Effective protected areas reflect socio-ecological values, such as biodiversity and habitat maintenance, as well as human well-being. These values, which safeguard ecosystem services in protected areas, are treated as models for the sustainable preservation and use of resources. While there is much research on the effectiveness of protected areas in a variety of disciplines, the question is whether there is a common framework that uses remote sensing methods. We conducted a qualitative and a quantitative analysis of 44 peer-reviewed scientific papers utilizing remote sensing data in order to examine the effectiveness of protected areas. Very few studies to date have a wide or even a global geographical focus; instead, most quantify the effectiveness of protected areas by focusing on local-scale case studies and single indicators such as forest cover change. Methods that help integrate spatial selection approaches, to compare a protected area's characteristics with its surroundings, are increasingly being used. Based on this review, we argue for a multi-indicator-based framework on protected area effectiveness, including the development of a consistent set of socio-ecological indicators for a global analysis. In turn, this will allow for globally applicable use, including a concrete evaluation that considers the diversity of regional parameters, biome-specific variables, and political frameworks. Ideally, such a framework will enhance the monitoring and evaluation of global strategies and conventions.