCPA Commission members and partners, and to reach out to the wider community.

Popularized publications on the values of protected areas through targeted Opinion Editorial Pieces and other media forms will be pursued. A concerted communication effort focused on the value of protected areas would be of value to all countries, developed and developing alike.

Emerging opportunities related to people, protected areas and cities should strive to broaden the constituency of protected areas by providing a channel to increase the interest and support of people living in urban areas.

Promoting effective conservation education and building up practitioner’s skills

 The promotion of effective conservation education is critical for the future of protected areas. In parallel, effort must be devoted in the coming years to upgrading skills of protected areas employees worldwide. These must be based on innovative and adaptive learning approaches that involve key protected area constituencies. A particular area that requires attention is to build up the skills of staff involved in enhancing visitor experiences. These personal experiences builds a constituency that in turn develops support and can lead to investments of time and resources.

Developing strategies for sustainable financing,

Funding of protected areas is currently inadequate and must be increased. Funding sources must be diversified and linked to the many values of protected areas. There are significant challenges in generating additional finance without compromising the core values of protected areas. For example, income generation through environmentally sensitive tourism and, in some cases, the sustainable use of natural resources, offers opportunities, but there are dangers too. So while it is important to realize fully the potential benefits of protected areas with innovative financing strategies, protected area planners and managers must consider the pros and cons of different funding options.

While a number of international funding agencies and international conservation NGOs are providing substantial support for protected areas projects, this does not ensure the sustainable financing for protected areas needed in the long term. Tourism can provide additional funding to some but not all protected areas, including some with high and vulnerable biodiversity values. The aim should be to increase financial support for protected areas, without compromising their key conservation objectives. 

Generating and disseminating knowledge - including through PALNet

The work of WCPA at all levels requires up-to-date and reliable data and information about protected areas. If protected areas are to adapt to global change then this information must be cross-linked to other relevant information such as on species distribution, socio-economic data, and climate change predictions. Protected areas agencies, field managers, and other key groups require better information to guide their work. WCPA must make full and effective use of new opportunities arising from information technology to increase the interactivity of the WCPA network with other networks working on PAs issues, and to enable provision of rapid, reliable and scientific-sound advice on protected areas.

The Protected Areas Learning Network (PALNet) is intended to meet this urgent need. PALNet facilitates the compilation of protected area management knowledge from field workers, scientists, and others. At the same time, it provides a facility for managers to share experience, information and documentation with peers around the world. Managers will employ the on-line facility to comment collegially on the work of others and in turn receive input from others on their own. PALNet is a tool that will encourage the engagement of managers to use this "knowledge network" focused on discussions regarding protected area policies, strategies, and field practices.

WCPA will work within the new directions for knowledge management being undertaken by IUCN HQ. As well, it will work in partnership with other institutions such as UNEP-WCMC, CI, TNC, NOAA, WRI, BirdLife International and WWF. Regional Vice-Chairs will be encouraged to identify regional and national institutions that can also contribute to WCPA Knowledge Management efforts. Particularly attention will be given to supporting enhancement of the WDPA, held in UNEP-WCMC, and linking it to the Species Information System (SIS), which is being implemented by IUCN-SSC.

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Vice-Chair for Capacity Development and Competences




Vice-Chair for Curriculums and Learning Modules