An Important Plant Area programme has been initiated for the Arabian region by the IUCN Arabian Plant Specialist Group. The aim of this programme is to assess hotspots of plant diversity in the region and designate the most important as Important Plant Areas. These assessments are conducted on the basis of specific criteria and this paper presents the criteria which have been adopted for the Arabian Peninsula countries of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen. These Arabian criteria differ from those originally developed for Europe, and so they are presented here in full. This paper also discusses the context of the Important Plant Area programme and its ability to provide a framework for conservation planning.