Navigating Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Fields, Forests and Waters of Governance

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The major pressures on biodiversity loss are found in production sectors such as agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries. This means that addressing direct pressures and underlying causes in these production sectors is a key approach to revert biodiversity loss. The need for such action is recognised in the strategic goals of the Convention of Biological Diversity which were adopted in 2010 where countries agree to strive to “[a]ddress the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society”. This paper, which builds on the report Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen et al (2014), seeks to support this goal by increasing the understanding of where the opportunities lie for mainstreaming or integrating biodiversity into those societal sectors that exert the highest pressure on biodiversity. Such sectors are often not characterised by strong government steering but rather by the typical characteristics of governance; many types of actors at different governance levels who seek to manage their common affairs. Much of the mainstreaming literature however, is mostly government oriented.
The paper pursues its objective by analysing five cases in or on the cross roads between agriculture, forestry and fisheries where considerable pressure on biodiversity is exerted. These cases are analysed with a framework developed to enable the identification of opportunities mainstreaming in contexts of governance beyond a government centered, often hierarchical bias. It draws on Environmental Policy Integration literature while incorporating further dimensions from governance literature. The cases are: Foreign Direct Investment in African agricultural land, the palm oil value chain, certification in the forest sector, the Marine Stewardship Council in fisheries management, and mangrove management in South-East Asia.
The analysis shows that a governance approach shows new opportunities (levers) for mainstreaming. Levers are found in new actors and particularly in new constellations of actors that are able to enter dialogue and build synergies for example between public and private actors and their regulatory respective regulatory norms, between market (consumers) and producers, and between actors and norms at different levels of governance. The types of regulatory norms that can be employed increases, as does the accountability mechanisms that accompany them. Diversity in actors can increase the potential for motivated leaders to emerge and for a different type of horizontal leadership to matter. Diversity of interests and values can lower the common denominator, but also work as powerful starting points for identifying new and converging frames. The role of knowledge emerges as a key resource but its type and role spans from independent research to practical experiences shared among stakeholders involved in mainstreaming efforts. Finally, the possible sources of funding to build mainstreaming efforts expands.
While this result breathes optimism for the potential to mainstream biodiversity into production sectors there are strong reasons for caution. In most cases there is need for more solid evidence of the effectiveness of the mainstreaming activities or there is a risk that the measures devised will lose their legitimacy in the eyes of the public.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Event2016 ECPR General Conference - Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
Duration: 7 Sep 201610 Sep 2016


Conference2016 ECPR General Conference
CountryCzech Republic

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