Sustainable Community Action

The International Institute for Environment and Development is a London-based policy centre and thinktank established by Barbara Ward in 1971. Its offices are at 3 Endsleigh Street, WC1. It is entirely independent, aiming to " shape a future that ends global poverty and delivers and sustains efficient and equitable management of the world's natural resources" (website, 2006). IIED currently has 63 staff from 16 countries and an annual budget of £7 million. It maintains a smaller office in Edinburgh and formerly had outposts in Dakar (Senegal), Buenos Aires (Argentina) and also Washington DC (USA, until IIED North America merged with World Resources Institute in 1988).

IIED is one of a small group of not-for-profit organizations which has provided core concepts and methods for thinking about sustainability and social change. From small beginnings, when it was first backed by the industrialist Robert Anderson, Ward and her team carried out research and lobbying work on a range of contemporary environment and development topics, using funds obtained from key donor organizations and occasionally corporations and foundations. IIED continues to maintain a vigorous research and publication programme, and until 1986 it also ran Earthscan Publications, through which many of its books are still published.

Ward's died from cancer in 1981, and other IIED Directors have been William Clark, Brian Walker, Richard Sandbrook (who also died of cancer in 2005), Nigel Cross, and currently Camilla Toulmin, an economist and expert on development problems in African drylands. Research work at IIED is divided between Programmes, each with several staff and their own individual and shared research portfolios. In 2006, these included:

  • Natural Resources – sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, drylands and forestry
  • Climate change - mitigation, adaptation and vulnerability
  • Human Settlements – urban poverty, urban environment, rural-urban links
  • Sustainable Markets – environment economics, corporate responsibility, regoverning markets, trade
  • Governance – law, planning, global governance.

These groupings have changed somewhat over the last thirty years, reflecting staff changes and the emergence of new environmental and development concerns. Each publishes policy briefings and working papers.

IIED is generally acknowledged to be a successful organisation - its ideas are pragmatic and pro-poor. For example a former staff memember, Gordon Conway, was partly responsible with Robert Chambers for developing participatory rural appraisal, a suite of largely visual techniques widely used in international and community development to elicit public views and ideas. IIED's Environmental Economics programme helped to develop some of the first 'green accounting' and eco-taxation techniques now used in government and industry, and Richard Sandbrook lobbied some of th world's largest corporations tirelessly and with great effect, to improve their environmental performance.

As in similar institutions, however, IIED's staff are constantly involved in fundraising, and this - plus the dangers of overwork in the non-profit sector - has led to a relatively frequent turnover of staff.

plenty more to add....

Random facts

Inspiring Quotes

  • "Sustainable development is never going to materialise as a result of edicts from New York or Geneva. It needs to be constructed, shared and implemented in a truly global way that takes account of traditional, local and non-Western approaches." Steve Bass, senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development and former chief environment advisor at the UK government's Department for International Development. / Sustainability for all


External links and References

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