The CBC’s Chief Conservation Scientist, Dr. Eleanor Sterling and Director, Dr. Ana Porzecanski represented the Museum at the World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia, where the CBC was invited to be a leader of discussions on capacity development, and participate in setting a visionary agenda for future action.
This historic, once-in-a-decade global forum on protected areas, organized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and hosted by the Australian Government, brought together more than 6,000 participants from over 170 countries. The congress closed with the release of The Promise of Sydney, an ambitious agenda to safeguard the planet’s natural assets, that includes pledges from governments, international organizations, the private sector, Indigenous leaders, community groups and individuals— ranging from halting rainforest loss in the Asia-Pacific to tripling ocean protection off Africa’s coasts.
In January 2015 Eleanor Sterling attended the third session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-3) in Bonn, Germany. IPBES is the analog to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change but with a focus on biodiversity – an important international forum on developing strategies to conserve ecosystem services. Over 300 participants attended the meeting, representing IPBES member and non-member governments, UN agencies and convention secretariats, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and various other stakeholders. The AMNH is a founding member of the stakeholder group.
The CBC is engaged in particular in advising the development of capacity development strategies, in bringing our research and outreach experience from Pacific Island systems, and in multiple evidence-based decision-making. The CBC helped to establish guidelines for engagement of nongovernmental scientists in the policy process. The Plenary adopted a stakeholder engagement strategy at the end of the meeting that will guide future work and interactions.
The 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology, was held in Montpelier, France this past August. The CBC had significant presence at the Congress, with five research presentations, and several posters presenting work on biocultural indicators of resilience, the scientific expeditions in the Solomon Islands, the latest NCEP journal issue on Madagascar, and thesis work, as well as two workshops on capacity development and diversity in conservation practice and research.
By request of the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID), the CBC conducted an influential synthetic review of evidence regarding effective stakeholder engagement in biodiversity conservation at the local scale. The CBC compiled and assessed the evidence from documented efforts to engage stakeholders in conservation from around the world over the past 15 years, to illuminate patterns of success and failure in these efforts, and draw conclusions that contribute to conservation action.
We found evidence that stakeholder engagement is associated with attitudinal and behavioral change aligned with conservation goals, and with multiple types of economic benefits, although the evidence is still limited. In at least half the case studies analyzed, we found evidence that stakeholder engagement can be associated with conservation benefits. Six dimensions emerge from the literature as critical for success, and require careful consideration by practitioners in project design: how stakeholders are identified and selected; how multiple and diverse stakeholder values are recognized and integrated; the timing of engagement processes; the drivers of stakeholder motivation; the presence of effective leadership; and a strong commitment to building social relationships and trust.
This work was presented at USAID by Dr. Sterling and Erin Betley in July, and generated much interest within the Agency. Over the next few months we will capitalize on this work through further research and analysis to include more case studies and build a more robust case for our findings, with the aim of generating a publication in a professional journal.