Give power to local people to stop the loss of biodiversity

Press release, 3 September 2021
Protecting national parks, forests and reserves from environmental degradation will only be possible if more authority is devolved to local communities and other key players at conservation sites, and better governance is built from the bottom up, according to a new paper from IIED, released ahead of the world’s leading conservation summit starting today (Friday).

The World Conservation Congress (WCC) takes place every four years to address the planet’s conservation crisis including environmental destruction and wildlife crime. Reports in 2019 that government guards responsible for protecting conservation areas were resorting to torture and killing to deter alleged poachers drew attention to the issue of how to govern and police protected environments.

The recently released draft Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), which is being negotiated by countries ahead of the Covention on Biological Diversity COP15 in April next year, emphasises the need for major changes in environmental governance by national governments.

But research by IIED into deforestation in 33 African countries showed there was no major correlation between countries with strong national governance and effective conservation of protected areas.

The paper, 'Global Biodiversity Framework: equitable governance is key', found the relationship between governance and conservation success is complex. In some countries in Latin America, for example, improvements in national governance in general were shown to increase pressures on the natural world, especially through agricultural expansion into tropical forests.

IIED principal researcher Phil Franks said: “If we’re going to turn around the crisis of biodiversity loss within the next 10 years we need a real change in approach to how we protect places like national parks and forests. 

“More effective and more equitable environmental governance is the key but the top-down approaches of previous global conservation strategies are failing both nature and people. Devolving authority and resources to local communities and other key players at conservation sites, and building better governance from bottom up is more likely to work, and work more rapidly.  

“Even in countries with long histories of political instability, corruption and other weaknesses of governance, a local, bottom-up approach to governance and protection of the natural world can be very effective, and readily scaled up with the help of innovative networking.”  

The decisions taken by leaders as they negotiate the GBF will guide international and national efforts to combat biodiversity loss over the coming decade. So it’s vital that the framework includes the equitable governance of conservation areas including respect for local people’s rights, their participation in decision-making, transparency, rule of law, dispute resolution and sharing of costs and benefits.
 

Media enquiries

For more information or to request an interview, contact Sarah Grainger (sarah.grainger@iied.org) on +44 7503 643332.