40th Anniversary Kick-Off: RESOLVE Announces New Governors & Strategic Partners

Sep 25, 2017

September 19, 2017

Washington, DC – RESOLVE, known for forging sustainable solutions to critical environmental, social, and health challenges appointed new governors and strategic partners at its annual meeting today. RESOLVE also announced the creation of two new governance bodies, a Board of Advisors and the Natural Resources and Energy Leadership Council.

Appointments include:

Ramanie Kunanayagam, former Group Head of Social Performance and Human Rights for BG Group, to RESOLVE’s Board of Directors.

RESOLVE’s new Board of Advisors comprises: Britt Banks, Senior Fellow with the Getches-Wilkinson Center at the University of Colorado Law School; Jay Campbell, partner at Hart Research; Bennett Freeman, former Senior Vice President for Sustainability at Calvert Investments; Alana Knaster, the Gates Foundation, Mediator; Huguette Labelle, former Board Chair of Transparency International and previous Chancellor of the University of Ottawa; Sara Lipscomb, former General Counsel for the U.S. Small Business Administration; Thomas Lovejoy, George Mason University and Senior Fellow at the UN Foundation; Tim Martin, former Canadian Ambassador to Colombia, Argentina, and Paraguay; Lori Price, Investing in Nature, BWS Partner, Photographer; and Paul B. Thompson, W. K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University.

RESOLVE’s new Natural Resources and Energy Leadership Council comprises: Britt Banks, chair; Dave A. Baker, former Vice President, Environmental Affairs at Newmont Mining Corporation; Tom Butler, CEO of the International Council on Mining and Minerals; Anisa Costa, Chairman and President of The Tiffany & Co. Foundation and Chief Sustainability Officer at Tiffany & Co.; Stephen D’Esposito, President and CEO of RESOLVE; Gillian Davidson, Non-Executive Director at Lydian International, formerly of the World Economic Forum; Erin Dovichin, the Alaska Venture Fund, formerly of the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation; Tony Hodge, former President and CEO of the International Council of Mining and Minerals; Deanna Kemp, Director of the People Centres – the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining and the Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre – at the Sustainable Minerals Institute at The University of Queensland; Bruce McKenney, Director for The Nature Conservancy’s Development by Design program; Herbert M’cleod, Country Director for Sierra Leone and Liberia at the International Growth Centre; Laurel Sabur, expert in risk management, treasury management, quantitative modeling, research, company analysis and corporate governance; Lisa Sachs, Director of the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment; John Thompson, Wold Family Professor in Environmental Balance for Human Sustainability at Cornell University; and Alan Young, Director of the Materials Efficiency Research Group. Board of Advisors members Huguette Labelle, Bennett Freeman, and Tim Martin, and Board of Directors member Ramanie Kunanayagam, are also part of RESOLVE’s Natural Resource and Energy Leadership Council.

This meeting included a reception featuring Sheka Forna, RESOLVE strategic partner and Executive Director of ReGrow West Africa, who spoke about RESOLVE’s ReGrow West Africa initiative, in a Global Development Alliance with USAID and Chevron.

“This group of global, collaborative leaders has a shared commitment to a less polarized world. With these appointments, as RESOLVE turns 40, we’re bolstering our role as a home for innovative impact partnerships like those to help communities replace lead service line pipes, implement Free, Prior and Informed Consent, and restore wild salmon habitat. We’re recommitted to building a healthy, sustainable world through collaboration, unique networks, and innovation” said Stephen D’Esposito, RESOLVE’s president.

RESOLVE’s board chair, Glenn Sigurdson, one of the early innovators in environmental conflict resolution added: “We are led by an ambitious group of collaborative leaders, seeking real benefits for people, communities, and ecosystems.”

RESOLVE is known for:

  • Implementing ReGrow West Africa, a Global Development Alliance with USAID and Chevron that provides capacity building for small and medium enterprises and uses an innovative platform to link entrepreneurs to impact investors.
  • Facilitating the Missouri River Recovery Implementation Committee, which provides guidance to the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works regarding the Missouri River recovery and mitigation plans based on input from States, Tribes, Federal Agencies, and other stakeholders.
  • Training farmers to construct chili fences to protect crop damage by elephants, safeguarding farmer livelihoods, and promoting human-elephant existence though the Tembo-Pilipili project.
  • Hosting the Public Health Leadership Forum, a platform to engage public health and healthcare leaders in dialogue on current challenges facing public health and opportunities for transformation in the field.
  • Co-founding and facilitating the Public-Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade, a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder platform committed to bolstering progress on supply chain solutions to enable responsible sourcing from the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa.

Stephen D’Esposito
President, RESOLVE

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On Innovation, Impact, and Rollaboards®

Sep 12, 2017

Washington D.C.

September 12, 2017
Friends,

We typically equate innovation with speed. It seems like transportation has been Uberized overnight, except in Vancouver where I still can’t get a taxi if it rains. But innovation isn’t always quick.

The first suitcases were produced about 120 years ago. For three-quarters of a century, the fundamental design didn’t change—we lugged our suitcases around for decades! The first patent for a rolling suitcase, the one with that cumbersome pull strap, was issued in the early ‘70s. It wasn’t until 1987 that “Rollaboards®” hit the market – the ones with the sturdy handles and the back braces. The “four-wheel spinner” was introduced in 2004 and has now reached near ubiquity.

