Local Engagement and Empowerment


The engagement of local people is critical to effective, sustainable and equitable conservation. The attention to local values, knowledge and voices finds expression across BirdLife’s programmes, from policy influence and poverty reduction to climate change adaptation and monitoring of species and sites. Conservation cannot succeed without the consent and active participation of the communities who obtain their livelihoods from, build their cultural identity on and otherwise use the sites that threatened birds and biodiversity species depend on. With limited resources for conservation, the survival and recovery of species and ecosystems depend on the willingness and ability of local women and men to manage and protect them. The active involvement of local communities have proven to achieve conversation solutions, which are more successful and appropriate than those devised by external actors working alone.

To date, the BirdLife Partnership has established more than 1000 Local Conservation Groups (LCGs) at Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs). The ultimate aim is for all 12,000 IBAs around the world to be taken care of by LCGs with the commitment and expertise to conserve their sites and wildlife, and to use them sustainably for their own benefit and for the use and enjoyment of generations to come.

The Local Engagement and Empowerment Programme (LEEP) aims to provide effective support for local conservation actions by supporting local communities, and strengthening and expanding networks of Local Conservation Groups. The vision is that local organisations at critical sites for biodiversity are empowered to effectively conserve, manage and defend their sites, so that biodiversity values and benefits are provided locally, nationally and globally in the long term. The Programme also helps communities to have their rights recognized, and their voices heard by governments and decision-makers.

Linking conservation with human well-being is also an important aspect of the Sustainable Development Goals. LEEP develops tools and helps ensure that best practices are applied across BirdLife.

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


Understanding local communities 

For conservation initiatives to be effective and fully address the human aspect of conservation BirdLife has developed The Framework for Socio-cultural Impacts and Safeguards Assessment to guide the planning, implementation and monitoring of conservation initiatives. The Framework is a simple but comprehensive tool and a first step towards understanding local people and ensuring that concerns such as equity in participation, gender, local livelihoods and rights are taken into account when planning and implementing a project. The assessment does not substitute detailed studies but it can help conservation practitioners to understand the socio-cultural fabric of local communities and engage local people in project development from the very beginning.

BirdLife's Framework for Social assessment



Conservation and Rights 

The well-being of people is dependent on the health of ecosystems and the goods and services they provide. The functioning of those ecosystems is underpinned by biodiversity - the complex interactions of living organisms which together supply provisions, support production, regulate ecosystems and provide cultural, spiritual and recreational benefits.

BirdLife works alongside local communities, adopting conservation measures to the local social, economic, environmental, cultural and legal circumstances, helping to integrate conservation with social development, livelihood security and human well-being, for the benefit of people and biodiversity - addressing people's right to development, and their right to a healthy environment.

BirdLife's Position on Conserving Biodiversity, Respecting Rights

Women and men interact with the environment in different ways, based on their different needs, priorities, and uses of natural resources. Culture, tradition, tenure, access to resources and power create differences in the way women and men relate with the environment. Understanding these differences, and ensuring that women’s and men’s perspectives, knowledge and needs are integrated into conservation initiatives, can help make them more effective, and ensure a balanced set of outcomes in which both women and men benefit. BirdLife seeks to understand and take account of gender-differentiated roles and to promote gender balance within the Partnership and among the communities with which we work.

BirdLife's Position on Gender and Guidelines

At least 370 million people around the world define themselves as indigenous peoples. Many of them live in and around Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas. They are often fully dependent on local resources for their livelihoods and have deep cultural and spiritual ties to the land. Their traditional user rights and management of local resources are increasingly under threat from the destruction of these resources, lack of recognition of their rights and discrimination. Conservation efforts may also affect indigenous communities negatively. Conservation organisations recognise that involving indigenous communities can contribute to the success of conservation. Though not all indigenous natural resource management practices are compatible with BirdLife conservation goals the sharing of knowledge and practices is an important step towards mutual understanding and benefits. BirdLife is currently developing a set of guidelines that can help Partners engage meaningfully with indigenous communities at important biodiversity sites while adhering to their right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

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


The Conservation Initiative on Human Rights (CIHR)

BirdLife International is a founder member of the Conservation Initiative on Human Rights (CIHR) that aims to promote an increased integration of human rights in conservation.

Together with Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), The Nature Conservancy, Wetlands International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Wide Fund For Nature/World Wildlife Fund (WWF), BirdLife is committed to upholding an agreed set of human rights principles.

CIHR members have come together because of a common interest in promoting positive links between conservation and rights of people to secure their livelihoods, enjoy healthy and productive environments and live with dignity. We believe that by working collectively we can better advance our work in this field.

Find out more, visit the CIHR website