A bigger and stronger nature conservation network
BirdLife’s capacity development efforts are directed towards strengthening existing national BirdLife organisations, and identifying and building candidate organisations for key countries currently unrepresented in the BirdLife Partnership.
The Partnership, Capacity and Communities Department (PCCD) has worked with the Regional Secretariats and Partnerships to support an expansion of the BirdLife network from 111 countries in 2009 to 120 countries in 2014. BirdLife is roughly two-thirds of the way towards its ambition to be represented in all countries and territories of the world.
Some BirdLife Partners have been conserving birds and nature for more than a century. Others are just a few years old, and may be the first national conservation NGOs ever established in their countries. Of these, some were founded by young conservationists and grew in institutional capacity, effectiveness and influence with the help of the BirdLife Partnership, while others evolved out of or in parallel with Birdife’s Country Programmes. Over half of BirdLife’s Partners are in developing countries.
High priority targets for the capacity development programme are mega-biodiverse countries where there is currently no BirdLife organisation, or where the BirdLife organisation needs strengthening, such as DR Congo, Cambodia and Peru.
Stable organisations deliver solid conservation results
The Partnership, Capacity and Communities Department (PCCD) implements and runs a number of initiatives and projects to underpin and strengthen capacity development in the BirdLife Partnership. These include the Arcadia/BirdLife Conservation Partnership fund, the Jensen/BirdLife NGO Emergency Support Programme, and the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI)/BirdLife Institutional Strengthening Project.
The Arcadia/BirdLife Conservation Partnership fund has been supporting ten member or candidate BirdLife national organisations since April 2009. The goal is to establish a dynamic network of high impact self-sustaining conservation NGOs which are working effectively to better protect key species, sites and habitats in their own countries. All ten NGOs have shown solid conservation results, and enhanced organisational stability and sustainability.
BirdLife’s capacity development work is implemented through a very cost-effective programme of training courses, visits, internships, an NGO “Health Check”, and a “Partners supporting Partners” system, where established organisations support developing ones.
PCCD coordinated a global review of the whole BirdLife Network in 2011/12 and reported the results to the BirdLife World Congress in June 2013. For the first time, the review process included an online self-assessment of all BirdLife NGOs using the BirdLife “Health Check System”. The process allows BirdLife’s Global Council to evaluate compliance with the BirdLife Partnership criteria, and to identify where the strengths and weaknesses of each BirdLife organisation lie, to guide capacity development work.
In recent years, PCCD’s support to the BirdLife Regional Partnerships has included a strategic review of the BirdLife Middle East Programme; publication and launch of a review of the Africa Partnership’s work with Local Conservation Groups; development and monitoring of strengthening plans for Partners in Yemen, Tanzania and Sierra Leone; and participation in and support for Regional Partnership meetings.
Partners supporting Partners encourages the establishment of bilateral relationships between European, North American and Australasian Partners with their counterparts in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. For example, recognising that many birds which breed in Canada actually spend more of the year on their wintering grounds in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central and South America, BirdLife co-Partner Bird Studies Canada launched the Latin American Training Program in 1995. This enables Latin American biologists to spend an entire month at Long Point Bird Observatory, refining their field and teaching skills. Participants have come from Cuba, Mexico, Jamaica, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Puerto Rico, Panama, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
PCCD coordinates BirdLife’s links with some key conservation capacity development courses at pivotal universities, including the University of Cambridge M.Phil course in Conservation Leadership (UK), and the MSc in Conservation Biology at the University of Jos, Nigeria.
PCCD also runs the Conservation Leadership Programme, which was established by BirdLife in 1985, to identify, train and mentor future conservation leaders, and to support practical conservation projects. When the CLP celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010, a total of 450 individuals had been trained through international and in-country training workshops. No fewer than 96% of trainees had entered careers which influence biodiversity conservation, and nearly 70% were practitioners working with NGOs, private companies or government, or as independent consultants. Twenty-five NGOs have been established as a result of CLP projects. In the last two years, PCCD has coordinated a number of CLP-sponsored internships to staff from Birdlife organisations in Armenia, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Rwanda, and Japan.
Filling the gaps in the BirdLife Partnership map
Between 2010 and 2013, ten new national NGOs joined the BirdLife network from Djibouti, Syria, Kazakhstan, Kyrgzstan, Uzbekistan, Fiji, Morocco, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia. The first five of these filled important gaps in the BirdLife Europe and Central Asia network, and brought key countries in the Africa-Eurasia migratory flyway into the BirdLife Partnership.
The remaining five new BirdLife Affiliates joined the Partnership at the BirdLife World Congress in 2013. NatureFiji-MareqetiViti (Fiji) and GREPOM/BirdLife Maroc (Morocco) took over from BirdLife Country programmes run respectively by the BirdLife Pacific Partnership and SEO/BirdLife (BirdLife in Spain). Three- the Bird Study and Protection Society of Serbia (BSPSS), Centre for Protection and Research of Birds of Montenegro (CZIP), and Ugura BIOM (Croatia) -joined from the Balkans, following a decade of capacity-building work involving BirdLife Partners from elsewhere in Europe, including Hungary and Switzerland. This provides yet more evidence of the success of BirdLife’s “Partners supporting Partners” system, whereby established Birdlife organisations support new and developing ones.
In the same period, six BirdLife organisations had their network status raised, recognising their enhanced conservation and organisational capacity. Three organisations moved from Affiliate to Partner Designate: the Zambian Ornithological Society (ZOS), the Hong Kong Bird Watching Society (HKBWS), and Bird Conservation Nepal (BCN), and another three from Partner Designate to full Partner: BirdLife Cyprus, the Bahamas National Trust, and Société d'Ornithologie de Polynésie, better known as MANU (French Polynesia).
In 2011, Birds Australia (then BirdLife Partner in Australia) merged with Bird Observation and Conservation Australia to form BirdLife Australia. The new merged organisation is expected to play a significantly stronger role in the conservation of biodiversity in the Pacific – Australasia region.
Many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) experience governance problems of some sort, which can take time and energy away from the aims, and can cause the organisation to failng completely. This guide is written primarily for the Board members and Chief Executives of BirdLife Partners, as well as Partner Development Officers and other advisers. It may be useful to other organisations too. It uses case studies and the experience of other organisations to illustrate some common problems and to find solutions to others.