PECS #24: Other Effective Conservation Measures (OECMs) with Georgina Gurney

With the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) being the world’s foremost international conservation agreement, the CBD Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework offers a crucial policy window to chart a course towards a more sustainable future. This new framework will significantly influence the use and governance of forests, fishing grounds and other commons, particularly through its area-based conservation target, which calls for 30% of the planet to be conserved by 2030. In this presentation, I argue that achieving effective and equitable conservation through this target will require the conservation community to go beyond protected areas, the typical approach used to date. Other Effective Conservation Measures (OECMs) – managed areas that achieve biodiversity outcomes irrespective of their objectives – are poised to meet this need. Given OECMs need not have biodiversity conservation as a primary objective (unlike protected areas), this new policy tool provides an unprecedented opportunity to recognise and support diverse forms of stewardship associated with a range of managed areas (e.g. Indigenous territories, community-managed fisheries areas, sacred areas). However, realising the opportunity that OECMs present to advance equitable and effective conservation requires addressing important concerns about their implementation, especially those related to demonstrating conservation effectiveness and ensuring OECM recognition strengthens rather than displaces local governance. Based on recent transdisciplinary research involving environmental practitioners and policymakers, I outline a research and policy agenda that tackles five key challenges to implementing OECMs. This presentation aims to generate discussion around this new global policy tool, including with regards to the role of scholarship on environmental governance, justice and social-ecological systems in helping ensure OECMs contribute to a just and sustainable future.

Georgina Gurney is a Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University. She is an environmental social scientist, and her research focuses broadly on the governance of conservation and natural resource management initiatives. Her current research program aims to identify the sociocultural and institutional drivers of these initiatives, and understand their outcomes, especially with respect to human wellbeing. Georgina takes an interdisciplinary approach to her research, drawing from a range of disciplines including social psychology, human geography and political science, and often collaborating with natural scientists. Much of her research is transdisciplinary, involving knowledge co-production with conservation and resource management practitioners and policymakers. She has tended to undertake her research in the context of coral reef social-ecological systems in the Asia-Pacific region, including Indonesia, Australia and Fiji. Georgina held a five-year Social Science Fellowship (2016-2020) at the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and in 2021, was awarded an Early Career Fellowship by the Australian Research Council.