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The governance of nature and the nature of governance: policy that works for biodiversity and livelihoods

08 / 03 / 2009, Eldis Biodiversity

This report is an output of IIED’s collaborative research project “Policy that works for biodiversity and poverty reduction” and is based on a literature review and three country case studies (India, Peru and Tanzania). It makes the connection between external policy, institutional and economic instruments and processes and the performance of community based initiatives for biodiversity protection and poverty reduction. The study notes that ecosystem degradation is accelerating, despite the rapid growth in national parks and protected areas worldwide. It suggests that this is due to current governance at the local, national and international level because:

many biodiversity decisions - notably around protected areas - have excluded local biodiversity managers and conflicted with their needs
community-led conservation remains small-scale, isolated and is poorly integrated within the formal conservation sector
biodiversity is economically “invisible” thus effectively unowned, unpriced and/or unmarketed
biodiversity institutions have weak political clout compared to those for trade and development, which are often in conflict with biodiversity goals.

The report argues that to improve livelihoods and protect biodiversity, governance systems should achieve the following: 

indigenous and local communities should have the right to decide over access to genetic resources that they customarily use (e.g. traditional crop varieties)
support action that brings together those who control biodiversity policy and marginalised groups and thus move policy debates forward
ensure active engagement of indigenous representatives from biodiversity rich areas in CBD decision-making processes
link global biodiversity decisions with local priorities via multi-stakeholder fora
revise conservation policies to promote coherence with indigenous and human rights frameworks both nationally and internationally.

The final part of the report presents some practical approaches and methodologies for empowering marginalised communities and improving governance regimes from local to national level. These include:

local organisations joining forces to establish regional federations that represent larger numbers of people and thus have more clout
direct action such as non-violent resistance
establishment of learning groups on natural resource governance that range from the household level to larger inter-community workshops to share the results of community analysis and build a collective vision.

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