IIED at 50: protecting people and planet for half a century

Article, 08 June 2021

As IIED turns 50, we are taking a look back at some of our biggest achievements, and looking forward to how we will continue to make a difference on the global stage.

50 years

50 years linking local to global (image: IIED)

This year, we celebrate IIED’s 50th birthday. We didn’t get here alone: we wish to thank all those who have been instrumental in our journey: partners, donors, supporters and challengers.

A series of events and conversations will recognise our achievements and the crucial role our partners play in them; we will also be looking to the future and inviting voices from new places and spaces to join us. Our plans include:

Shining a light on the work and ambitions of some of our partners

Inviting former staff and friends to join our new ‘alumni group’ on LinkedIn, to help tell the story of the past five decades, and

A series of blog posts by IIED staff – from the longstanding to those just starting out – considering our evolution, future ambition and what we have learned on the way.

A pioneering beginning

In the early 1970s, economist Barbara Ward and fellow visionaries introduced a new concept: that the interests of people and planet are inextricably interlinked. Today, their proposition is an accepted global narrative and at the heart of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

When Barbara became director of the International Institute for Environmental Affairs, founded in 1971, she added social justice to its mission. And so, in 1973, IIEA evolved into IIED: the International Institute for Environment and Development.

Movements, not moments

From the first large-scale UN conference on environmental issues in 1972 to our current preparations for COP26 in 2021, IIED has been a core member of the growing movement for social and environmental justice. Within it, the concept of sustainable development has been developed, embraced and challenged.

We have thrived in this space, building an unparalleled network of partner organisations – particularly in the global South – to collaborate with, learn from and help grow. Find out more about what we do and who we work with.

Together, we have been part of some notable victories. But our focus is now on the world’s most urgent challenges, from climate change to biodiversity loss and gross inequality, and how we can make sure marginalised voices shape the solutions.

And we are tackling challenges closer to home:  the need to develop a new narrative that decolonialises aid, further diversifying our workforce and living up to our ambition to support ‘business unusual’ approaches.

Your invitation

In our birthday year, we ask friends and collaborators – new and old – to look forward with us as we ask: what must we do now to build a fairer and more sustainable future?

To join the conversation:

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