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The origins and evolution of the conservation-poverty debate: a review of key literature, events and policy processes

  • Dilys Roe (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 October 2008

Within the last few years three key concerns have come to dominate the conservation-poverty debate: (1) the activities and accountability of big international conservation NGOs, and their impacts on local communities; (2) the increasingly protectionist focus of conservation policy and the implications for communities resident in and around protected areas, in particular regarding involuntary displacements and evictions; (3) the lack of attention to biodiversity conservation on the development agenda, with the current focus on poverty reduction. The roots of these different strands of the debate lie in much older discussions of the links between environment and development. There have been periods of convergence, especially around issues of sustainable development, participation and decentralization during the 1980s and 1990s. There have also been periods of divergence, in particular the disenchantment with community-based approaches to conservation and the prioritization of poverty over environment, during the 1990s and 2000s. Reactions to the outcomes of the 2003 World Parks Congress brought the three strands of the modern debate to a head. Ongoing discussions around these strands continue at a different pace but the debate appears to be moving fastest on biodiversity's place within the development agenda, although concerns over biodiversity remain marginal compared to the current focus on climate change. But it is within the climate change agenda, and particularly the escalation of discussions around reduced emissions from deforestation, that the next formulations of the conservation-poverty debate are likely to develop.

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*IIED, 3 Endsleigh Street, London, WC1H 0DD, UK. E-mail
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