Report: International donors, NGOs Must Recognize Local Rights

      International donors and non-governmental organizations need to improve their cooperation with local institutions and communities in order to successfully tackle the issues of environment conservation and development, according to a report on biodiversity policies and governance presented Oct. 9 at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

      The study was carried out by the International Institute for Environment and Development, a London-based global research organization, and included a call to "link global biodiversity decisions with local priorities via multi-stakeholder fora." It argued that "to date, many biodiversity decisions - notably around protected areas - have excluded local biodiversity managers and conflicted with their needs."

      Based on three case studies on biodiversity governance in Tanzania, India and Peru, the report sought to identify the reasons why government policies on biodiversity and livelihoods have failed and suggest more effective strategies for conservation governance.

      The lack of cooperation between aid organizations or international conservation NGOs and local communities was named as one cause for the impoverishment of people residing in protected areas.

      "There are limited opportunities for local biodiversity managers to participate in international policy, while conservation NGOs - and it seems, life science lobbies - are quite influential," the report summary read.

      According to Michel Pimbert, IIED director for sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and livelihood, the disregard of local rights by international economic institutions such as the World Trade Organization and others can influence biodiversity policies in a negative way.

      "The way they often work is sometimes part of the problem," he said.

      The role of local NGOs in the policymaking process was highlighted by the analysts who took part in the case studies.

      "The days in which the government could enjoy monopoly in policymaking are gone," said Faustin Maganga, a member of the Institute of Resource Assessment at the University of Dar es Salaam. "NGOs are really in the process of influencing policies."

      The full version of the IIED report, entitled "The Governance of Nature and the Nature of Governance," will be released at the end of October.