Public-Private Partnership for Mexico’s Protected Areas

August 31, 2012 /

Mexico is a ‘mega-diverse’ country, with the fourth-highest number of species of plants and animals of any country on the planet. Yet this high biodiversity is constantly threatened. In response, the World Bank, with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), helped create and capitalize the Fund for Protected Areas (FANP), a unique partnership that has played an instrumental role in both protecting this biodiversity and inspiring the growth of the protected area system which will conserve it for the future.

Mexico counts 174 protected areas covering 25 million hectares. Protected areas are the most advanced proven tool for conserving Mexico’s biological treasures, but their effectiveness is only assured when well-managed.

Deforestation, overexploitation, uncontrolled tourism, accelerated economic development and arbitrary settlement policies have at times compromised protected areas as the communities living within them continue to use their resources. With private and public interests intersecting in the management of protected areas, tight collaboration between government and civil society is required to achieve conservation results.

Starting in 1998, the World Bank provided the Mexican government with GEF funds that would eventually total USD 47.5 million. The interest from the endowment portion (USD 40.9 million), managed by the private Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN) funds basic protected area operations and local civil society activities for innovative conservation of priority protected areas across the country.


  • Using a privately managed endowment guarantees political independence and transparency across administrations. This enables long-term planning and systematic management;
  • Endowment funds did not replace but instead leveraged traditional government funds and attracted resources from outside donors: FANP thus grew to USD 75.89 million, supporting strategic conservation activities in 23 protected areas that represent 30% of total area under federal protection;
  • The Fund’s growth enabled the increase of annual disbursements from USD 1 million per year in 1998 to USD 4.3 million in 2009. Between 1998 and 2008, more than USD 20 million in interest was allocated to conservation;
  • Land use change in the supported protected areas is lower than in surrounding areas, and populations of key indicator species within the protected areas remain stable. Both suggest that biodiversity is being conserved;
  • FANP also had an important leverage impact: In 1994, the Mexican government dedicated a mere USD 100,000 to its protected areas, which had no permanent staff. FANP’s results were showcased to increase CONANPs profile within the Mexican government, with the result that its annual budget grew to more than USD 80 million;
  • FANP has promoted citizen participation as FMCN disburses funds to each area through local partner NGOs and requires that CONANP establish conservation priorities with the input of local advisory committees


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