The rate of innovation in the social sector is also variable. Social and policy innovation don’t always keep pace with business and economics (and vice versa). Today, any of our frameworks, systems, and tools strain under the weight of challenges that span jurisdictions or won’t fit neatly into pre-set categories. Policy issue silos impede solutions to complex problems, particularly for issues (e.g. public health, climate, biodiversity, and sustainable development) that require integrated and dynamic solutions. And in a polarized political and social culture that rewards conflict, we are often pushed further apart.

RESOLVE’s first innovation, forty years ago, was the idea that mediation could generate centripetal pull across divided sectors to create the incentives and cross-sector partnerships that are required to develop enduring solutions to environmental issues and disputes. Over the past four decades, we’ve continued innovating: expanding our approach to include health, development, and social issues; fostering unique and meaningful partnerships; and now initiating our own solutions-focused programs to rally diverse stakeholders together toward shared objectives. As we celebrate RESOLVE’s 40th year, we are testing yet another innovation in social impact partnerships. We are working with the social and business sectors to launch a series of projects that use profit to power and drive progress toward socially, environmentally, and economically sustainable solutions.

We see new signs of progress:

  • Localities, states and provinces, along with leading emerging economies, are serving as incubators for new and novel solutions. Innovation is occurring in urban areas with diverse and vibrant populations and economies, as well as in rural communities managing complex economic, health, and cultural cross-currents.
  • Civil society leaders are redefining their work in ways that respond to issue complexity and takes account of economic and cultural disruption. Larger-scale policy solutions, whether on health or biodiversity, are built from and legitimized in these communities.
  • Businesses and investors are acting as positive stimulants in communities where they operate, based on a long-term analysis of needs and community and business benefits. This investment extends to their supply chains, investment and purchasing decisions, and their ability to influence policy.
  • A next wave of developing countries (particularly in Africa) are positioned to emerge as economic, cultural, and political leaders. They are taking advantage of natural resource wealth and vibrant, young populations are testing new forms of resource and community governance.
  • Voluntary agreements and governance are filling the vacuum left by gaps in global governance or challenged national governments and can serve as an incubator for policy and pragmatic solutions in a time of constrained government capacity.
  • Commercial enterprise is a catalyst for health, social, and environmental solutions. We see a ripe moment for growth in impact investing as a counterpoint to policy inertia, with funding moving to social enterprise and impact partnerships.
  • In a time where so much else is uncertain, new foundation and corporate partnerships are likely to emerge, supporting policy and enterprise innovation. The key to success will be an approach that helps incubate and de-risk these partnerships.

These are the building blocks for a more productive social sector, but it’s time for us to accelerate. Next week, during our annual meeting, we’re bringing together collaborative leaders from around the world, and from all sectors, to strengthen our resolve and develop strategies that focus on accelerating social innovation.

One such leader is Sheka Forna, director of our ReGrow West Africa partnership. Sheka is an entrepreneur who founded Splash Mobile Money, Sierra Leone’s first and leading mobile payment provider; Rogbonko Village Retreat, a community-based impact enterprise; and the Chairman of the Global Entrepreneurship Network Sierra Leone.

If you miss Sheka’s keynote at our reception on Wednesday, September 20th, you can find out more about ReGrow West Africa here.


Stephen D’Esposito
President, RESOLVE

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Mining Sustainability – Four Frontiers

Sep 11, 2017

Introduction: I recently had the opportunity to participate in a meeting with sustainability executives in the Canadian mining industry. The discussion was about identifying emerging social and environmental issues that companies need to factor into their sustainability strategies and policies in the coming three years. The four frontiers are human rights, standards assurance at the level of supply chains, mine closure with energy transition and the social implications of the automated mine of the future.

Human Rights: The scope of human rights scrutiny on companies is expanding. This combines with a shift from soft CSR human rights commitments to hard legal accountability and potential for litigation in multiple jurisdictions.  It also appears that disclosure requirements and multi-stakeholder fora are a growing field of action for NGO stakeholders. There is increasing emphasis on social, economic and environmental rights as issues for which companies need to consider impacts well beyond the operational footprint. At the level of public opinion, this perspective can extend as far as the fairness and uses of the taxes mines pay.  Failure to provide adequate local benefits might be interpreted as a human rights issue. An active area of debate is how to clearly define the extent of company obligations and where those of the state become preeminent.

Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) with respect to Indigenous rights is here to stay for the mining industry. However, there continues to be a great deal of variation across jurisdictions regarding how FPIC is implemented. Bringing a degree of clarity and certainty concerning the interpretation and implementation of FPIC remains an important challenge.

A management challenge for companies is how to manage and rationalize additional human rights compliance requirements.  These will come from different angles. It will be increasingly important to adopt a strategy that includes a “curated playlist” of instruments and standards. In this mix, it will also be increasingly important for companies to demonstrate objectively their positive contribution to human rights. Many elements of an enabling environment for human rights are beyond the power of any single company to influence. Together with other human rights stakeholders, there is scope for business to advance human rights advocacy action in difficult jurisdictions and ensure consistent performance by corporate peers.

