Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy

Specialist Group on Sustainable Use and Livelihoods (SULi)

Girl Fishing in Costa Rica Photo: Vivienne Solis Rivera
The IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi) is a global expert network formed by IUCN as a joint initiative of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP). Bridging the social and biological science strengths of SSC and CEESP, it is uniquely placed to provide credible, sound technical advice on sustainable use and livelihoods. SULi includes almost 300 experts from the intergovernmental, government, academic, private and NGO sectors, who bring a diverse array of relevant expertise: from technical management of forestry, fisheries, medicinal plants and wildlife, to traditional knowledge, community based natural resource management, and rural development. It operates in a manner inclusive of diverse opinions, encouraging debate based on evidence, and seeking to develop and provide knowledge-based and objective positions and advice. It is led by a Chair appointed by the Commission Chairs, Deputy Chairs for regions in which active groups focusing on regional issues have been formed, and a Steering Committee. Our mission is to promote both conservation and livelihoods through enhancing equitable and sustainable use of wild species and their associated ecosystems.

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Recent activities


SULi Regional East and Southern Africa Meeting Zimbabwe

23-24 May 2017

In May this year, Eastern and Southern African SULi members met in Chiredzi, Zimbabwe at the beautiful Chilo Lodge to discuss the potential for the two regions to work together on sustainable use and livelihoods issues.  The group workshopped, brainstormed, and came up with a clear direction and set of goals for the collaboration.   
 
Click here to read the full report


South East Asia Beyond Enforcement Workshop Hanoi, Viet Nam

15-16 November 2016

In November 2016 the IUCN SULi, IUCN Viet Nam, the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), TRAFFIC and the ICCA Consortium, held a regional workshop for South East Asia (with a focus on the Lower Mekong Region) to explore how best to engage indigenous peoples and local communities that live close to wildlife in efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade.The workshop was jointly funded by the Austrian Ministry of the Environment, the German Polifund project, implemented by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), and the Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife TRAPS) Project, supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

Click here to read the workshop report and access presentations


​CITES COP17 Community Voices Day Johannesburg, South Africa

1 October 2016

This was the first ever "Communities Day" at CITES - an event bringing together community representatives from different countries to discuss, learn from each other, and plan. It was prompted by the "democratic deficit" of the communities most affected by wildlife trade regulation having no or little say in CITES or other wildlife decision making, and represented the confluence of two different streams - SULi had been planning such a day, when we learned UNEP and ResourceAfrica had something very similar in mind. We joined forces to hold this one-day event, which was made possible by the support of the Austrian Ministry of the Environment, UNEP, GIZ Polifund, WWF South Africa, the USAID Resilim Project, and SULi core funds provided by the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency. It was a great discussion and we hope the beginnings of a much larger initiative. 

Click here to read a summary of this event


West and Central Africa Beyond Enforcement Workshop Limbe, Cameroon

24-25 February 2016

In February 2016 the IUCN CEESP/SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (IUCN SULi) and Regional Programme for West and Central Africa (IUCN PACO), International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED), TRAFFIC - the wildlife trade monitoring network, and the Network for Environment and Sustainable Development in Africa (NESDA - Cameroon), held a regional workshop for West and Central Africa to explore how best to engage indigenous peoples and local communities that live close to wildlife in efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade.  This workshop was supported by the Austrian Ministry of the Environment and the German Polifund project, implemented by GIZ on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  

Click here to read the workshop report and access presentations 


Beyond Enforcement Symposium Muldersdrift, South Africa

26-28 February 2015

In February 2015, IUCN CEESP/SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi), the International Institute for Environment and Development, the Austrian Ministry of Environment, the ARC Centre of Environment and Decisions at the University of Queensland, and TRAFFIC convened an international symposium in Muldersdrift in South Africa to explore whether and under what circumstances community-based interventions are likely to achieve success in combating current patterns of illegal use and trade of wildlife. The symposium was kindly supported by GIZ, USAID, and the Austrian Ministry of the Environment. 

