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International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

Biodiversity for the Millennium Development Goals:
What local organisations can do


Dilys Roe, Ivan Bond
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International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

2007

SARPN acknowledges IIED as the source of this document: www.iied.org
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Biodiversity conservation and poverty elimination

Biodiversity loss is occurring at an unprecedented rate. In 2002 the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) adopted a target to ‘achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss’ which was endorsed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) later that year. What is often overlooked is the second part of the 2010 target wording which provides the reason for addressing biodiversity loss: ‘as a contribution to poverty alleviation and to the benefit of all life on earth’.

The conceptual framework employed by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) emphasises the positive links between biodiversity conservation and human well-being. Ecosystem goods and services provide security, health, basic material for a good life, good social relations and freedom of choice and action, and are particularly important for the poor and vulnerable who do not have access to alternatives. Biological resources underpin the delivery of these ecosystem services and hence biodiversity conservation1 is essential for securing human well-being.

One of the conclusions of the MA was that 15 out of 25 of the ecosystem services upon which human well-being depends were disturbed to such an extent that reaching both the CBD target by 2010 and the MDGs by 2015 could prove impossible unless remedial action is taken urgently. The imperative to restore and/or prevent further degradation of ecosystem services implies an urgent need for conserving the biodiversity upon which they depend. One dilemma is immediately apparent: while biodiversity conservation is essential for maintaining ecosystem services over the longterm, the restoration/prevention costs are short-term and can clash with other needs of society – most critically, the immediate livelihood needs of poor people in developing countries, or the growth plans of many economic sectors in such nations.

What does resolving this dilemma mean for the governance of natural resources? Is decentralisation and community management the answer, so that local groups can gain from involvement in short-term restoration/prevention activity but also face incentives to ensure long-term secure access to ecosystem services? While agreeing with the principle of subsidiarity, the MA is not convinced that it has always worked in practice, noting that ‘the principle that biodiversity should be managed at the lowest appropriate level has led to decentralisation in many parts of the world, with variable results’ (MA 2005a: 72). At the same time, however, the MA notes that centralised approaches have also been shown to be inadequate: ‘existing national and global institutions are not well designed to deal with the management of common pool resources, a characteristic of many ecosystem services’ (MA 2005b: 20). The failure is not in the principle, but in the institutions: what appears to be required is an approach where local level efforts are backed by central government providing an appropriate, enabling framework for security of tenure and management authority at the local level (MA 2005b).


Footnote:
  1. By which we mean the conservation of diversity itself as well as the conservation of individual components of biodiversity.


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