Has biodiversity fallen off the development agenda? A case study of the UK Department for International Development
Since the early 2000s increasing attention has been paid to the relationship between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction and a debate has ensued over various aspects of this relationship. One element of this debate has been concerned with an apparent lack of attention to biodiversity conservation on the international development agenda following the prioritization of poverty reduction. This paper explores whether this lack of attention is real or perceived by reviewing changes in biodiversity policy within the UK Department for International Development (DFID). It is clear that attention to biodiversity within DFID policy has changed significantly over time. There was strong support for wildlife conservation until the 1990s, including technical assistance, funding for integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs), and community-based conservation. By the 2000s, however, the main focus had switched from funding wildlife conservation to mainstreaming biodiversity concerns into development policy. The degree to which the explicit focus on poverty reduction that emerged in the late 1990s drove this change is debatable. Changes in aid architecture, UK politics and clearer differentiations between the roles of DFID and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in addressing biodiversity concerns have also shaped DFID's policy. Meanwhile, the political traction afforded to climate change demonstrates that it is possible for environmental issues to sit alongside poverty reduction in international development policy. However, communicating the societal implications of biodiversity loss has proved to be more challenging than for climate change. Better understanding of the mechanisms by which development assistance is disbursed would help the conservation community identify key opportunities for engagement.