The management challenge for companies is significant. On the one hand, human rights (especially allegations of violations) have a very subjective quality. On the other hand, the complex operational processes of mining companies require objective data for decision-making. New management tools for human rights are coming into focus. Human rights impact statements are one example. Identification of vulnerable groups in the social and environmental assessment process is another. Credible fact-finding processes that have integrity and engage all key stakeholders can help create a shared basis for understanding disputed events when opinions are polarized. We see increasing examples of human rights complaints raised at annual meetings of shareholders and gaining visibility with investors. There is scope for cross sector learning on appropriate responses to concerned shareholders as the obligation for business to respect human rights is not unique to extractive companies but applies to all business.

Grievance mechanisms play an important role when they are effective and credible. There are important and outstanding questions that must be addressed regarding what constitutes effective approaches to remedy when rights have been impacted.  Many of these questions revolve around the roles of companies, home countries and host countries in providing an effective approach to remedy.

While lenders are increasingly considering human rights in loan approvals, most investors are not focusing on this yet as a factor in asset selection. Partly this is because mining assets make up a small proportion of most large holdings. It also seems that investors do not fully grasp their potential exposure to risks of human rights liabilities within their assets.

Sustainable Supply Chains and the Circular Economy: Levi Strauss (clothing) and Apple have stated their intent to close a recycling circle for their manufacturing inputs. While this does not eliminate the long-term need for minerals and metals, it is a powerful signal of downstream sustainability expectations. The trend is for downstream manufacturers, some civil society groups and international organizations, like the OECD, to take a supply chain perspective to social and environmental standards assurance. Divergence in standards along the supply chain is clearly undesirable. Recently, upstream, mid-stream and downstream leaders have started working together to identify practical and workable approaches for coherent supply chain assurance. This looks like a consequential trend (see WEF/RESOLVE White Paper on Voluntary Initiatives). The implication is that market preferences will emerge for sources of minerals and metals that enjoy credible assurance starting at the production site.

Mine Closure and Energy Transition: Across sectors, mining is unique in its focus on preparing for closure as no other industry has the same obligation to pre-plan for closure.  Up to now, industry practices and regulatory requirements on closure have been focused on environmental closure with uneven integration of socio-economic considerations.  Additionally, some jurisdictions have established strong regulatory regimes for closure, while others have policy gaps in this area. Regardless of jurisdiction, there is an increasing need to look at the socio-economic factors in closure to minimize and address any adverse impacts.

In fact, an early closure planning process focused on socio-economic aspects of closure can contribute to maximize the long-term sustainable benefits that can be realized by the presence of a mine.  An example is planning for renewable (eg. solar) energy generation at mine sites that can continue and expand at closure providing a legacy of clean power generation into the local grid and help countries meet their Paris targets.

The (Automated) Mine of the Future: Mining is already capital intense. Efforts to get greater productivity, safety and automation at mine sites imply significant reductions in local employment opportunities.  So why would any community agree to a mine in their region that does not bring jobs? The industry will be challenged to develop new value propositions with local resonance to justify resource extraction. The long lifecycle of most mines argues strongly for sites to be excellent neighbors to local communities. Perhaps future community agreements will involve new kinds of social offsets and new developmental partnerships financed by site revenues.

An issue to watch is cyber-security and the heavy damage malign hackers could inflict on computerized mining systems.

Conclusion: The radar screen for the mining industry is crowded with incoming risks and leadership opportunities. Today’s four sustainability frontiers are human rights, responsible sourcing, transition to green energy and community benefits that don’t depend on local employment.

    • Human rights presents complex challenges because mines effect people and communities in many different ways. This calls for comprehensive integration of human rights considerations in mine planning and operations. At the same time as companies must prevent and respond adequately to local adverse impacts, the industry needs tools to ensure consistent human rights performance across the sector.
    • Consumer and manufacturer concern about the social and environmental qualities of mineral and metal inputs is intensifying. This generates demand for comprehensive standards assurance from site to final product.  It is inevitable that mining will face responsible sourcing expectations similar to those already in place for conflict sensitive minerals (see Conflict Minerals, Ethical Supply Chains and Peace), forestry and other sectors.
    • The challenge of GHG reduction creates a new opportunity for mine lifecycle approaches to green energy within operations and beyond into local and national energy grids.  The transition to green energy will require more sources of metals and minerals.  However, mines must be able to demonstrate that they are able to provide those materials while respecting human rights and the environment and providing benefits to affected communities.
    • The logic of technology and productivity lead away from employment as a local benefit for mining. Companies will need new approaches to community benefits in order to secure local acceptance for the mines of the future.

- Tim Martin, Senior Advisor

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Beyond Polarization, to Solutions for People and the Planet

Aug 2, 2017

At RESOLVE we’ve been thinking along with many of you about the challenges we face and constructive responses.

