Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy


CEESP is a unique network of approximately 1,500 volunteers representing disciplines from biology and anthropology, economics and law, to culture and indigenous peoples - among many others. Our work represents the crossroads of conservation and development. 

CEESP contributes to the IUCN Mission by providing insights and expertise and promoting policies and action to harmonize the conservation of nature with the crucial socio-economic and cultural concerns of human communities—such as livelihoods, human rights and responsibilities, human development, security, equity, and the fair and effective governance of natural resources.

CEESP’s natural and social scientists, environmental and economic policy experts, and practitioners in community-based conservation provide IUCN with critical resources to meet the challenges of twenty-first century nature and natural resource conservation and the goal of shaping a sustainable future.

The work of the Commission is organised into RegionsThemes and a number of Specialist Groups or Task Forces linked to the Themes.

Mandate 2017–2020


A world where sustainability, social justice and equity are valued in nature conservation1 and in development.


To contribute to the IUCN Mission by generating and disseminating knowledge, mobilising influence, and promoting actions to harmonise the conservation of nature with the critical social, cultural, environmental, and economic justice concerns of human societies.2


The Commission undertakes its Mission through engaging its Members’ policy and field- based research, expertise and actions to:

A. Identify, analyse and learn from policies and practices at the interface between the conservation of nature and the socioeconomic justice, environmental, cultural, and spiritual concerns of human communities.

B. Promote a holistic approach to nature conservation and environmentally sustainable development across IUCN, recognising complexities and promoting dialogue and collaborative learning based on respect for diverse values, knowledge and experience.

C. Conduct innovative and open research in all appropriate communities and thus provide timely responses to current environmental, economic and social policy issues identified by IUCN Members, Secretariat, Council and Commissions, by relevant international agreements, declarations and processes, and by human societies.

D. Provide advice on the policies and practices of public, private and civil society institutions and organisations regarding the conservation of nature, the promotion of biocultural diversity and the sustainable and equitable use of nature and natural resources.

E. Contribute to the implementation of the IUCN Programme and enhance the capacity of IUCN by promoting the participation of diverse cultures and constituencies and the inclusion of different forms of knowledge, experience and skills.

F. Support the participation and empowerment of indigenous peoples, local communities and intergenerational leaders in all levels of conservation and development policy and practice.


The Commission will contribute to knowledge generation and the implementation of IUCN’s three Programme Areas through work focused on eight programme priorities. This work will be advanced through the strength CEESP brings to the Union, incorporating the diverse perspectives, expertise and experience of the CEESP membership.

1. Diverse values of nature: Promote critical reflection and enable continued learning and dialogue on diverse values and valuation of nature. This will include enhancing the capacity of communities and organisations to recognise the impact of diverse values of nature and their relationship to resource policies and legislation.

2. Effective and equitable governance: Provide leadership and expertise to improve and promote good natural-resource governance principles at diverse levels and by different actors by convening fora for co-learning and by developing knowledge on effective and equitable governance; further develop the ‘Natural Resources Governance Framework’ (NRGF) through a modular and regional approach.

3. Rights-based approaches to conservation: Advance the understanding and implementation of a rights-based conservation ethic in order to ensure respect for and promotion of human rights as they relate to nature conservation and environmentally sustainable development.

4. Sustainable and equitable peace, climate justice, and human security: Promote environmentally sound human security by networking and sharing knowledge and expertise within IUCN and with governments, civil society, and scientific and indigenous knowledge holders to understand the challenges and risks posed by conflict and climate change; to develop governance systems that are geared toward building sustainable and equitable peace and climate justice.

5. Gender equality in conservation: Strengthen the understanding of and promote the full achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment in all areas of conservation and sustainable development policy and practice.

6. People in Nature: Promote learning to improve our understanding of how nature contributes to local livelihoods and well-being. It will focus on material use while recognising that use is embedded within worldviews that include deep-seated cultural norms, values and understandings. It will also consider symbolic interrelationships with nature expressed through cultural narratives, language and traditions, including diverse understandings of sacred and divine aspects of nature and our relationship with natural resources. This work will contribute to valuing and conserving nature through understanding the value of nature to human societies.

7. Economic drivers of environmental degradation and biodiversity loss: Increase understanding of how economic drivers impact environmental policies in order to design and propose robust conservation strategies that dovetail with the objectives of social justice and the Sustainable Development Goals. CEESP will carry out critical analysis of the dynamics of these drivers in order to provide information and advice on the underlying forces within each category of drivers in order to advance alternative policies and solutions.

8. Culture, equity and heritage: Study and increase understanding of the relationships between culture, biocultural heritage and equitable governance in conservation, sustainable development, and environmental and cultural policy. Provide technical advice on evolving norms, policies and the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and other protection efforts as well as assessments of proposed natural heritage sites, mixed natural and cultural sites, or cultural landscapes with particular attention to the rights and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples.


The Commission is led by the Commission Chair elected by the IUCN membership and a Deputy Chair appointed by the IUCN Council on the recommendation of the Chair. The Steering Committee of CEESP is appointed according to the IUCN Statutes and Regulations and assists the Chair and Deputy Chair in guiding and coordinating the activities of the Commission. How the Commission is organised to deliver results in the programme areas is at the discretion of the Chair, in consultation with the Deputy Chair and Steering Committee as appropriate.

The Chair also participates as a full voting member of the IUCN Council.



The Commission has a diverse membership in terms of disciplines, cultures, languages, geographical regions, spiritual traditions, ages and gender, bringing diverse perspectives, values and experiences to bear in debating, analysing and promoting the issues of concern to its Vision and Mission. Membership includes some of the world’s foremost conservation and sustainable development practitioners, natural and social scientists, and traditional indigenous community leaders. Experts from major conservation and development organisations and young professionals with proven capacities in sustainable development at the community, national, regional and international levels also provide valuable contributions to the work of the Commission.

Membership is voluntary and by invitation or through application with the support of two existing Commission members. The broad scope of the Commission requires the extension and strengthening of capacity through increased membership, strategic partnerships, active fundraising and network mobilisation.

1 Conservation is defined here as the management of human use of the biosphere so that it may yield the greatest sustainable benefit to present generations while maintaining its potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations. [IUCN et al., World Conservation Strategy, 1980]
2 “Human societies” is specifically recognised to include indigenous peoples, local non-indigenous communities and faith-based communities as well as concern for gender and intergenerational equality.

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