Assessing governance at protected and conserved areas (GAPA)

2015 -

IIED is developing a multi-stakeholder-led methodology for assessing the quality of governance at protected areas and other conserved areas.

Pastoralists discuss strengths and challenges of governance at a conservancy in Kenya. (Photo: Francesca Booker/IIED)

Governance is about who defines objectives, whether they be conservation or social objectives, and how responsibility and accountability for delivering on these objectives is allocated. In this context, the objectives are those of protected areas (PAs) or other conserved areas.

The importance of governance in relation to PAs was clearly recognised at the IUCN World Parks Congress in 2003, and subsequently in the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Programme of Work on Protected Areas that was developed in 2004. More recently, the Aichi Targets of the CBD Strategic Plan state that PAs should be equitably managed, and equity is largely a matter of governance.

Substantial work has been done by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to elaborate the key attributes of PA governance. This includes important distinctions of governance type, and proposing governance quality principles and considerations, as well as providing guidance for conducting governance type and quality assessments at the PA system level and at specific sites. See IUCN’s Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines No. 20 on Governance of Protected Areas.  

What is IIED doing?

Building on this work, IIED has created a site-level governance quality assessment methodology for use by PA managers and other site-level rightsholders and stakeholders.

Governance quality is otherwise commonly referred to as good governance. Based on the IUCN framework of good governance principles, IIED has developed a framework of 11 principles of good governance that are relevant to PAs and other conserved areas. They include full and effective participation, recognition and respect for rights, fair and effective law enforcement, fair sharing of benefits, transparency and accountability, and effective coordination and collaboration.

GAPA methodology 

Launched in 2015 as a collaborative initiative between IIED and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the governance assessment initiative began to pilot the Governance Assessment for Protected and Conserved Areas (GAPA) methodology at sites in Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Since then, IIED has worked with other partners to pilot the methodology, including IUCN. So far, the methodology has been tested at eight sites in five countries – Bangladesh, the Philippines, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. 

In developing the GAPA methodology we have drawn on our learning from its ‘sister’ Social Assessment for Protected and Conserved Areas (SAPA) methodogy.

Like SAPA, GAPA is a relatively simple, low-cost methodology for PAs and conserved areas to be used by managers and other site level rightsholders and stakeholders – but the focus is on the quality of governance at their particular site (rather than social impacts). 

GAPA can be used in all types of PAs and conserved areas. This includes sites where there is governance by government, shared governance, private governance, or governance by indigenous peoples and local communities. 

GAPA uses a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure that the key rightsholders and stakeholders are fully engaged in the design of the assessment, the collection of information, interpretation of the results, and the development of recommendations. This approach also serves to enhance the accuracy, credibility and legitimacy of the results.

Get involved

If you are interested in using the governance assessment methodology, or if you need advice on applying the methodology, 
email Francesca Booker (