Today, we operate in a world defined by polarization and conflict rather than collaborative solutions and constructive compromise. At a political level, in a number of jurisdictions, elected officials are rewarded for obstruction and confrontation rather than stewardship and good governance. This is exacerbated by the tendency toward media echo chambers, the politicization of science and facts, the proliferation of fake news (I mean actual fake news as opposed to fake, fake news), and attacks on legitimate news sources. This coarsens our civic space, narrows the political commons, and promotes an ethos of mistrust. Those who would benefit from rational policy and pragmatic solutions suffer.

While the challenges are daunting, I’m optimistic about what’s next, particularly if we can create new leverage together, strengthen cross-sector partnerships, and show a willingness to take risks.

I’m optimistic because I see the progress underway with our partners in Sierra Leone promoting post-Ebola sustainable development (https://goo.gl/SyaC97); mining companies contributing to green energy development (https://goo.gl/K4Kd75); developers and indigenous communities making better agreements (https://goo.gl/ehH8tr); and a new program to help replace lead service lines to homes across the U.S., including in rural communities (https://goo.gl/KQ2Zxt). Each of these efforts is based on cross-sector partnerships that help us get beyond polarization.

We see risks and opportunities for our partners in civil society and leading businesses; risks include:

  • Weakened government capacity in key jurisdictions may result in less willingness or capacity to protect civic space. We may see an erosion of the rule of law. Targeting of opponents has the potential to deepen and intensify conflicts.
  •  A turn away from evidence-based policy-making could accelerate, leading to worsening health and environmental outcomes, including defunding of key programs for natural resource and health planning.
  •  Decision making for major natural resource projects could slow or stall as effective stakeholder engagement is deprioritized and government capacity weakens. This could increase risks for large-scale multijurisdictional projects, including major infrastructure projects. Investors may seek to “wait-out” a period when project risk is on the rise.
  • The backlash against the role of the private sector as an “agent for progress” is real and could intensify, due to perceptions that even global brands are fostering economic disparities. Corporate social responsibility strategies – those fashioned for a different era – may fail to deliver desired results. Despite this backlash, many in civil society and communities will look for corporations to lead as government action falters.
  • In some cases civil society organizations, seen as credible intermediaries, are able to fill voids left by government, often with support from donors and corporations. However, this role has the potential to foster a polarizing backlash, particularly with regard to charged political issues such as climate, family planning, and others.

In this climate we have work to do together:

  • Defending the space for those with different perspectives and experiences to explore productive solutions.
  • Helping our partners, especially those in other sectors, navigate these uncertain waters.
  • Doubling-down on what we know works –partnerships, collaboration, and informed, constructive compromise (yes, compromise!) to achieve policy solutions and voluntary agreements, and implement good practices.
  • Pushing back (smartly) against efforts to delegitimize institutions, attack civic norms, or target vulnerable or under-represented populations.
  • Stepping up to amplify constructive voices and actions and look out over the horizon, creatively and with confidence.
  • Undertaking innovative, forward-looking activities that point to solutions and create hope, like ReGrow West Africa, Nature Needs Half (https://goo.gl/IMORzm), and improving end-of-life care (https://goo.gl/t2HuX6).
  • Supporting corporate and civil society leadership, recognizing that we may be entering an era where constructive, collaborative CEO activism is essential and rewarded (https://goo.gl/nUyHGS).

Since RESOLVE’s founding in 1977, we have seen leaders in non-governmental organizations, communities, and companies advance the art and craft of effective engagement. They have built unlikely or unexpected partnerships, leading to new, innovative, and impactful solutions. The hard work of these collaborative leaders and their willingness to reach across divides, both real and perceived, made the world a better place. We will draw on these leaders—their experiences, skills, and wisdom are now invaluable. They are our navigators.

 - Stephen D’Esposito

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ReGrow is Underway, Supporting Post-Ebola Economic Recovery in Sierra Leone

May 3, 2017

Sierra Leone is a country that has been blessed with potential, but potential that we have all too often failed to realize. When I returned in 2009, Sierra Leone was poised to embark upon the greatest period of economic growth in its history. Sadly, that promise was crushed by the twin evils of Ebola and the worldwide downturn in commodity prices, bringing with them thousands of deaths and economic collapse.

Sierra Leoneans are a resilient people. In the 55 years of our independence, we have weathered many storms, and we will weather this one. But if we are to deliver on our potential, we must learn from our travails. Our country is not incapable of producing world beating businesses. Choithrams, a global trading company with a presence in Europe, the Americas and Asia, was born in Sierra Leone. We are not short of entrepreneurs. Anybody driving our streets can testify to the entrepreneurial zeal of our people. What is lacking is a middle; both a middle class and the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that, in developed countries, typically contribute up to 50% of GDP and 60% of employment. People and businesses committed to the country, with the potential to grow, to employ, feed, clothe and educate our populace – and with the will and resources to sustain themselves even when the going gets tough.

The ReGrow programme, funded by Chevron and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) seeks to help develop this middle. Working with the internationally-renowned non-governmental organization Cordaid, we will harness the potential of our entrepreneurs, providing free Resilient Business Development Services to 25 carefully selected SMEs who, on completion of their training, may be supported by loans from the specially created ReGrow Revolving Loan Fund to help them sustain and grow their businesses. In partnership with Sierra Leone Investment and Export Promotion Agency (SLIEPA), we will identify investment opportunities to showcase on the ReGrow Marketplace, a portal which will be developed by ReGrow, and hosted within the SLIEPA website. Larger scale sectorial opportunities will be highlighted in the international Convergence platform. ReGrow on its own will not change the economic landscape of Sierra Leone, but it is our hope that we will serve as a catalyst for that necessary change.

