Local Engagement and Empowerment


  • Nature is local

Biodiversity loss affects all of us: when species disappear the value of the places where we live is diminished, and the goods and services that the environment provides like food, shelter, clean water and recreational space – decline.

Many people's experience of nature is local – their wellbeing or survival depends on the environment at the places where they live and work – for many people, their immediate environment is their source of food, medicine, water, fuel and shelter, or the place they go for recreation and relaxation. Conservation will be more effective if it empowers people at those places to conserve the biodiversity that they value.

Local people are also the chief stewards of the world’s ecosystems. The vast majority of daily environmental management decisions depend on local knowledge and are determined by local people’s use of land and natural resources.

BirdLife’s Local Engagement and Empowerment Programme supports the individuals and organisations who work with the BirdLife Partnership to deliver conservation, for biodiversity and for people, at the local level. Empowering local people and organisations and working in partnership to conserve the places and species that they value is critical to conservation that is effective, sustainable and fair.

The BirdLife Partnership’s “local-to-global” structure means it is able to bring local voices to the attention of national and international decision-makers. Experience shows the value of linking people and institutions across scales and geography, to share resources, practical knowledge and expertise.

Chinese girl being interviewed about Chinese Crested Tern (Vivian Fu)


  • A human rights-based approach to conservation

BirdLife is committed to supporting conservation at the grassroots. The BirdLife Partnership is supporting the emergence and strengthening of networks of committed individuals and organisations who share BirdLife’ s conservation objectives. These ‘Local Conservation Groups’ are now working to help support conservation at over 2700 priority sites for birds and biodiversity (Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas; IBAs) worldwide.

BirdLife Partners are building institutional and individual capacity of these local groups, supporting them with the management, monitoring, protection and sustainable development of their local IBAs. This approach is rooted in local distinctiveness, enabling traditional approaches, local knowledge and diversity to shape responses that meet local needs and address local priorities. Networking creates opportunities for collective action, influence and knowledge-sharing.

The programme promotes a rights-based approach which recognises the role of the environment in the fulfillment of many basic human rights and respects local rights to the responsible use of resources.

BirdLife’s approach strengthens local institutions and builds technical capacity so that people can effectively link nature conservation to development of sustainable local livelihoods and improvements in wellbeing.

Article in International Institute for Environment and Development (iied)Poverty, Biodiversity and Local Organisations: Lessons from BirdLife International


Woman in Haiti collecting natural produce


  • Grassroots action supporting global conservation

By empowering local organisations, BirdLife provides the fundamental institutional basis for grassroots action across all its conservation programmes - saving seabirds, conserving sites, protecting forests, flyways and grasslands, and preventing extinctions.

Stories from around the world demonstrate the progress that is being made:

Empowering the Grassroots brochure



  • A rapidly growing network

BirdLife Partners are working with local stakeholders (Local Conservation Groups and IBA Caretakers) at over 2700 Important Bird Areas all around the world.

Yellow dots show the location of Local Conservation Groups at over 2700 Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas around the world


Policy and Science

  • Unleashing the power of local organisations

BirdLife believes that local communities should be able to participate actively in decision making.. This engagement can help ensure locally appropriate and sustainable solutions to the loss of biodiversity, that take account of local values and needs. BirdLife recommends that communities should be enabled to: 

  • Document and communicate local experience and knowledge of the environment, livelihoods and wellbeing;
  • Where appropriate and with free, prior and informed consent, share community, traditional and indigenous knowledge to help ensure effective and locally appropriate responses to biodiversity loss and environmental degradation; 
  • Become actively involved in local and national government policy, planning and implementation; 
  • Advocate where possible for sub-national, national, regional and international policy that is locally focused and community-based; 
  • Have access to information on their environment that is in readily accessible and understandable formats. 

The experience of local organisations with which BirdLife works is that a favourable institutional environment for local organisations that are working toward conservation and development goals depends on: local rights to land and resources; devolution of resource management; support for local participation in decision-making; empowering partnerships with national and international organisations; and locally accessible and relevant forms of financing. National government actions which would help improve the conditions for local organisations include:

  • Ensure laws and policies governing resource access and use are equitable and consistent;
  • Use local input to define resource regulations and benefit-sharing mechanisms;
  • Encourage relevant line ministries and agencies, such as wildlife and forest authorities, to work directly with local organisations;.
  • Recognise and reward community-based organisations that are currently delivering on the ground. Don’t take their impact for granted. 

Read more about unleashing the potential of local organisations.



  • Listening to local voices

All over the world local people are working with BirdLife Partners to conserve nature in the places where they live.

Local Conservation Groups, IBA Caretakers and conservation volunteers took the opportunity to send personal messages to the world in this video, which was premiered at the global gathering of conservationists at the BirdLife World Congress in Ottawa in June 2013.

From Fiji, Kenya, Canada, Kazakhstan, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, the Philippines, Lebanon, Iraq and Uganda, they tell us what nature means to them, show us the work they are doing on the ground, and share their views on working as part of a global Partnership. And we get a glimpse of the characters that are acting for nature and people...



Brochures relating to BirdLife’s work with Local Conservation Groups.