Protected areas (PAs) are a key tool for combating extreme rates of biodiversity loss. We have almost reached the 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas which Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) mandates should be conserved in ‘effectively and equitably managed … protected areas’ by 2020. However, concern is growing that, in the rush to meet targets, there has been less focus on whether PAs are either effective or equitable. This study contributes to an exploration of the ‘instrumental’ (as opposed to the moral) argument that more equitable governance results in better biodiversity outcomes. It builds on an international effort led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) to develop and roll out a practical tool – ‘Site-level Assessment of Governance and Equity’ (SAGE), which provides data that is useful for resolving local equity issues and may also allow for some higher-level comparison.
The studentship aims to explore the contribution of equitable governance of PAs to the achievement of effective biodiversity conservation. It will do so by (i) assessing the extent of the correlation between equity and biodiversity outcome scores for around 30 SAGE pilot sites; (ii) developing a framework for conceptualising and analysing the instrumental pathway(s) from more equitable governance through management activities to improved biodiversity outcomes; and (iii) exploring in-depth one or more of these potential pathways in two PAs representing ‘shared’ governance between local-level stakeholders and national-level state actors. Fieldwork is likely to be in Sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. Kenya and/or Namibia, though other sites are also possible). The PhD will involve collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners working to achieve more equitable and effective conservation, with a focus on contributing to decisions of the CBD meeting in 2022.