RESOLVE and USAID held a launch event for ReGrow at the US Embassy in Sierra Leone on January 15, 2017. Thereafter, RESOLVE established its ReGrow implementation infrastructure in Sierra Leone and began organizing all of the necessary implementation partnerships. By April 15, 2017 RESOLVE expects to initiate Stage-1 of its SME Support, starting with recruitment and due diligence of SMEs. At the same time, RESOLVE also expects to begin working with SLIEPA and other partners to design and develop the ReGrow Marketplace and will commence planning and promoting an impact investment training seminar and workshop.

 

Sheka Forna, Strategic Partner, RESOLVE

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Hobby Drones, Re-Purposed as Peacekeepers, Save Elephants and Protect Communities and Livelihoods | RESOLVE’s Nathan Hahn Tells the Story on PBS

May 1, 2017

SERENGETI NATIONAL PARK, Tanzania – Today, PBS reported on the success of RESOLVE’s project, with the Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute and the Mara Elephant Project, using hobby drones to prevent human-wildlife conflict near the Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks in Tanzania.

Check out this link on PBS, or watch the YouTube video below.

Nathan Hahn, a researcher with RESOLVE’s Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program, is featured in the PBS story. The research team worked hard to make the case that drones could serve as peacekeepers. “We’ve stressed the importance of data collection throughout this project. There is sometimes a tendency to overstate the power of new technologies, and we wanted to fairly assess the utility of the drones for moving elephants out of crops and other areas. The results are positive and show that UAVs can be an effective, flexible way for wildlife managers to deal with human-elephant conflict.”

We recognized drones as a possible new tool to prevent human-elephant conflict, but realized more testing was required before drones could be proclaimed a safe solution for both wildlife and people. To prove the case we conducted 51 field trials in farmland bordering Tanzania’s Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks, the results of which are summarized in this Oryx paper. The training reports and operating guides can be on the RESOLVE site here.

For more information on our Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program @ RESOLVE go here: http://www.resolv.org/site-BiodiversityWildlifeSolutions/ or reach out directly to Nathan Hahn (nha...@resolv.org).

Stephen D’Esposito, President, RESOLVE

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Global Deal for Nature

Apr 14, 2017

A Global Deal for Nature

Our planet faces two major and interrelated environmental crises: climate change and Earth’s 6th mass extinction event. Concerns about climate change prompted the recent Paris Agreement1, a deal for coordinated global action which sets a clear, scientifically based target for ensuring a safe climate. On this Earth Day, 2017, we propose a companion pact—a Global Deal for Nature—to protect nature and the diversity of life on our planet.

The scientific evidence is indisputable that we are now living through Earth’s sixth great extinction crisis2. Species are disappearing about 1,000 times faster today than they have previously, as human activity converts habitat and food sources to incompatible land uses. Many of our planet’s most iconic species, including tigers, giant pandas, elephants, down to the smallest orchids and hummingbirds, could disappear forever by the end of this century if intensive forest clearing and hunting continue. Rainforests and coral reef systems, repositories of the most number of species, are in decline. Degradation of the natural environment is impacting the ability of people to thrive or even survive, be it through loss of access to clean drinking water or important subsistence species, or through disruption or displacement due to climate-related storm events.

There is an alternative future. Scientists agree that we can enhance global ecosystem recovery by designating half of Earth’s land and seas as connected networks of protected areas, to enable the recovery of Earth’s biodiversity and the preservation of indigenous communities rights worldwide who are stewards of much of the world’s biodiversity3,4. At the same time, consistent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs5) and other mechanisms, we can ensure that the other 50% set aside for development is designed to support the livelihoods of all people, and achieve this goal by 2050. Building towards this future is essential to allow nature and humanity to survive and thrive, especially because 9 billion people will likely inhabit the Earth by 2050.

Arriving at this balance requires a rapid shift in course. There is one Earth. We must honor a new-found commitment to save the space necessary to conserve most all of nature’s species, and the processes that sustain life on it—we must create a global safety net for the web of life. It took 3.8 billion years to create the world we live in; we are now called upon to change course in order to keep it healthy. With enough public support we can generate the political will for governments and local communities to ensure that the 21st century becomes the most hopeful for nature and humanity. 

