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Democracy, Human Rights, Governance, & Biodiversity Resources for Integrating Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance, and Biodiversity Conservation

Enabling Societies to Realize Their Potential

Because biodiversity is crucial for livelihoods, food security, social stability, and national wealth, it is often buffeted by the cross-currents of politics and power. Inclusive governance and equitable rights for the access and use of natural resources strengthen biodiversity and promote sustainability. The underlying drivers of biodiversity loss are often democracy, human rights, and governance (DRG) challenges, such as weak institutions, corruption, insecure access to and use rights for natural resources, and lack of participation and transparency in decision-making. Conversely, biodiversity programming often yields substantial and unmeasured benefits for DRG programming, serving as a catalyst to promote DRG outcomes. For example, interventions to improve marine biodiversity conservation in turn support community participation in collaborative management, increase prosecution of environmental crime, and strengthen investments in judicial systems. Likewise, efforts to enhance the integrity of forested landscapes can reinforce support for Indigenous land tenure systems.

The Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance Reference Sheet is an introduction to DRG programming at USAID. It describes common challenges and approaches, examples of USAID programming, and opportunities for integration between democratic governance and biodiversity. The Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance and Biodiversity Conservation Linkages provides examples of how and where USAID has advanced DRG objectives—such as participation, inclusion, transparency, and accountability.

  • The 39 community governed wildlife conservancies that comprise Kenya’s Northern Rangelands Trust have reduced the number of elephants killed for ivory by 96 percent since 2012 and reduced conflicts among 18 ethnic groups in the area by an estimated 50 percent.
  • Working with community forest user groups on integrated ecosystem and community climate adaptation approaches in Nepal, the Hariyo Ban project used interventions that built both ecosystem resilience and community resilience. Interventions included a special focus on empowering women and marginalized people, enabling them to participate effectively in the process, and adapt to change.
  • Guatemala’s Mayan Biosphere borders Mexico and Belize, making it a desirable location for pilfering ancient artifacts, illegal logging, and wildlife trafficking. Through a partnership between civil society and the judicial system, USAID/Guatemala’s Security and Justice Sector Reform project has trained 500 park rangers on environmental crime topics, reduced dismissals of environmental crime complaints, and contributed to the creation of environmental courts to help combat environmental crimes in the biosphere.
The Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment is working to sustain the Congo Basin’s ecological integrity while deepening engagement with and addressing specific challenges and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples and youth. This photo shows a chief at a land use plan meeting in Mbou Mon Tour Village in 2015. Photo by: Jordan Kimball.

Strengthening Democratic Systems

In many areas of the world, biodiversity assets are located in areas occupied by Indigenous or marginalized groups who are dependent on those resources for livelihoods and food security. Most biodiversity in Liberia, for example, falls outside of protected areas, and community members are the stewards of natural resources. USAID/Liberia’s Forest Income for Economic Sustainability activity works collaboratively with two DRG projects working on voice, accountability, and land rights to help communities build robust governance structures that manage their forests successfully and ensure that commercial ventures respect their rights and equitably distribute benefits.

Studies have shown that deforestation rates are much lower in places where Amazonian Indigenous Peoples have strong land tenure rights, making Indigenous Peoples important allies in biodiversity conservation. However, these peoples are currently under threat from multiple economic, political, and cultural pressures, including loss of their languages and cultural practices. The USAID/South America Regional Program strengthens the capacity of Amazonian Indigenous Peoples to participate in decision-making about projects affecting their lands as a strategic approach to directly respond to identified threats to biodiversity and protect their livelihoods and cultural values.

Soko Koryon, Inventory Coordinator seconded from the Forest Development Authority, describes forest inventory methodology to the Community Forest Management Body and visitors in Barconnie Community Forest, Grand Bassa County, Liberia in March 2019. Photo by: Yoel Kirschner.
Participation, inclusion, transparency, and accountability provide an excellent framework for understanding how DRG approaches might support biodiversity programming.

Resources for USAID Missions, Washington, and Partners

Thinking and Working Politically and Political Economy Analysis

Thinking and working politically (TWP) is a mindset that is committed to understanding the local program context, reform possibilities, and adaptive management on a daily basis. Political economy analysis (PEA) is a structured analysis that examines the power dynamics and socioeconomic forces influencing a national context, sector, or development problem. When conducted at timely junctures, PEA can provide evidence-based insights that enhance thinking and working politically.