Click here to read the symposium report


Recent publications


The baby and the bathwater: trophy hunting, conservation and rural livelihoods

March 2017

This paper explains how trophy hunting, if well managed, can play a positive role in supporting conservation as well as local community rights and livelihoods, and provides examples from various parts of the world. It was published in a special edition of Unasylva on Sustainable Wildlife Management with articles from members of the Collaborative Partnership for Wildlife (CPW) by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

Click here to read this paper on Trophy Hunting, Conservation and Rural Livelihoods


From Poachers to Protectors: Engaging Local Communities in Solutions to Illegal Wildlife Trade

Combating the surge of illegal wildlife trade (IWT) devastating wildlife populations is an urgent global priority for conservation. There are increasing policy commitments to take action at the local community level as part of effective responses. However, there is scarce evidence that in practice such interventions are being pursued and there is scant understanding regarding how they can help. In this paper we set out a conceptual framework to guide efforts to effectively combat IWT through actions at community level. 

Click here to read this open access article


Developing a theory of change for a community-based response to illegal wildlife trade

The escalating illegal wildlife trade (IWT) is one of the most high-profile conservation challenges today. The crisis has attracted over US$350 million in donor and government funding in recent years, primarily directed at increased enforcement. There is growing recognition among practitioners and policy makers of the need to engage rural communities that neighbor or live with wildlife as key partners in tackling IWT. However, a framework to guide such community engagement is lacking. We developed a theory of change (ToC) to guide policy makers, donors, and practitioners in partnering with communities to combat IWT.

Click here to read this open access article


SULi Briefing Paper - Informing Decisions on Trophy Hunting 

September 2016

Trophy hunting is currently the subject of intense debate globally, with moves at various levels to end or restrict it.  This briefing paper draws on a set of case studies to highlight that while there is considerable poor practice in trophy hunting and a strong need for reform, well managed trophy hunting can - and does -positively contribute to conservation and local livelihoods in the face of intense competing pressures on wildlife habitat and widespread poaching.  This paper was originally drafted to inform EU parliamentary discussions around import restrictions on hunting trophies and was subsequently updated as a broadly applicable guidance document for responsible decision-making.  

Click here to read this briefing paper


The Trade in Wildlife - A framework to improve biodiversity and livelihood outcomes

​May 2015

Amid global concern about biodiversity loss and the surge in illegal trade of threatened species, international policy has turned its attention to trade restrictions, enforcement measures and demand-reduction strategies.
This analytical framework recommends that policy decisions should balance factors related to the species and its habitat; governance and institutional settings; supply-chain structure; and markets. These factors include species resilience, distribution and accessibility; property rights and policies such as CITES listings, quotas and bans; production costs, intermediaries, monopolies and stockpiling; and market demand elasticity and size. 

Click here to read this paper


Briefing Paper - Beyond enforcement: engaging communities in tackling wildlife crime

April 2015

Alarming rises in illegal wildlife trade over the last decade show that tougher law enforcement is not enough to stop poachers from devastating populations of iconic or endangered species. However, the trend towards increasingly militarised law enforcement can harm communities who live alongside wildlife and have real power to protect it. A recent symposium led by IUCN’s Sustainable Use and Livelihoods (SULi) Specialist Group, along with IIED and other partners, discussed the incentives and governance structures needed to effectively engage local people in wildlife conservation. Local people must be allowed to benefit from conservation efforts and be supported by responsive, efficient law enforcement agencies as equal partners in the fight against wildlife crime. 

Click here to read this briefing paper


Policy Brief - The elephant in the room: sustainable use in the illegal wildlife trade debate

​February 2014

Illegal transnational wildlife trade is currently attracting considerable international attention. This is partly due to conservation concerns but also to suggestions of links with organised crime and militant groups. The attention afforded to this issue is much needed and the various international initiatives that have emerged rightly take a multi-faceted approach. But they tend to emphasise law enforcement and demand reduction, with considerably less focus on effective incentives for community-based and private sector management. In particular, the role of sustainable use as a tool for both conservation and local development has generally been overlooked. Wildlife is one of the strongest assets for many rural communities, and depleting it through illegal trade removes potential income. But tackling illegal trade in ways that further restrict sustainable use can limit communities’ options even more. Addressing wildlife crime effectively means developing approaches that protect wildlife for poor people not from poor people. 

Click here to read this policy brief


Being a member of SULi 

SULi is a global, volunteer, expert network formed by IUCN as a joint initiative of the Species Survival Commission (SSC) and the Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP). It brings together leading expertise on sustainable use of wild resources and its contribution to livelihoods from around the world, and is an important platform for thinking, debate, and catalysing action toward more effective and equitable conservation. By becoming a member, your expertise and experience will have the opportunity to shape SULi's work, and make an impact on the work and thinking of IUCN and the policy arenas in which it is active.  Please email Bec Cross at suli.iucn@gmail.com to apply

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