Protected areas are increasingly expected to contribute to poverty reduction strategies. To find out how realistic this is, we looked at the current and potential roles of protected areas in addressing poverty reduction, by carrying out a comprehensive literature review and by applying a standardised assessment method to a group of protected areas around the world that a previous assessment suggested had strong social values. The assessment found that protected areas can deliver multiple benefits that contribute to wellbeing and we therefore conclude that protected areas can and do reduce poverty, but require a strong social and political framework in which to spread benefits equitably and are unlikely to do so successfully in. conditions of endemic corruption and weak governance. As these conditions exist in some of the world's poorest countries, individual poverty reduction programmes within protected areas in poor countries face ingrained challenges that are hard for managers or development workers to address in isolation.