Come on board: IIED seeks new chair

As IIED seeks a chair for our international board of trustees, director Andrew Norton considers how a strong new strategy and surge in public awareness of the climate emergency make this an exciting time to join us.

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Insight by 
Andrew Norton
Andrew Norton was director of IIED from 2015-2022
10 May 2019
IIED's Andrew Norton and IIED chair Rebeca Grynspan with Gro Harlem Brundtland sit at the front of the Barbara Ward lecture on 19 June 2018

IIED's Andrew Norton and chair Rebeca Grynspan with Gro Harlem Brundtland at the 2018 Barbara Ward lecture (Photo: Julius Honnor/Contentious for IIED)

IIED has never been more relevant. Our longstanding, proven approach – working in partnership to bring local priorities to global forums – is gaining fresh attention and energy. 

Professionals and public alike are recognising the urgency of the climate emergency and chronic biodiversity loss, as well as the agency and expertise of those communities already forced to adapt to survive the effects.

In June 2020, our eminent chair Rebeca Grynspan will step down. Respected across our field for her experience, knowledge and good humour, Rebeca leaves huge shoes to fill. I have learned much from working with her, as have so many colleagues.

But her departure also creates a notable opportunity: the chance for someone new to lead our impressive, influential and expert trustees. Our board is vital. They challenge and guide us as we work to address critical environment and development issues.

Real change for those in need, now

IIED’s board was instrumental in developing our new strategy for 2019-2024: Make Change Happen

Alongside deep consultation with partners and detailed analysis of the changing context of our work, our current chair led the board to push us to be focused, clear, ambitious and confident in what we seek to achieve. 

While our plans for the next five years aim high, they are rooted in reality and our experience of delivering real impact for real people. Our results are rigorously evaluated

IIED’s strong and growing network of partners, concentrated in the global South, help us to focus our energies where we can make the greatest positive contribution. Together we will: 

  • Help vulnerable communities develop and become climate resilient, while pushing hard for urgent reductions in emissions
  • Promote biodiversity alongside social justice, making sure the women and men whose livelihoods depend on the natural world – both land or ocean – are heard and see their rights protected
  • Shape inclusive, healthy and sustainable towns and cities in Africa and Asia, where the bulk of the urban growth will occur, and
  • Shape fairer markets, whether they involve big business or the vast workforce of the informal sector.  

Our commitment to social and environmental justice runs through everything we do: a world of growing, entrenched inequality cannot offer a sustainable future. We will further progress the integration of gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout our research, to frame transformation and act as a starting point for tackling other forms of marginalisation.

Harnessing a wave of awareness

I have welcomed the activism of Greta Thunberg, the school climate strikes, and other public awakenings

We could be entering a moment where the Least Developed Countries' (LDCs) strong drive for climate action – which IIED has long supported, and helped introduce into the wording of the Paris Agreement – might be backed by enough voices to make a difference. 

It really is becoming possible to visualise a range of countries coming back to the table with meaningful increases in ambition to tackle the climate crisis at the next round of submissions for national plans in 2020.  

Urgent action will also be needed to tackle the global challenge of biodiversity loss, as has been dramatically highlighted by the recent report from the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which confirms that nature is being destroyed faster than at any other time in human history. 

It was always clear that the drastic raising of ambition would need citizens to mobilise and demand action from their governments. It is wonderful that so many people – and above all so many children who will have to live with the future consequences – are doing so. 

This is a moment of hope, and an exciting time to join us.  

Can you help us meet our mission? 

IIED has a long illustrious history. But we are not complacent. 

The confident direction of IIED’s new strategy, together with the burst of public interest in our core concerns, represent a great opportunity to further our mission. And herald lot of hard work to do.

We need a chair who can wholly commit to our vision of a more sustainable future for all. Someone who will bring extensive knowledge of international environmental and development issues, as well as experience of working effectively at board level in an international context.

I look forward to hearing from candidates who are ready to take on the big issues of our time, and who believe as we do that the least-heard men, women and young people must be part of the solutions.     

About the author

Andrew Norton was director of IIED from 2015-2022

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