Putting biodiversity centre stage in government policy

May 22 is International Biodiversity Day. The theme for 2016 is 'Mainstreaming biodiversity; sustaining people and their livelihoods' – but what does "mainstreaming biodiversity" actually mean?

News, 20 May 2016
International Biodiversity Day logo

International Biodiversity Day logo

This year's International Biodiversity Day will focus on 'mainstreaming biodiversity'. But what does this mean? As partners in a key initiative on mainstreaming, IIED is well placed to answer the question.

IIED is working with the United Nations Environment Programme – World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) on a project to build capacity for biodiversity mainstreaming. What are the initiative – and the international day – trying to achieve?

Rosalind Goodrich, IIED's communications and research manager, explains: "Our mainstreaming work is all about considering development issues in key biodiversity strategies and influencing development policy to improve outcomes for biodiversity and poverty reduction."

Influencing government is key to mainstreaming, but influencing government alone is often not enough, IIED has learned.

With UNEP-WCMC we worked with eight African governments as they updated their National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs) – an important piece of government policy when it comes to "mainstreaming". We're now supporting them as they try to get biodiversity concerns into development plans.

Strategies for success

We asked the people on the ground about the approaches they had taken and the strategies that had proved successful in influencing change.

  • In Uganda, we discovered that the National Environment Management Authority had made a point of involving key ministries, such as the Ministry of Finance, and agencies in the NBSAPs process, because they realised that many staff were not used to thinking about biodiversity as part of their remit
  • In Namibia, communities and indigenous groups have played an important role in helping the government recognise the value of the country's biodiversity, resulting in a national bill to protect genetic resources and stop biopiracy (that is, the appropriation of knowledge and genetic resources without permission or compensation)
  • In Zimbabwe, efforts to engage journalists and increase their knowledge of biodiversity has helped increase media reporting and raised awareness of the importance of biodiversity in policy
  • In Malawi, city officials are actively engaging in efforts to integrate biodiversity into planning decisions after development threatened Lilongwe's green spaces, an
  • In South Africa, civil society groups, government and mining companies have come together to draft guidelines to help mining companies work in a biodiverse environment. The process of developing a set of shared principles has laid the foundation for change.

These stories have been published as stories of change to share the many small ways that can make a difference to the way in which biodiversity is valued and recognised.

And because so much of this work involves communication, we have also produced a practical booklet containing tips and templates for writing about biodiversity for policymakers and the media.

The work done so far is just a first step, Goodrich added: "These are the first examples in a much longer and complex process, and we still have much to learn about the right way to make the case for biodiversity, the language to use and the most effective ways to communicate."

  • Follow a new Twitter account, @BioMainstream, that shares news and information about progress on mainstreaming biodiversity into policy and practice

Further reading