Can existing assessment tools be used to track equity in protected area management under Aichi Target 11?

Aichi Target 11 (AT11) includes the commitment of 194 governments to equitably manage protected areas (PAs) by 2020. Here we evaluate whether existing PA Management Effectiveness (PAME) and social and governance assessment tools can be used to determine if AT11 meets equity goals. We find that PAME assessment conditions are insufficiently inclusive of relevant actors and do not satisfactorily allow for a diversity of perspectives to be expressed and accounted for, both of which are essential for equitable PA management. Furthermore, none of the analysed PAME tools fully cover multidimensional equity and thus they are inadequate for assessing progress towards equitable management in PAs. The available social and governance PA assessment tools stipulate more inclusive and participatory conditions within their guidelines, and the IUCN Governance Guidelines comprehensively capture equity dimensions in PA management, but results are not comparable across sites. We conclude that available assessment tools do not provide a reliable way to track equity in PM at global scale. The IUCN Governance Guidelines could be adjusted to achieve this goal, providing that the information collected is made globally comparable, while ensuring transparency, accountability and room for contestation, including by communities whose livelihoods are directly implicated. Ultimately, developing and deploying globally comparable measures to evaluate equity is problematic, as the process of gathering comparable data inevitably obscures information that is highly relevant to resolving equity issues at local scales. This challenge must be met, however, if nations are to achieve and report on their success at meeting AT11 by 2020.