"Integrating Population and Environment: Current Practices, Future Potential"

March 27, 2000 // 11:00pm

Connie Campbell, Community Conservation Program Manager in
Conservation Science, The Nature Conservancy

James Nations, Vice President Mexico and Central America, Conservation International

Anthony Anderson, Director, People and Conservation, World Wildlife Fund

Roger-Mark De Souza, Population and Environment Coordinator,
Population Reference Bureau

March 28, 2000 - "WWF is committed to addressing and mitigating current consumption and population trends," said Anthony Anderson of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) quoting a key provision of the WWF's Statement on Population and Consumption. Conservation and traditional environmental nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) like the WWF have, over the past decade, begun to incorporate population issues into their overall missions. These groups have recognized that without addressing these critical issues, they will be unable to meet their conservation goals. Likewise, population NGOs have also identified the importance of the links between environment and population, and are incorporating a conservation perspective into their work. In a meeting designed to survey current activities and future potential for integration, Anderson, Connie Campbell, and James Nations each presented the challenges and opportunities of incorporating population into their conservation-focused organizations while Roger-Mark De Souza presented ways to bring the environment into the work of the Population Reference Bureau.

Integrating Population into Conservation Efforts

Drawing on her work on the Parks in Peril program of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Connie Campbell presented six tasks that she sees as key to successfully integrating population into the work of TNC. One major challenge is identifying and hiring a staff who can work to integrate the two issues. A second challenge is how to institutionalize population within TNC. Within this challenge, there was the organization's institutional mandate to focus on communities, which gave them tacit approval to look at population. The third challenge relates to the conservation process. The four steps to this conservation process are: (1) eco-regional planning - the process of mapping the ecosystem including the impact of mobility and growth of human population; (2) site conservation planning; (3) conservation actions; and, (4) measuring the success of conservation actions - including assessing the link of population and linking TNC's own efforts with those of local and regional NGOs. The fourth challenge that TNC faces is generating the resources and partnering with local NGOs to facilitate participatory research. Fifth, training or "updating" of senior management and partners will need to be done to ensure senior-level buy-in of including population matters. The final challenge, according to Campbell, is attracting and maintaining donor interest in these linkages.

James Nations of Conservation International (CI) discussed the transition that CI made from solely focusing on creating and protecting parks and natural areas to incorporating the role that population growth plays in conservation. The impetus for change came from losing the battle to conserve nature because population growth was most rapid in the peak biodiversity hotspots. Some examples include the tremendous population growth in the tropical rainforest areas of Central and Latin America as well as in Central Africa. Three factors at CI allowed this shift from an exclusive conservation focus to including the examination of the linkages between the environment and population. First, the composition of CI's Board of Trustees changed, with new members more open to innovative methods, such as incorporating population into programs, as a way of increasing the effectiveness and capacity of conservation programs. Second, the director of the Board, Liz McCormack, saw the need to address population and advance the goals of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994. Third, key staff members of CI also saw the link between natural resource conservation and population activities, and pressed for a change in organizational goals. There remain, however, major challenges to integrating a population action program into a field conservation program, according to Nations. Large reproductive programs tend to focus on urban areas whereas conservation programs tend to be located in rural areas. Therefore, a primary challenge will be in how to introduce population initiatives into the sensitive biodiversity hotspot areas. Only through partnerships and the sharing of knowledge with other local and regional NGOs, will these efforts be successful.

New opportunities have arisen from this attempt to address the linkages, said Anderson. Population and environment, which have traditionally been viewed as respective edge or sideline issues, are now at the center of many debates with more attention paid to their mutual impacts. Although there is still a North-South divide on these issues, the gap has diminished more recently. There has been substantial success in promoting human development, leading to further declines in fertility. New coalitions have been formed. Finally, conservation efforts now work at the landscape level as opposed to smaller fragments, thanks in part to the integration of population since human population studies are usually studied at the larger level.

To take advantage of these new opportunities, Anderson recommended a three-pronged approach to creating a population agenda. First, he suggested that NGOs must develop a population statement such as WWF has done with their statement of principles, and carry this out with policy briefs. Second, analyses must be conducted that look at key population trends in high biodiversity areas. Third, WWF and other organizations must secure financial and technical support and prioritize along geographic and thematic lines to ensure that the most vulnerable areas receive attention.

Incorporating the Environment into a Population Organization

Finally, Roger-Mark De Souza presented the challenges the Population Reference Bureau has faced in integrating the environment into its activities. PRB has addressed recently what he termed the three P's: problems, present situation, and potential. In other words, where is PRB coming from? Where is PRB now? And, where could PRB go from here? The challenges that PRB faces are a limited theoretical framework for having a direction of causality, the lack of a policy framework for addressing the linkages, the need to develop and compare data, and finally that much of the work on the two issues has been done in isolation.

Three opportunities have emerged from these challenges. First, the environment contributes to the continuing policy debate about the need for population assistance. Second, there are benefits for both the environment and population work through this integrated research. Third, new technologies such as geographic information systems have increased the capacity to study the two issues together. These opportunities in turn created three potential avenues for further activity. These are the potential for more interdisciplinary, collaborative research, better information sharing, and improved communication.

So, where do NGOs go from here? According to De Souza, collaboration must be furthered to approaches that yield better self-evaluation. For example, how do field-based organizations evaluate their population-environment approaches? They must collaborate with policy-based organizations in order for both groups to see the results of their work. Collaboration can also lead to better information linkages and better communication of results into policy and programs.


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