The recent Paris Climate Deal points to a promising approach to a vibrant planet because it sets global goals and supports bottom-up efforts. But it is only a half-deal. To complement the climate efforts, a Global Deal for Nature could have four main pillars:

1. Expanded Habitat Protection: Half the terrestrial realm and 30-50% of the marine realm should be protected in an interconnected way while safeguarding the sovereign rights of indigenous communities. Doing so will be necessary, if not sufficient, to thwart the extinction crisis. From a static view, the goal of half-protected by 2050 seems impossible. Currently, 15% of the terrestrial realm is protected, but a recent study just published in BioScience4 shows that among the Earth’s 846 terrestrial ecoregions—ecosystems of regional extent—nearly 100 are already half-protected, and up to 2/3rds of all ecoregions could reach 50% by putting more lands under conservation management or in some cases active restoration of degraded habitats. Nature is not evenly distributed, however, so careful planning of where these new reserves should go to do the most good is vital.
2. Respecting Indigenous Conservation: Indigenous land conservation and respect of indigenous rights must be central to any new deal for Nature. Full stop. Human rights must be at the center of conservation and much of the world’s biodiversity resides on indigenous lands. Their direction and voice in how to craft such a deal for nature, uniting traditional and scientific knowledge, is the best way to save life on Earth.
3. Large Mammals Lead the Way: Across Africa and parts of Asia, signs point to the end of the megafauna—the large mammals that delight and inspire us and ensure that ecosystems function effectively6. Rather than let them slip away as an anachronism in this modern age, we should channel resources to recover them as we have done so successfully for the southern white rhino and savanna elephants at various times in the last century7,8,9. Other smaller endangered species, restricted to isolated habitats must be recovered and safeguarded.
4. Appropriate Technology: As humans reduce our footprint through appropriate new technologies, growing urbanization, soil building agroecology and intensified aquaculture, it is possible to feed even 9 billion people and still leave room for the other 10 million species on the planet. In this new configuration, a Great Decoupling10 of our need to clear more land, or exploit new frontiers, an alternative is taking shape. One in which all new infrastructure becomes environmentally friendly infrastructure, cities are redesigned and created to be green cities with cheap energy for development, and degraded lands are restored to health. The future will be exciting and prosperous if ecological harmony becomes part of the design, especially if embraced by all corporations, starting with those with major global footprints.

The Paris deal and a Deal for Nature are interdependent. Together they are more likely halt the acidification of the world’s oceans and the decline of coral reefs, thereby protecting essential fisheries that feed a large part of humanity. Preventing the drying up of the central Amazon rainforest would lead to saving millions of species, and would avoid changes in weather patterns and precipitation, both in South America and far from the tropics where the world’s cereal crops are grown. Studies also show that protecting and restoring the species-rich tropical rainforests is the single cheapest action that requires no advanced technology to mitigate global carbon dioxide emissions. The list goes on.

The annual bill for all of the above amounts to about what Americans spend annually on pet food and grooming, about $25 billion11. The payoff would be a living planet for future generations to enjoy and prosper.

Earth’s bounty underpins human well-being, and yet we are poised to wipe these out in the blink of an eye in geological time. Now it is time to give back before our living standards and spirits are further diminished by the loss of the diversity around us. With recent advances in technology and globally available earth information systems, we have the tools necessary to protect most of life on Earth and monitor our progress, should we organize and choose to do so. Adding a Global Deal for Nature would better allow humanity to develop a vibrant low-impact economy while leaving precious room for the rest of life on Earth. We must elevate this Deal to become the overarching conservation paradigm for this century. The two deals together foster nature and humanity’s health and a future for all species and future generations.

Eric Dinerstein, Ph.D.
Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions – RESOLVE

1United Nations. 2017. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Paris Agreement. Accessed on Feb 18, 2017. http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php

2Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich, Anthony D. Barnosky, Andrés García, Robert M. Pringle, Todd M. Palmer. Accelerated modern human–induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction 2015. Science Advances 1: e1400253, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400253

3Dinerstein E, et al. 2017 in press. An ecoregion-based approach to protecting half of the terrestrial realm. BioScience;

4Wilson EO. 2016. Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. Liveright. United Nations. 2017.

5Sustainable Development Goals. Accessed Feb 18, 2017. http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

6William J. Ripple. Thomas M. Newsome, Christopher Wolf, Rodolfo Dirzo, Kristoffer T. Everatt, Mauro Galetti, Matt W. Hayward, Graham I. H. Kerley, Taal Levi, Peter A. Lindsey, David W. Macdonald, Yadvinder Malhi, Luke E. Painter, Christopher J. Sandom , John Terborgh, Blaire Van Valkenburgh, Collapse of the world’s largest herbivores Science Advances  01 May 2015: Vol. 1, no. 4, e1400103, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400103

7Andrea K. Turkalo, Peter H. Wrege, George Wittemyer. 2017. Slow intrinsic growth rate in forest elephants indicates recovery from poaching will require decades. Journal of Applied Ecology 2017, 54, 153–159.

8Thouless, CR, et al. 2016. African Elephant Status Report 2016: an update from the African Elephant Database. Occassional Paper Series of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, No. 60 IUCN / SSG Africa Elephant Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.

9Maisels, F, et al. 2013. Devastating decline of forest elephants in Central Africa. PLOS 8: e59469. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0059469

10Fischer-Kowalski M, Swilling M. 2011. Decoupling: Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts From Economic Growth. United Nations Environment Programme.

11(http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp) 

 

 

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Hobby Drones, Repurposed as Peacekeepers, Save Elephants and Human Livelihoods

Nov 18, 2016

Findings show off-the-shelf drones can be used to guard crops and keep elephants safe along the borders of Tanzanian parks

 

A study out this week finds that low-cost drones helps protect elephants by preventing human-elephant conflict in farmland near Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks in Tanzania. The project, designed by RESOLVE’s Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions program, in partnership with Tanzanian Wildlife officials and the Mara Elephant Project, works by using the drones to safely shepherd elephants away from farms and communities—where conflict can cause more elephant deaths than poaching.

