Categories Blog, Global

A brief introduction to ‘Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures’

By: Harry Jonas (Natural Justice) and Nigel Dudley (Equilibrium Research),
Members of the IUCN WCPA Task Force on OECMs

International and state approaches to conservation have until recently tended to either ignore or undermine the ways that indigenous peoples and local communities support the integrity of local ecosystems and biodiversity. A number of changes in law, policy and practice – particularly since the 5th World Parks Congress in 2003 (Durban) – have begun to reverse that trend. One such process that may contribute positively to the greater and more appropriate recognition of ICCAs outside of protected areas relates to ‘other effective area-based conservation measures.’

Aichi Biodiversity Target 11

In 2010, the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 10/CBD) adopted the Aichi Biodiversity Targets as part of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. Target 11 calls for “at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas” to be conserved by way of “well-connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs).

Task Force

Following discussions with the Secretariat of the CBD, IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas established a Task Force in 2015 to develop guidance to parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), among other right- and stakeholders, on the meaning of the term. Since its inception, the Task Force has held three expert meetings (Cambridge, Vilm and Vancouver) and presented its progress at a side event at the twentieth meeting of the CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA). The Task Force also presented its work at the World Conservation Congress (September 2016) and Conference of the Parties to the CBD (December 2016).

What is an OECM?

The definition of an OECM and related guidance is still a work in progress, yet there is general agreement in the Task Force about the core difference between a protected area and an OECM. Specifically, while protected areas should have a primary conservation objective (i.e. aim to promote the in-situ conservation of biodiversity), the defining criterion of an OECM is that it should deliver the effective and enduring in-situ conservation of biodiversity, regardless of its primary management objectives. This is a crucial distinction, which will help improve the recognition and support for ICCAs that are not managed for conservation, but nevertheless contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Potential kinds of ICCA-OECMs

Some ICCAs are also protected areas, some are likely to be recognized as OECMs; some may end up being neither. There are three broad categories of ICCAs that could qualify as OECMs:

  • ICCAs that are governed primarily for conservation but are not recognized by governments as such;
  • ICCAs that are governed primarily for conservation but where the indigenous or community governing authority does not want the area to be recognized as a protected area; and
  • ICCAs that are not governed primarily for conservation but do contribute to the enduring conservation of biodiversity.

Focusing on ICCAs, the following is a non-exhaustive list of potential examples that might be recognized as OECMs:

  • Some indigenous peoples’ and local community conserved territories and areas (or sections of these terrestrial or marine areas) managed to maintain natural or near-natural ecosystems, with light/low levels of use of natural resources practised on a sustainable basis and in a way that does not degrade the area’s biodiversity;
  • Sacred natural sites governed by indigenous peoples or local communities that are protected for their associations with one or more faith groups, and which have high biodiversity values;
  • Traditional agricultural systems with high levels of associated biodiversity that achieve the in-situ conservation of biodiversity, including low-level livestock grazing on native grasslands managed so that it maintains the full variety of native biodiversity;
  • Some permanently set-aside areas (i.e., not part of the harvest schedule), such as ancient, old-growth, primary, or other high-biodiversity forest areas within community-managed forests;
  • Watersheds and areas managed to mitigate flood and other disaster risk, e.g. water meadows, riverine forest, coastal forests and wetlands, natural forest protected for long-term soil and slope stabilisation;
  • Water catchment areas that are maintained in a natural condition to provide a source of water;
  • Hunting reserves that maintain natural habitats and other flora and fauna as well as viable populations of hunted and non-hunted native species; and
  • Areas created by active restoration of degraded and threatened ecosystems e.g. freshwater and coastal wetlands.


The Task Force aims to complete its work by the end of 2017. The Task Force’s Co-Chairs, Kathy MacKinnon and Harry Jonas, are always looking for case studies that help contribute to the development of the guidance. If you would like to complete a case study, please contact us and we will send you the framework. Contact: