April 4, 2019

UNEP Guide Presents Governance Framework for MPAs

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Catherin Benson Wahlén

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has released a guidance document that highlights the role of marine protected areas (MPAs) in maintaining or restoring the health of ocean and coastal ecosystems, in line with SDG 14 (life below water). The guide provides evidence-based advice on how governance of MPAs can promote conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, drawing on case studies from around the world.

The report titled, ‘Enabling Effective and Equitable Marine Protected Areas: Guidance on Combining Governance Approaches,’ argues that widespread change in how the world manages activities in and around coastal and marine areas is critical to secure healthy oceans and coasts that can contribute to sustainable development. According to the report, “strong governance that influences human behavior and reduces impacts on marine and coastal ecosystems” is essential for effective MPAs. The report further emphasizes that application of a diverse set of incentives from different categories can help build governance system resilience, underscoring the importance of encouraging behavior change to achieve conservation objectives, support sustainable use and promote equity.

The guide presents a four-step MPA governance framework for planners, decision makers and practitioners to apply as part of an adaptive management cycle. First, the guide recommends reviewing the context and impacts surrounding the MPA to understand steps needed to understand human behaviors. Second, the guide suggests reviewing frequently used incentives to identify which ones are being used in the MPA. The report identifies 36 incentives across the five categories: economic; legal; participation; knowledge; and communication. Participation incentives, for example, include rules for participation, establishment of collaborative platforms, independent arbitration panels and neutral facilitation, among others. Third, the guide proposes that users consider how incentives being used in the MPA are linked and identifying any gaps. Fourth, the guide recommends that users review any additional incentives that could improve the effectiveness of the MPA.

The guidance document builds on lessons learned from 34 MPA case studies around the world that cover a range of MPA types, ranging from community-led and decentralized MPAs to government-led and private MPAs as well as no-take and multiple-use MPAs. Each case study addresses the MPA context, the challenges it faces, a description of implementation and next steps. A case study compendium supports the guide.

Norway, Sweden and the Blue Solutions project provided financial support for the publication. The Blue Solutions project is “a global initiative to establish a platform to collate, share and generate knowledge” and to build capacity for sustainable management and equitable governance of “our blue planet.” It is being implemented in partnership between Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), GRID-Arendal, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UNEP, financed by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) through its International Climate Initiative (IKI).