A mother and her calf in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. Photo by Lori Price

From April through July, elephants wander out of parks across Tanzania to gorge on maize (corn), watermelon, and sorghum that dot subsistence farm plots. A wild herd can wipe out a maize plot in a single night and leave farmers struggling to feed their families for the rest of the year. Farmers and rangers have to sneak within range of the elephants to throw stones and bang drums to drive them off, or, worse, hurl chili-laced condoms with firecrackers in a futile and often dangerous effort. Angry villagers can also retaliate by provisioning the fields with poisoned fruit or turning a blind eye to poaching gangs targeting the elephants for ivory.

Elephants are not entirely to blame; people are moving into their homelands and traditional movement corridors, planting crops and competing with wildlife for space, water, and food. In certain regions of Africa and across much of the range of the Asiatic elephant, this conflict presents a greater risk to elephants than poaching and has become a high priority for wildlife managers. Now, conservationists may have found an unexpected solution that works in the African bush. Beginning in late 2014, researchers from Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions, the Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), and the Mara Elephant Project, found that quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs, a.k.a. drones) make elephants flee, possibly an instinctual reaction to the sound of the propellers, which imitate a swarm of bees. This discovery presented a possible new tool to keep elephants out of high-risk areas, but the technique needed more testing to be proclaimed safe for wildlife and people.

Elephants are shepherded by a drone in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. Photo by Teddy Kinyanjui

In a paper released in the journal Oryx this week, the research team reported on 51 field trials in farmland bordering Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks. The trials show that rangers using UAVs have been able to consistently move wild elephants out of crops during the day and night. Results from the flights suggest that the UAVs—which currently cost $800 fully equipped—can aid wildlife managers who regularly respond to human-elephant conflict (HEC) in community areas and croplands.

“We’ve stressed the importance of data collection throughout this project. There is sometimes a tendency to overstate the power of new technologies, and we wanted to fairly assess the utility of the drones for moving elephants out of crops and other areas. The results are very positive and show that UAVs can be an effective, flexible way for wildlife managers to deal with human-elephant conflict,” said lead author Nathan Hahn, from Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions.

Trained ranger teams stationed along the border of these parks have now made over 120 flights in response to calls about elephants on community and farming lands.

“The greater interaction distance the UAVs provide lends a much-needed safety buffer for our rangers, the farmers, and the elephants. Here is a useful piece of technology we didn’t have in our tool kit one year ago” explained Angela Mwakatobe, head of research management at TAWIRI and co-author on the study.

Rangers on patrol in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. Photo by Teddy Kinyanjui

While some biologists warn that elephants may become habituated to the sound of drones and no longer move from crop fields, rangers have not yet noticed signs of this, even among habitual raiders who have “met” the drones multiple times. Results of this work suggest that small drones offer a new way to reduce negative interactions between people and elephants. The UAVs have also revealed unintended applications. In one instance, rangers used a UAV to move a wounded bull out of dense bush into the open so that a veterinary team could remove a poisoned arrow lodged in his leg.

Loving elephants is easy. Living next to them in harmony requires a little creative engineering to negotiate a peace treaty. “It’s good that we can help the communities,” observed ranger Kateto Ollekashe. “When we can help farmers move the elephants away, we can build relationships and get them on our side. That’s also how we can help stop poaching.”

In the end, scientists and wildlife managers agree that this conflict will not be solved until larger protected areas and safe corridors are established for elephant dispersal; thus, it will not be solved overnight. But at least now there is some hope for peaceful coexistence between farmers and elephants, brokered by a creative use of technology and early adoption by the Tanzanian government.

The graduating class from RESOLVE’s drone training workshop in Serengeti National Park, February 2016. Photo by Nathan Hahn

About Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions

RESOLVE’s Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions (BWS) program targets two of the greatest conservation crises of our time: the approaching extinction of endangered wildlife and the destruction of tropical forests where most of the world’s species resides. BWS combines creative field-oriented approaches to conservation with innovative science and technology to dramatically improve how we monitor and protect endangered wildlife and their habitats.

For more information regarding this project, please contact Nathan Hahn at nhahn@resolv.org or +1 202-965-6204

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Updated Version of RESOLVE and the World Economic Forum’s White Paper on Voluntary Responsible Mining Initiatives

Jul 29, 2016

Last March, RESOLVE and the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Mining and Metals had the pleasure of presenting “Voluntary Responsible Mining Initiatives: A Review”, a white paper on voluntary responsible mining initiatives. Informed by a survey with over 100 respondents on perceptions regarding current initiatives and future directions, this white paper is intended to help stakeholders, ranging from upstream miners to retailers and manufacturers, to inform decisions about where to focus and what to prioritize as they seek to de-risk supply chains and promote responsible sourcing.

We invite you to read this updated version of the material, as well as circulating it among your networks.

