n South African Law Journal - Clearing or clouding the discourse - a South African perspective on the utility of the IUCN protected areas governance typology

Volume 127, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0258-2503
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2177



Largely under the auspices of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the past twenty years has seen the emergence of a global definition for 'protected areas' and the development of a series of comprehensive protected area guidelines, the most recent of which is a revised set of Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories (IUCN Management Guidelines). As their name suggests, the IUCN Management Guidelines focus largely on distilling a revised set of management categories which, like their predecessors, are largely based on the objectives for which a protected area is declared. These management categories are however 'neutral' regarding the essential issue of who owns, controls or is responsible for managing the protected area - cumulatively encompassed in the notion of protected areas governance. In a further attempt to assist in understanding, planning for and accurately recording protected areas, the IUCN Management Guidelines now include a matrix of protected area governance types, namely: governance by government; shared governance; private governance; and governance by indigenous peoples and local communities. It is this new set of protected areas governance types which form the focus of this article, which seeks to address this key and contemporary issue of how we understand what protected areas governance means. It begins with a discussion about what governance is and its relevance to the protected areas context. It then moves to an analysis of the content of the four protected areas governance types promoted in the IUCN Management Guidelines, and a critical evaluation of their strengths and weaknesses using practical examples drawn from the South African context. It concludes with the proposal of a revised approach to understanding, planning for and recording the diversity and nuances inherent in protected areas governance.

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