Making effective arguments for conservation - September 2015 Newsletter
Freshwater wetlands and coastal zones important for migratory waterbirds are under great pressure from different user groups and stakeholders seeking to manage or exploit them for a variety of different, often incompatible, uses. EAAFP promotes the conservation and sustainable management of these areas for waterbirds and their habitats, for the benefit of biodiversity and people. Given the competing demands, how can we most effectively argue for their conservation? Recently, the EU-based BESAFE project produced a report on the effectiveness of different types of arguments for biodiversity protection.
Although the findings may seem intuitive –
- Understand the situation
- Tailor arguments to the audience
- Use combinations of arguments
- Use positive framings
- Be persistent (ha!)
- Think across policy levels
they may also bear some deeper reflection for our efforts to conserve migratory waterbirds and their habitats in the Flyway. Understanding the site-specific challenges and opportunities and situating these in the broader social, cultural and policy context may help to identify how to most effectively identify the key decision points, who should be targeted and how, in order to have the most likely beneficial impact. The role and relationships between national and local government, which may have conflicting mandates, even within the same agency, can identify important leverage points. We are often requested in the Secretariat by government agencies “help us make the argument … [for conservation]”. There are usually a variety of ways to do this, and the findings above can help us frame the arguments most effectively, whether this is appealing to national and local pride in natural and cultural heritage, economic benefits of ecosystem services, such as ecotourism, or the shared responsibilities across the nations and cultures of the Flyway to protect a shared and valued biodiversity asset. As noted in the findings, it is often a combination of these arguments, and others. Better still is to identify champions, who may be in a position to better deliver messages in a credible way.
I have mentioned before the need for positive messages and I believe that, despite the frustrations and setbacks we sometimes face in trying to achieve our goals, we are still driven by the possibilities, the positive visions of what a well-managed site or network of sites, supporting birds and people, can offer, for current and future generations. Being persistent is not hard when this vision is at stake!
Spike Millington, Chief Executive