Annual report 2008/09

A sense of direction - IIED's 2008/9 annual report

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A sense of direction - IIED's 2008/9 annual report

We are all time travellers now, intent on becoming past masters at seeing the future. As the last 12 months saw the economic systems we rely on threaten to topple like some vast house of cards, horizon-scanning skills became more valuable than ever. The International Institute for Environment and Development was already on the look-out.

For a research body like IIED, mapping the future is essentially another form of research. Even more pertinently, the field of sustainable development that we have helped to pioneer is defined by the long view — by concern for future as well as present generations, and for living within the planet’s projected limits. We use what we know to predict the unpredictable, whether that is the behaviour of rainfall or of financial markets.

It’s now nearly 50 years since US sociologist Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock — a book about ‘too much change in too short a period of time’. In a world where the bottom can drop out of a global system almost overnight, this view still has resonance. But we — agencies, societies, countries, regions — are learning. And as we pull together out of collapse and towards greener growth, two perspectives give us that crucial thing, a sense of direction.

One is from the people who, over decades, have recognised that sustainable development is the only road to a viable future. The other is from the villagers and slumdwellers who, on every continent, fight for a future against often staggering odds. Both views have shaped IIED, and both remind us that humanity is nothing if not resilient and resourceful.

Sample case study

For more about the projects outlined in the report, links to background material, longer treatments and contacts please see the following pages.




Forest Connect: linking small and medium forest enterprises to markets and services

Forest connect (social networking site)

Report: Supporting small forest enterprises: A cross-sectoral review of best practice


Multimedia Publication: Towards food sovereignty: Reclaiming autonomous food systems


Report: Assessing the costs of adaptation to climate change: A critique of the UNFCCC estimates

Briefing: National Adaptation Funding: Ways forward for the poorest countries


Access to Environmental Information in Uganda (Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development, FIELD website)

Public Participation and Oil Exploitation in Uganda (link to PDF)


Report: Oil and Gas Contracts for Sustainable Development in Kazakhstan


Website: Asian Coalition for Housing Rights


Website: HIVOS Sustainable Food Laboratory (Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation)


Website: BBOP (Business and Biodiversity Offset Program)


Briefing: 'Land Grabs' in Africa: can the deals work for development?


IIED briefing: Protecting Traditional Knowledge from the Grassroots Up


UN-HABITAT publication: Urban World: Climate Change: Are cities really to blame?


IIED briefing: Building Public Trust: Transnationals in the community


IIED report: Land Grab or Development Opportunity? Agricultural investment and international land deals in Africa

IIED briefing: ‘Land Grabs’ in Africa: can the deals work for development?

See also Legal tools for citizen empowerment


Global Water Initiative

Briefing: Where Every Drop Counts: Tackling rural Africa’s water crisis


Environmental Mainstreaming

Publication: The Challenges of Environmental Mainstreaming


Briefing: Arid waste? Reassessing the value of dryland pastoralism


Website: Growing Forest Partnerships (includes Canopy of Friends download)


Publication: Migration, Local Development and Governance in Small Towns: Two examples from the Philippines


Climate Change and the Urban Poor



REDD: Protecting climate, forests and livelihoods

Briefing: The Costs of REDD: Lessons from Amazonas

Briefing: Financing REDD: Meshing markets with government funds

Report: Tenure in REDD: Start-point or afterthought?



Ways for Indigenous People’s Groups to Advance Adaptation Concerns and Solutions through International


A sample case study

Forest Connect: sustainable enterprise at the forest frontier

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At many of the world’s remaining forest frontiers, pitched battles for profit from farming and forestry are playing out. Forests generally lose: some 130,000 square kilometres still disappear yearly. Meanwhile, an estimated 1.6 billion of the world’s poorest people depend on those frontiers. Solutions that both avoid deforestation and reduce poverty are urgently needed.

Of the few that have emerged, sustainable forest enterprise is one of the most promising. Generally small-scale, local and informal, these have massive potential, as market demand for forest products grows and the need for local income remains pressing. But with governments often rigging forest rights in favour of big corporations and rarely providing support for small-scale forest business, small enterprises face big hurdles.

To secure local rights, profitability and responsible practice for these enterprises, IIED co-manages the international alliance Forest Connect with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and a multi-institutional steering committee. It is funded by PRO FOR with support from the FAO-Hosted NFP Facility.

forest connect badgeForest Connect links sustainable small forest enterprises to each other, and to markets, service providers and policy processes such as National Forest Programmes. The alliance partners institutions with funded facilitation plans in Burkina Faso, China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, India, Laos, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique and Nepal, and has a network of supporters in 58 countries linked by an online social networking site. Two years on from its launch, demand for involvement in Forest Connect is huge and growing.

Forest Connect funds practical action to build business know-how, with substantial progress in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It runs national diagnostics that foster understanding of the scale and makeup of related subsectors and potential service providers.

In some cases, national facilitators have catalysed collective action within producer associations and identified, benchmarked and organised service provision. For example, Guyanese Amerindian forest enterprises are bringing in Brazilian craft designers to help them tap into the Brazilian market. Forest Connect also boosts market information through media from newsletters to mobile phone updates and trade fairs.

Sustainability in forest production is a key concern for national partner institutions: Nepal, for instance, is looking at paper certification. Forest Connect also promotes justice in allocating forest rights and law enforcement. Guatemala, for instance, is making real progress in forest governance, while national steering committees with new systems monitoring such aims are emerging in Ghana and Malawi.

Project page: Forest Connect: linking small and medium forest enterprises to markets and services

Forest connect networking site:

Contact: Duncan Mcqueen

October 2009

See also: World Forestry Congress