IIED's best of 2019: blogs

As 2019 draws to a close, we're showcasing some of the content we've published during the last 12 months. Our blogs offer an opportunity for IIED staff and guest authors to share their personal views and experiences. Here are our top ten most-read blogs of the year.

Article, 27 December 2019
Protesters with a banner

2019 saw school strikes and wider protests around the world to demand more action on climate change (Marcus Coblyn, via FlickrCC BY 2.0)

1 The Paris Agreement always needed Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg

April: IIED director Andrew Norton hailed the 2019 climate protests as a moment of hope. Norton said big shifts in world history rarely happen without a major challenge from motivated citizens. Raising climate ambition needs citizens to mobilise and demand action. The climate protests by Extinction Rebellion and the school strike movement could be a tipping point. 

...it is wonderful that so many people – and above all so many children who will have to live with the future consequences – are mobilising to demand urgent and serious action.

2 Development organisations beware! Biodiversity loss is not just an environmental issue

April: Dilys Roe argued that development organisations need to get involved in efforts to tackle dangerous biodiversity decline. 2020 will be an important year: parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity will agree a new 10-year framework to tackle biodiversity loss. But environment and development communities have not engaged with this process.

Roe argued that biodiversity loss represents a major threat to hard-won development gains, hitting poorest people first and hardest. She highlighted recent research that presents evidence showing that biodiversity loss is an impending development crisis.

The structure and content of the post-2020 international framework for biodiversity management is being discussed now. Development and rights-based organisations need to get on board, and fast.

3 China’s investments, Africa’s forests: from raw deals to mutual gains?

June: China's global Belt and Road Initiative is expected to involve infrastructure investment totalling more than US$1 trillion. Much of this will be spent on projects across Africa – but will the benefits reach local people? 

James Mayers reported on a recent IIED project in Cameroon which highlighted the potential benefits and pitfalls of China's involvement in Africa's forests

If locally-negotiated deals and responsible investments are reached, Chinese businesses – the key driver of land use change in Africa – could also bring major innovations for sustainable development.

4 Women in the UN climate negotiations: are we tipping the balance?

March: Brianna Craft and Samantha McCraine looked at how to improve women's representation in the UN climate talks.

In 2017, just a quarter of country delegations at the UN climate talks were headed by women. IIED provides training for developing country officials for the climate negotiations. IIED works to give women and men the same opportunities – but getting equal influence needs more than a head count.

... a number of observers at COP24 in Katowice noted that while Gender Day put gender concerns to the table, not many men showed up to listen.

5 The rise of Nairobi’s concrete tenement jungle

July: Guest blogger Baraka Mwau painted a vivid picture of the tenement blocks that are taking over Nairobi’s low-cost rental housing market. 

Mwau said the rise of tenements has essentially been a form of ‘slum upgrading’ driven by the private sector. They provide much-needed affordable shelter and business spaces, creating a vibrant local economy. But their design is essentially reproducing shacks: they consist of densely packed single-room units in walk-up blocks with inadequate communal sanitation facilities. 

...these concrete jungles present a critical urban governance challenge.

6 Mali’s new mining law: an improvement, but fails artisanal miners

October: Ahamadou Mohamed Maiga and Brendan Schwartz analysed Mali's long-awaited new mining legislation. They focused on  on three topics that were highlighted in IIED policy recommendations: fiscal reforms, artisanal mining and local revenue management. This blog was also published in French.

Ultimately, Mali’s institutions will determine how reforms are implemented and translated into societal change. Mining’s role in the country’s socio-political journey will be interesting to follow in the coming years. 

7 Business as usual – or business with purpose?

April: Laura Kelly set out how IIED plans to engage with business and investors to address development and environment challenges. She said IIED’s new five-year strategy recognises that global development and environment challenges require new and innovative alliances – and IIED is working to engage with business and investors to deliver positive change.

As part of our new strategy we’re scaling up our work with businesses (of all sizes) and communities to identify how to incorporate social and environmental concerns into operations and investments in ways that can really lead to development impact.

8 Making Indian cities inclusive means making them more walkable

June: Most people living in India's cities get around by walking, cycling or using public transport, but as India's cities expand and car use rises, the urban environment becomes more challenging. Archita Suryanarayanan and Christine Ro reported 2017 Indian government estimates that 56 pedestrians were killed on India's roads every day, on average.

They called for sustained action to improve planning and transport infrastructure as India's burgeoning cities move into the future.

Do we want cities that cater largely to affluent and polluting motorists, or cities that are welcoming to all types of road users?

9 Time to team up with nature to adapt to climate change

September: Xiaoting Hou Jones and Hannah Reid looked at how nature-based solutions can help tackle the impacts of climate change

Natural climate solutions work by protecting and restoring nature, and supporting healthy ecosystems that can help mitigate and adapt to climate change. During 2019 IIED and partners published a new, searchable online database which lets users navigate more than 240 tools and methods relevant to ecosystem-based adaptation.

Indigenous peoples and local communities have been working with nature for decades: they depend on healthy ecosystems for their livelihoods. 


10 Steering gender to the centre of the blue economy

June: Eugenia Merayo's blog to mark World Oceans Day focused on the need for gender equality in ocean-related activities. She said the ocean is a life-support system for billions of people, but women's contributions are often overlooked and undervalued. To achieve a truly inclusive blue economy, she argued, gender must be mainstreamed at all levels, from research to policy.

Participation and representation of women in research and policy, as active subjects of change, is essential.

That's our top ten – but there were many more! To see all our 2019 blogs, visit our News and Comment page.

Previous years

Click on the year to see IIED's most read blogs for the last five years: 2018; 2017; 2016; 2015; 2014