Annual report 2009/10

As the world stepped away from financial collapse and recession, we moved onto the threshold of something new: a focus on shifting economies towards sustainability.


IIED Annual Report 2009/10: Doorway to a green economy

This year, IIED joined with development and environment organisations, trade unions, business groups and UN institutions to form a new Green Economy Coalition: working for an economic system that respects people and planet, and that doesn’t sell out the future to pay for the present.

Featured project highlights

Climate change

Adaptation after Copenhagen: in the Least Developed Countries, IIED-backed adaptation alliances were developing support networks and information hubs essential for resilience.

Community-based conference: IIED held its fourth international conference on community-based climate change adaptation on a front line of the problem – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


Fishy flags: a new report from FIELD described how ‘flags of convenience’ let unscrupulous operations sidestep regulations, and raised political pressure to ban the practice.

Birth of a FIELD: 2009 marked the 20th birthday of the organisation that became the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development, and helped to give rise to a then-unheard-of area of international law. The next frontier for the foundation: implementation.

Human settlements

Extraordinary influence: the IIED journal Environment and Urbanization was ranked as one of the most influential publications in its field and a leading platform for urban issues in the global South.

Disaster-proofing cities: the Haitian earthquake in January showed how vulnerable cities can be to catastrophe, while extreme events left better prepared cities unscathed. IIED investigated how so-called ‘natural’ disasters could be prevented through community action.

Doing density right: governments typically treat high-rise developments as the only viable high-density model, but an IIED researcher in Karachi reported that incremental development on small plots can achieve high density at a lower cost, resulting in friendlier and healthier settlements.

Natural resources

Fair sharing of genetic gems: agreement was close on the first binding international protocol on accessing and sharing bio-cultural heritage resources such as rare crop varieties and medicinal herbs, and the negotiations were informed by IIED research.

Beyond ‘land grabs’: to follow up our widely read 2009 report on ‘land grabs’, IIED was exploring land-investment alternatives, such as contract farming or joint ventures, that keep local people in control of land while still yielding attractive profits for investors.

Up-and-coming energy source: in some low-income countries, where biomass energy is one of the largest industries, the sector is criminalised. IIED was looking into better governance that lets biomass energy drive greener economies, not black markets.

Learning groups show muscle: an independent review showed that IIED’s Forest Governance Learning Groups were having big impacts on policy.

The poverty-conservation link: at an IIED-led conference on the links between conservation and poverty alleviation, experts explored the state of the field and highlighted some unexpected findings.

Farmer-led food research: IIED was working to upend the current system of agricultural research by helping farmers’ and citizens’ groups shape agendas and funding for food research.

New dams for West Africa: new dams were being planned across Africa but, with IIED’s facilitation, people facing displacement were able to participate in planning the relocation process.

Write this way: in ‘writeshops’ run by IIED’s international journal Participatory Learning and Action, practitioners working with participatory processes got time and support to think and write – and to be published, often for the first time.

Sustainable markets

Accountability in the pipeline: a suite of IIED projects was aimed at managing risks and responsibility in the oil and gas industry, a sector pushing the limits of new technology in increasingly fragile environments and with complex accountability chains.

Payments to the poor: in 2004, Costa Rica introduced new policies designed to make it easier for poor farmers to receive payments for protecting forests. IIED carried out an assessment of the social impacts and found that poor farmers were not the main beneficiaries of the social reforms.

Poor producers, global markets: IIED explored models for linking small-scale and poor producers to more formalised markets, along with approaches to development that let vulnerable groups make choices in capitalising on market opportunities.


Papers that change policy: thanks to a communications model that guided researchers to package their findings in highly persuasive reports, many IIED briefings had tangible impacts on governance.

Governance for sustainable development

Managing a uranium rush: rising energy prices sparked a search for uranium reserves, and Namibia was prime territory for prospecting. To manage the impacts, a Strategic Environmental Assessment was carried out – and reviewed using a new method developed at IIED.

Strategy for sustainability: Ooe of the world’s fastest-growing economies, Botswana, was planning a National Strategy for Sustainable Development, and the government sought IIED’s expert guidance to map its path.

Making local organisations heard: national governments and international donors often overlooked small local organisations and agencies providing crucial services, from clean water to voter registration. An IIED-backed profile series allowed these groups to send important messages about how international funding and frameworks could better support their work.

Going mainstream: strategic environmental assessment – key to mainstreaming environment and development into policy – made headway worldwide, and IIED explored ways to interweave all three pillars of sustainable development: environment, society and economy.