Conservation biology, by its nature, is multidisciplinary in its goals and by extension the diversity of stakeholders that should be included in the cooperative partnership and decision-making process. These ideas are embodied in the vision of SCB, “...a world where people understand, value, and conserve the diversity of life on Earth and where SCB, a globally diverse, equitable, and inclusive community of professionals, students, organizations, and supporters, serves as a leading voice for the scientific study and conservation of Earth's biological diversity.”
What does the Society mean by these concepts and how are diversity, equity, and inclusion represented in the decision-making processes integral to the advancement of conservation biology?
By diversity, the society states that “...diversity includes, but is not limited to, characteristics of age, gender, ethnic heritage, race, skin color, geography, nationality, language, culture, field of study/work/research, sex or gender, gender identity and/or expression, sexual orientation, religion and/or abilities.”
By extension, can we infer that those included in the diverse pool of stakeholders are also included in the decision-making process? Does inclusivity translate to the decision-making process?
The 2021 ICCB EID Committee has organized three panel/roundtable discussion sessions that seek to begin a dialogue on these topics.
Session 1: What may conservation biology lose by not having equitable and fair collaborations
Conservation work is inevitably collaborative involving multiple individuals and groups with differing expertise, nationality, experience and culture. Conservation biology is at the intersection of biological science, social science, politics, history, culture and economics, and as such, conservation is reliant on a highly collaborative process that seeks to bring together heterogeneous stakeholders to address the dynamic nature of conservation problems. But, collaborations in conservation biology may sometimes be unfair and inequitable. Hence, this is the appropriate time for collaborators to be given a platform to share their experiences in conservation collaborations. This is vital for co-investigators’ personal development as sustained fair and equitable conservation relationships empower local communities ensuring the benefits of conservation action can enable communities and researchers to create lasting conservation action. Local, specifically community collaborators better understand the conservation landscape, the sociocultural and historical components of resource use, previous conservation efforts, and the importance of resources for community livelihoods. This wealth of knowledge is integral for long lasting effective and sustainable conservation action. These links between traditional science and community knowledge are reliant on fair and equitable conservation collaborations.
Questions discussed in this session include:
1. What is meant by fair and equitable collaborations? Is there a difference between collaborations between persons from within a country and with researchers from outside the country?
2. When should issues around fair and equitable collaborations be considered in a research project and is it an iterative process?
Session 2: Conservation synergies, an African Perspective
This panel will highlight not only current barriers to meaningful youth engagement in conservation practice, research, and policy, but most importantly areas of opportunity for better youth involvement moving forward, ensuring representation and involvement of youth from a diversity of perspectives and identities. From making space at the decision-making table, to ensuring youth have the confidence and skills to meaningfully participate, the panel will highlight several approaches from youth leaders and their allies in Africa. The panelists will represent a diversity of young perspectives, including across genders, indigenous perspectives, and other marginalized identities. The panelist presentations and interactive Q&A will not only encourage attendees to think critically about their own efforts with youth involvement, but also will place a particular focus on practical lessons that attendees can apply in their work, whether young or old.
Questions discussed in this session include:
1. What are the current challenges for youth to participate in conservation? This could include participation in conservation decision making, careers, freedom to think for young conservation researchers, and other challenges?
2. What have we learned from (un)successful initiatives to build youth leadership and facilitate youth engagement in conservation in the region?
3. Charting conservation pathways - the interplay between NGOs, associations and academia, in Africa and beyond, and what this means for young people getting their "foot in the door" in conservation careers?
Session 3: Capacity building to facilitate inclusion in the conservation decision making process.
The question is, where are the conservation decisions made, and who determines who sits at the conservation conversation table? Building capacity within marginalized communities (such as members of the conservation community including rangers, community members with strong affiliations to conservation/protected lands; persons who have been purported to have negative impacts with conservation, e.g. poachers) to promote their involvement in the decision making process.
As the conservation community continues to lobby for inclusion of all stakeholders in natural resources management and the conservation decision-making process, those just joining the table may lack experience and the skill set needed for these leadership positions. This session will bring together conservationists at varying levels of leadership to discuss, not only, inclusion in conservation decision making, but also how to strengthen the capacity of those joining the table.
Questions addressed in this session include:
1. How do we bring heterogeneous groups to the decision-making table when pre-existing biases may impact how information is valued?
2. At which decision making levels do we need the most varied voices?