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New Research Suggests Tigers Can Come Back From Brink of Extinction If Habitats Are Preserved

Apr 1, 2016

Satellite analysis reveals tiger habitats are more intact than expected: an area large enough to double the wild tiger population remains

RESOLVE researchers published findings today in the journal Science Advances on the status of habitat for tigers. Some key takeaways from the study:

  • Tigers need large areas to survive but if well protected, populations can rebound quickly – Nepal and India experienced 61 and 31 percent increases, respectively, in their tiger populations recently thanks to better habitat protection and anti-poaching efforts.
  • The global tiger population now stands at fewer than 3,500; the international commitment is to double the population by 2022.
  • Scientists found less than 8 percent (79,600 km2) of global tiger habitat was lost between 2001 and 2014, habitat that could have supported about 400 tigers.
  • 98 percent of forest loss in tiger habitat occurred in just 10 landscapes, primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia, where oil palm plantations are driving deforestation.
  • This is the first major study to use high and medium-resolution satellite data from Global Forest Watch to examine the impact of forest loss on tiger populations.

Enough forested habitat remains to bring the tiger back from the brink of extinction, according to new analysis published in Science Advances today by researchers at the University of Minnesota, RESOLVE, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Rainforest Alliance, Stanford University and World Resources Institute (WRI). The study found forest loss was lower than expected in tiger habitats, suggesting there is more than enough habitat remaining to achieve the international commitment of doubling the wild tiger population by 2022 (an initiative known as “Tx2”) with additional conservation investment.

Tiger looking for wild boar

Tigers like this one looking at a wild boar in Bandhavgarh National Park, India need ample space and food to survive. Photo credit: Suzanne Palminteri

Tiger populations can rebound quickly when habitat and prey are abundant and hunting is controlled. For example, Nepal and India have reported 61 and 31 percent increases in their tiger populations, respectively. This is partly thanks to conservation initiatives like the preservation of the cross-boundary Terai Arc Landscape. Reaching the Tx2 goal will require that any significant future tiger habitat loss is prevented, key corridors are restored between remaining forest fragments, nations implement green infrastructure to prevent habitat fragmentation, and conservation managers translocate and reintroduce tiger populations where necessary.

The study, “Tracking changes and preventing loss in critical tiger habitat,” shows that less than 8 percent (nearly 79,000 km2 or 30,000 mi2) of global forested habitat was lost from 2001-2014. This rate of forest loss is lower than anticipated, given that tiger habitats are generally distributed in fast-growing rural economies, some with high population densities and facing severe pressures from industrial agriculture.

Despite lower-than-expected levels of forest loss within tiger habitat, the study also confirms the precariousness of the species’ survival. The researchers estimate that forest clearing since 2001 resulted in the loss of habitat that could have supported an estimated 400 tigers. This is potentially devastating, considering the current global tiger population is fewer than 3,500 individuals. Furthermore, the study did not consider the deleterious effects of poaching and prey loss within these landscapes.

“After decades of working in tiger conservation, it is great to have some encouraging news for once,” said Eric Dinerstein, Director of the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program at RESOLVE and a Senior Fellow at WRI. “But illegal hunting of both tigers and prey can result in ‘empty forests’ without enough food or shelter to support large predators like tigers. Measuring and combatting this sort of forest impoverishment and its effects will be essential. It complements our efforts to identify habitat poaching in this study.”

The vast majority (98 percent) of tiger forest habitat loss occurred within just 10 landscapes, often driven by the conversion of natural forest to plantations for agricultural commodities such as palm oil. The landscapes with the highest percentage of forest clearing were in areas of Malaysia and Indonesia with heavy oil palm development, such as the Bukit Tigapuluh ecosystem in Sumatra, which has lost more than two-thirds (67 percent) of its forest since 2001, resulted in a loss of habitat sufficient to support an estimated 51 tigers. Palm oil development remains an ongoing threat in Indonesia alone, more than 4,000 km2 (1,544 mi2) of forest habitat, an area five times the size of New York City, have been allocated for oil palm concessions.

This Global Forest Watch map shows the extensive loss of forest all around Bukit Tigapuluh (Thirty Hills) National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia, one of a few refuges remaining for Sumatran tigers and a host of forest species. The clearing is recent: the intense illegal logging and planting of palm oil has destroyed more than two-thirds (67%) of the forest in the park since 2001, sufficient to have supported some 51 tigers. Image credit: Global Forest Watch. World Resources Institute. Accessed March 2016. www.globalforestwatch.org

GFW also provides monthly and in some cases weekly tree cover loss alerts that can empower park rangers and communities to monitor and protect tiger habitat, even at the finest scale of a single forest corridor used by a dispersing male tiger.

Anyone interested can explore the maps of tiger habitat and tree cover change online at globalforestwatch.org, or subscribe for forest clearing alerts here.

“It is remarkable and unexpected that tiger habitat has been relatively well-preserved over this 14-year period,” said the study’s lead author, Anup Joshi from the University of Minnesota. “It is not a sign that we are in the clear yet, but it does show us that tigers can potentially recover from the edge of extinction if we make the right forest management choices. We are seeing this already in areas like the border between Nepal and India, where forest cover is recovering with the help of communities and tigers are coming back in a big way.”

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