Beyond protected areas: recognition of OECMs in Colombia

Laura Peña / Playa Rica community
Publicado: 30 Agosto 2021
Última edición: 08 Octubre 2021
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Colombia has implemented diverse conservation strategies. Some of these strategies have a legal basis, while others may be brought together as de facto conservation areas.


In this context, four workshops were held within Colombian regions, and 27 cases were evaluated as 'potential OECMs' (June 1019 to August 2021). The implementing team developed a questionnaire to gather the required and essential information of each case and assessed if they comply with the OECM definition and the four main criteria. Subsequently, 8 of the 27 cases were selected for further work (strengthening plans) to enhance the elements they need to meet the OECM definition and criteria.


Furthermore, a national procedure was co-designed and approved by the Ministry of Environment to enable the reporting of OECMs to the World Database on OECMs. 


Scale of implementation
Bosques costeros
Bosques tropicales de hoja perenne
Ecosistemas de agua dulce
Ecosistemas forestales
Ecosistemas marinos y costeros
Humedales (pantano, turberas)
Mar abierto
Río, corriente
Selva baja caducifolia
Acceso y participación en los beneficios
Actores locales
Adaptación al cambio climático
Comunicación y divulgación
Conectividad / conservación transfronteriza
Conocimientos tradicionales
Fragmentación del hábitat y degradación
Gestión de tierras
Gestión y planificación de áreas protegidas y conservadas
Gobernanza de las áreas protegidas y conservadas
Institucionalización de la biodiversidad
Manejo espacial de la zona marino-costera
Medios de vida sostenibles
Poblaciones indígenas
Seguridad alimentaria
Servicios ecosistémicos
Degradación de tierras y bosques
Pérdida de la biodiversidad
Usos conflictivos / impactos acumulativos
Pérdida de ecosistemas
Cosecha insostenible, incluida la sobrepesca
Falta de acceso a financiación a largo plazo
Falta de oportunidades de ingresos alternativos
Cambios en el contexto socio-cultural
Falta de capacidad técnica
Falta de conciencia del público y de los responsables de la toma de decisiones
Deficiente vigilancia y aplicación de la ley
Deficiente gobernanza y participación
Conflicto social y disturbios civiles
Sustainable development goals
ODS 14 - Vida submarina
ODS 15 - Vida de ecosistemas terrestres
ODS 17 - Alianzas para lograr los objetivos
Aichi targets
Meta 1: Aumento de la sensibilization sobre la biodiversidad
Meta 2: Valores de biodiversidad integrados
Meta 11: Áreas protegidas y conservadas
Meta 14: Los servicios ecosistemicos
Meta 15: Restauración de ecosistemas y resiliencia
Meta 17: Estrategias y planes de acción para la biodiversidad
Business engagement approach
Compromiso directo con asociaciones


Colombia | Pacific coast, Amazon, Caribbean, Andean region


The main challenges are that OECM will need to be acknowledged and included as part of planning or policy, and that the National procedure to report Colombian OECMs to WCMC works adequately.


8 community organizations and local governments in several Colombian regions that have set aside areas of their territories. 120 people have acquired capacity to apply OECM criteria and conduct the OECM national verification. 

¿ Cómo interactúan los building blocks en la solución?

The two building blocks interact completly. In order to report to WCMC database, it is necesary to identify the potencial OECM area, to apply the criteria. We adapted a participative methodology that defined a series of questions for each criterion and its components according to the Colombian context, that make possible to analyze the consistency of the area with the OECM criteria. According to this verificatión, it is possible to report to WCMC.


The implementation of the OECM definition and criteria through the project is a practical exercise that has led, in each case, to a reflective analysis about the area’s management by the local stakeholders, in this case conducted at the regional workshops. As it was carried out on a case-by-case basis, in-depth analysis of issues and sharing of experiences with other participants with similar challenges has been shown to enrich their vision and perspectives and to generate even more ownership of their areas.


At national and regional levels, OECMs are included in the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and Colombia has developed a Climate Adaptation National Plan. This project has enabled engagement with and capacity development about OECMs of regional environmental authorities, the Ministry of Environment and other governmental and non-governmental conservation and climate change stakeholders. 


As Colombia is one of the first Latin American countries to implement the OECM criteria, we now have the capacity and opportunity to share experiences with other countries with similar socioeconomic contexts and contribute to the global discussions that is enriching in situ conservation perspectives.


Marcela Santamaría / Resnatur

Beneficiary 1. Association of United Women of San Isidro (Amusi)


Since 2014, the Association of United Women of San Isidro (Amusi) protects and manages the six properties that constitute the Salto Topacio conservation-production area, which has 30 ha of dry forest and important water sources. The area is immersed in a matrix of agroforestry crops (76 ha). Through the cultivation of yams, the association seeks to vindicate the rights of women to work, so that they can make their own decisions, in a context of violence and displacement accentuated at the beginning of this century. The validation of the criteria clearly showed the issues that require strengthening. In this case, the protection of the water resource is urgent, since it is essential for the well-being of the San Isidro community. The prioritized actions were directed towards good practices in the management of water and ecosystems, and the strengthening of governance for a more participatory and inclusive management.


Beneficiary 2. the Andakí Municipal Natural Park


The Andakí Municipal Park (MNP) is in the municipality of Belén de los Andaquíes in the Colombian Amazon region, which has been conserving strategic areas for over 20 years in order to maintain their biodiversity. This conservation process actively involves local actors and has included the creation of nine municipal natural parks, including the Andakí MNP. The Andakí MNP covers an area of 26.7 km2 and was recognised by the local government based on its biodiversity, its ecosystem services and its important contributions to municipal development, as well as its role in maintaining sites of historical and cultural significance.


Andakí MNP was considered as a potential OECM because in Colombia local governments are not able to declare or manage protected areas. However, more than 140 local governments carry out ecological heritage and conservation actions to guarantee the supply of ecosystem services as part of their territories’ sustainable development, and one type of local government action has been the creation and management of municipal conservation areas. Although these areas are not recognised in the National System of Protected Areas of Colombia, they have a strong social function and in some cases are incorporated into land-use planning processes. 

Contribuido por

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Marcela Santamaria Gómez Colombian Network of Civil Society Nature Reserves, Fundación Natura Colombia, Instituto Alexander Von Humboldt, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability , UICN Sur