© Ana Grillo / Mangroves for the Future / IUCN

Legal and policy recommendations to support international mangrove targets

Global Mangrove Alliance Policy Brief

Global Mangrove Alliance Policy Brief: Legal and policy frameworks from around the world and recommendations to support international goals on mangroves.

Mangroves and other coastal ecosystems are gaining attention in the international agenda, including as part of the UNFCCC COP28 presidency priorities, where a coalition of parties and non-state actors are building momentum to direct increased action for mangroves in support of the Mangrove Breakthrough.

As of 2023, 97 countries have included coastal and marine ecosystems, including mangroves, in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement, and 61 countries have included conservation or restoration of blue carbon ecosystems as mitigation and/or adaptation measures. Mangroves are highly relevant to the implementation of multiple goals and targets across the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) (Targets 1, 2, 3, 8, for instance), and Parties are expected to update their National Biodiversity Strategy and Adaptation Plans to align with the GBF goals by COP16 in 2024. Globally, 305 Ramsar sites contain mangrove ecosystems, and Parties under the Ramsar Convention are to pursue policies and regional initiatives to conserve and restoral coastal wetlands, including mangroves.

Countries can implement international policy frameworks synergistically by aligning national commitments and plans, such as NDCs, NBSAPs, and National Wetlands Inventories. This can accelerate the conservation and restoration of mangroves and other blue carbon ecosystems. In fact, a growing number of countries are adopting laws and policies specifically aimed at the conservation or restoration of mangroves. As of 2023, at least 75 jurisdictions explicitly consider mangroves in their national laws. Among these, 64 have explicit mangrove cutting or clearing regulations, including at least 19 that ban all uses (with potential exceptions for traditional or subsistence use).

In this policy brief, we bring some of these examples of national policies and frameworks from Global Mangrove Alliance partners to inform and inspire the international community. You will learn from the different policy approaches and strategies used in Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Seychelles, and the Western Indian Ocean Region to advance stronger frameworks supportive of mangroves.

Belize’s National Mangrove Action Plan, to be completed in 2024, finds its foundation in land tenure analysis, which will help to identify mangrove areas that could be targeted for restoration within the Plan in an integrated way, highlighting nature values such as blue carbon and linking with Belize’s NDC targets.

Costa Rica case study gives a snapshot of the country’s newly launched Blue Carbon Strategy, the first in the world, which will use economic incentives and markets to reverse the loss and degradation of blue carbon ecosystems and wetlands, promoting a model that “benefits communities who depend directly on the ecosystem services they provide” and supporting the implementation of Costa Rica’s updated NDC.

Ecuador case study illustrates the experience of a Constitutional court case where the protected nature of mangrove ecosystems versus economic activities in the beach and bay areas were in conflict. It also highlights the effectiveness of the government-ancestral user agreements for the sustainable use and custody of the mangrove ecosystem (AUSCEM), which primary purpose is the protection of the mangrove forest in exchange of traditional, sustainable and preferential use of mangrove resources.

Indonesia’s Bio-rights program showcases the success of small loan schemes to promote mangrove conservation and restoration through green-grey infrastructure while generating alternative livelihoods and the primordial role of the government to support implementation through program allocations and/or funding to community groups -with potential of scaling up as part of established government incentives.

Mexico’s case study showcases its Monitoring System for Mangroves (SMMM) which by providing baseline and monitoring data has triggered government responses towards mangrove legal protection, through court orders and new legislation that establishes higher levels of protection for threatened mangrove ecosystems.

Panama’s case study highlights GMA partners efforts under the Blue Natural Heritage Initiative including work on policies relevant to mangroves: legislation pieces that promote the “Reduce your Footprint” program for low carbon economy and social development and establish the basis of a national carbon market aligned with the country’s Low Carbon Economic and Social Development Strategy and NDCs, as well as two executive decrees under consultation that regulate the conservation and sustainable use of mangroves and that regulates blue carbon projects.

In 2021, Parties of the Nairobi Convention of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region agreed to develop a WIO Regional Mangrove Vision and Regional Mangrove Action Plan by 2024 to create a framework for regional policy dialogues around mangroves to enhance mangrove-related policies and sustainable management in the Western Indian Ocean.

Based on this and other case studies from around the world, this case study explores selected national-level legal and policy options for mangrove conservation, restoration and sustainable use: 1) incentives and financial mechanisms such as blue carbon measures, Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs, fiscal incentives and subsidies, and product certification; 2) community management of mangrove areas, including tools for community management (such as conservation agreements and concessions) and the legal context for community management, particularly issues around rights, tenure, and legal pluralism; 3) specific national mangrove policies such as national mangrove management plans and strategies; and 4) integrated planning laws and regulations which can incorporate consideration of mangroves. The brief ends with key considerations and recommendations for developing and implementing mangrove laws and policies.



Adriana Vidal, Senior Policy Advisor, Climate Change, Email: Adriana.vidal@iucn.org