Reports and Evidence

Case Examples

  • Advancing Reforms to Promote Sustainable Management of Ghana's Small Pelagic Fisheries is a political economy analysis conducted by USAID that provides a deeper understanding of the political, institutional, and economic challenges driving threats to the sustainability of Ghana’s fisheries sector and identifies recommendations to inform future USAID programming decisions.
  • Marine Biodiversity and Fisheries in Madagascar highlights conservation of marine biodiversity as an environmental and food security priority. The PEA identified dina, or customary law, as an opportunity to build stronger local resource governance and management regimes to address overfishing and illegal unreported or unregulated fishing.
  • The Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) evolved from one of USAID’s largest biodiversity programs to an integrated program incorporating political economy insights to achieve biodiversity conservation and sustainable landscapes goals while also advancing democracy, human rights, governance, and economic objectives.

Photo by: Flora Lindsay-Herrera for USAID Guatemala Biodiversity project.

Participation, Inclusion, Transparency, and Accountability (PITA)

Diverse ecosystems provide a stock of natural assets including water, forests, soil, fisheries, and wildlife that enhance resilience in the face of shocks. Effective biodiversity conservation requires that these natural resources be managed through inclusive, transparent, and accountable governance systems and institutions that help ensure the security and stability of local communities.

Case Examples

  • USAID/Philippines’ Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) project strengthened local government units and developed and implemented the first local government-led seasonal fishing closure in the Philippines, including a cash-for-work program for displaced fishers.
  • USAID/Philippines Protect Wildlife's purposeful integration of biodiversity conservation, governance, and sustainable landscapes contributes to improved landscape management, local livelihoods, and human well-being.
  • Biodiversity Integration in Practice: A Case Study of USAID in Mozambique illustrates how an integrated approach in the Integrated Gorongosa and Buffer Zone project has enabled the Mission to mobilize other agriculture, education, and health resources for biodiversity conservation and to amplify investments to address a wider range of development needs in the Gorongosa Region.
  • Conserving Guatemala's Biodiversity by Strengthening Governance Conserving Guatemala's Biodiversity by Strengthening Governance. Coming Soon!

Other Resources

  • In Namibia, the Living in a Finite Environment project registered 52 community-based conservancies that sustainably manage more than 12.23 million hectares of land resources, representing 14.7 percent of Namibia’s surface area. These conservancies have contributed to the recovery of wildlife populations across the country and improved the natural resource base.
  • The Enhancing Customary Justice Systems activity in Kenya’s Mau Forest project built the capacity of the customary justice system to support and enforce women’s land rights, particularly among traditional elders.

Photo by: Ouie Sanchez for USAID ECOFISH project.

Cross-Cutting Resources

The Biodiversity Reference Sheet describes opportunities for integrating biodiversity with other development sectors that exist throughout the USAID portfolio, and can be realized by the coordination of existing programming, co-location of new activities, or planned co-funding. The full biodiversity integration reference sheet series includes resources for health, water and sanitation, food security, and democracy, human rights, and governance..

Integrating Ecosystem Values into Cost-Benefit Analysis: Recommendations for USAID and Practitioners provides recommendations for the incorporation of ecosystem service valuations into Agency cost-benefit analysis (CBA) across sectors, both for USAID staff that produce or use CBAs and for USAID as an institution.

Better Biodiversity Integration Through Geospatial Analysis describes the use of geospatial analysis for integrating biodiversity conservation with other development sectors at USAID.

Foreign Assistance Act Sections 118/119 Tropical Forest and Biodiversity Analysis Best Practices Guide includes a scope of work template and an annotated analysis outline to help missions prepare for, manage, and conduct an FAA 118/119 analysis and understand how to use that report to support strategy development.

Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning for Integration. Coming Soon!

USAID Ecosystem-based Adaptation Series Synthesis describes a nature-based method for climate change adaptation that can reduce the vulnerability of people, natural systems, and economies to climate stressors. Ecosystem-based Adaptation (EbA) provides flexible and cost-effective approaches that enhance resilience through the improved management and conservation of ecosystems. EbA can be an effective adaptation strategy alone or as an element of broader national, regional, and community adaptation plans. The synthesis summarizes a full series of EbA evidence summaries and case studies.

USAID/Nepal’s Hariyo Ban project enhanced the capacity and improved the internal governance of community forestry user groups, which are held accountable to the members they represent. Women are equally likely as men to participate in user group activities, and the majority of committees report having 33 percent or more women on the committee. Photo: USAID.