Harmonising management in natural areas with multiple international designations

05 September 2016


Jeju Island, Republic of Korea, is a Ramsar Sites, World Heritage site, Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO Global Geopark
On Jeju Island, all four international designations for natural areas are superimposed.
© Maxim Tupikov / Shutterstock.com

A new study launched at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress aims to support the management of areas recognised simultaneously under several international designations, all of which have environmental conservation at their heart. The publication, “Managing MIDAs – Harmonising the management of Multi-Internationally Designated Areas: Ramsar Sites, World Heritage sites, Biosphere Reserves and UNESCO Global Geoparks, was prepared by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in close collaboration with UNESCO and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, and with support from the Republic of Korea’s Jeju Special Self-Governing Province and Ministry of Environment.

This is the first comprehensive report on the management of MIDAs and recommendations therein will serve as main references for the communities working on each designation,” says Qunli Han, Secretary of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. “The recommendations will also be helpful to mitigate possible duplications and confusion at different levels of conservation work, and thus protect the specific focus and brand recognition of each designation.”

The management of multi-internationally designated areas (MIDAs) is at the core of the publication, which analyses the benefits and challenges that multiple designations can bring to a site through 11 case studies from around the world. It also includes a chapter on Jeju Island – the only area boasting all four international designations superimposed. A number of recommendations aim to support three target groups at the local, national and international levels: site managers, national authorities and stakeholders; and the bodies governing each designation.

Today there are 238 natural World Heritage sites, 2,241 Ramsar sites, 669 Biosphere Reserves and 120 UNESCO Global Geoparks. Some of these overlap, which creates both benefits and challenges due to the various standards required by each designation. That is why in 2012, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Korea, NGO and government members of IUCN called for a harmonisation of the management of areas with multiple international designations

“Internationally designated areas must be models of conservation, demonstrating the highest standards and quality of management,” says Peter Shadie, head of the IUCN delegation for World Heritage at the IUCN Congress. “When these areas have multiple designations, they have an even greater potential to inspire best practice for protected areas in the face of global challenges.”

The publication provides an overview of the four international designations to facilitate comparison between them. It summarises their different characteristics such as main objectives, criteria for inscription, legal frameworks, governance and monitoring requirements.

We must support more integrated and effective management of areas with multiple designations and this publication is a much needed contribution and tool to achieve it,” says Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.

The IUCN has championed these protected areas for decades, playing pivotal roles in developing and implementing the 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, as well as the 1972 World Heritage Convention under which IUCN is the advisory body on nature. It has also urged support for Biosphere Reserves since the early 1980s and more recently for UNESCO Global Geoparks. The IUCN World Conservation Congress is held every 4 years. This year’s congress took place on 1-10 September Hawai’i, USA. Protected areas management continues to be at the heart of debates.

To download this publication, please visit IUCN’s Publications Portal.