News Release

New IUCN guidelines to harmonize management in natural areas with multiple international designations

Time:2016-09-14 Browse Number:200 Source:UNESCO

(Sep. 4) New guidelines launched at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress aim 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”, has been prepared by IUCN, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 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.


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 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.

IUCN has been at the forefront of protected areas conservation for over half a century, with its Congresses laying out the foundations for high standards of protection through international conventions and inter-governmental programmes.

IUCN was among the first to recognise the importance of protecting our planet’s most valuable natural areas through international mechanisms, having played 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. 

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.

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 Han Qunli, 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 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.

Taking place every four years, the IUCN World Conservation Congress includes a unique environmental parliament made up of IUCN’s Members, who decide the course of action for conservation. This year’s congress opened on 1 September in Hawai’i, USA, and will continue until 10 September. Protected areas management continues to be at the heart of debates, with a number of related motions due to be discussed next week during the IUCN Members’ Assembly at the Congress.