Story | 14 Dec, 2023

Hope, capacity and community

The IUCN Green List is a unique global standard that helps organisations achieve effective, long-term conservation results. Melissa Hobson discovers how our Members across the world are using it to implement change

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Shintuya hot springs in Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, one of the first two Indigenous co-managed Green List sites

In the spectacular wilderness of Zambia’s North Luangwa National Park, elephants, lions and African wild dogs are thriving. So too are black rhinos, reintroduced here following earlier national extinction. In December 2022, North Luangwa (which is managed in partnership by Frankfurt Zoological Society and the Zambia Department of National Parks and Wildlife) became the sixth site in Africa to join the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas. Four other sites in Zambia are currently working towards achieving IUCN Green List certification.

The IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas helps conservationists achieve long-term positive impacts through the Green List Sustainability Standard, which provides a global benchmark for tackling our biggest environmental challenges. Any protected or conserved site can work towards achieving the Standard. Upon reaching it, they receive a certification which verifies they are achieving fair and effective long-term results for nature and communities.

While the better-known IUCN Red List tracks threats to our planet’s biodiversity, the Green List offers what IUCN’S Trevor Sandwith, Director of the Centre for Conservation Action, describes as a “sense of hope, capacity and community”. He says that the Green List is “built on a tradition of millennia, where human beings have conserved nature because it’s important for the culture, their language, their identity, their biodiversity and for ecosystem services”.

A unique standard

The Green List has four components (Equitable Governance, Sound Design and Planning, Effective Management, and Successful Conservation Outcomes) and uses 17 criteria to provide a guide for equitable and effective management of protected and conserved areas.

Professor Marc Hockings is a long-term member of IUCN through its World Commission on Protected Areas, where he co-chairs the Green List Standard and  the Management Effectiveness Specialist Group. He explains that the Green List Standard “provides a consistent and practical ‘recipe’ for good conservation”.

“Just establishing protected and conserved areas is not enough – they need to be effectively managed and deliver positive outcomes for nature and people – quality as well as quantity is important,” he explains. “Too many areas are paper parks and not delivering the outcomes we seek. The Green List Standard is a guide to what quality in protected and conserved area management looks like.”

Conservation professionals have spent years working out how to achieve success: whether through laws, management plans, increased capacity or consultation with local communities. The Green List offers a way of ensuring that these different inputs result in an outcome which protects nature, biodiversity, society and culture. “It’s the only standard that measures this in the world,” says Sandwith.



Not just a list

The goal of successful certification might entice people into making progress against the Standard but, as Sandwith explains, “the purpose of the Green List is to have successful protected areas, not to be listed”. Not all 600 sites currently working with the IUCN are aspiring towards certification, he says. Instead, “We’re trying to be the tide that raises all boats.”

Marc Hockings agrees. “The Green List Standard can be used by anyone. Not just protected areas that are already ‘successful’, or those wanting to become certified. It provides a means of analysing strengths and weaknesses, building capacity, measuring impact and adapting interventions to “deliver tangible and significant improvements to outcomes and benefits”.

In France, conservationists have embraced the IUCN Green List Standard, with 22 Green Listed sites at the time of publication. Areas such as the Côte Bleue Marine Park – home to stunning seagrass meadows and coral reefs – provide inspiration to France’s nine candidate areas that are still in the process of reaching the Standard. “Preparing a site for nomination involves a significant investment of time and effort, but the benefits of the process can be considerable,” says Hockings

The Green List also recognises the value of community and indigenous knowledge in protecting natural resources. In 2018, Peru’s Amarakaeri Communal Reserve achieved significant success in conserving its forests through an effective governance model and successful collaboration with local communities, making it a standout example in South America. Arakwal National Park was the first national park in Australia created under an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with Arakwal people, and its Indigenous co-managers are caring for the endangered Byron Bay Orchid.

“People want to sit at the table and be part of the decision-making,” says Sandwith. “They don’t want the government to tell them what to do.” However, certification also enables better social investment opportunities. The Green List’s independently assessed benchmark of management quality “can provide an important assurance to governments, donors and communities that the protected and conserved areas are delivering”, explains Hockings.

Working together for conservation success

Hockings hopes the Green List Standard and certification programme will provide “a catalyst for a quality revolution for nature conservation – a focus on what works and a cause for optimism”. He’s encouraged by the pride on the faces of managers when receiving Green List certificates and their appreciation for how the process has helped their day-to-day work.

Trevor Sandwith sees the Green List as “an identity around which IUCN can gather” to demonstrate the strength of the Union. When you’re involved with the Green List, he says, “the whole world is behind you, saying ‘Yes, this can be done.’”

He adds: “It’s a way of expressing hope. That’s why it’s green.”

Relevant IUCN Resolutions include:
1) WCC 2012 Res 041
2) WCC 2012 Res 076
3) WCC 2016 Res 030
4) WCC 2016 Res 031
Australia, France and Peru are all State Members of IUCN.