Mandate 2021-2024


A world where sustainability, social justice, diversity and equity are valued in nature conservation1 and in development.


To contribute to the IUCN mission by generating and disseminating knowledge, mobilising influence, and promoting actions to harmonise the conservation of nature with the critical social, cultural, environmental, and economic justice concerns of human societies.2


The Commission undertakes its mission by engaging IUCN Members, CEESP members and other stakeholders on policy and field-based research, expertise and actions to:

A. Identify, analyse and learn from policies and practices at the interface between the conservation of nature, socioeconomic concerns, environmental justice, as well as cultural and spiritual concerns of human communities.

B. Promote a holistic approach to nature conservation and sustainable development across IUCN, recognising complexities and promoting dialogue and collaborative learning based on respect for diverse values, knowledges and experience.

C. Conduct innovative research at multiple scales that provides timely responses to current environmental, economic and social policy issues identified by IUCN Members, staff, Commission members and partners in the field, such as environment and human health, population, migration, climate change and environmental human rights defenders.

D. Provide advice on the policies and practices of public, private and civil society institutions and organisations regarding conservation of nature, social and environmental justice, promotion of biocultural diversity, valuation and accounting for nature, sustainable and equitable governance, and use of nature and natural resources.

E. Contribute to the implementation of the IUCN Programme and enhance the capacity of IUCN by promoting the participation of diverse cultures and constituencies, as well as the inclusion of different forms of knowledge, experience and skills. F. Support and advocate for the full and effective participation and empowerment of indigenous peoples, local communities, youth, intergenerational leaders and communities of faith in all levels of conservation and development policy and practice.

Programme Priorities 

The Commission will contribute to knowledge generation and the implementation of IUCN’s Programme through work focused on eleven programme priorities. This work will be advanced through the strength CEESP brings to the Union, incorporating the diverse perspectives, expertise and experience of the CEESP membership.

1. Health and well-being: Collate information and insights on the economic, political social and environmental implications of COVID-19 and other health crises. Disseminate principles and best practices for rescue, recovery and rebuilding to strengthen environmental and natural resource management for health and wellbeing, including the important role that IPLCs play in the prevention of ecosystem degradation for human health and well-being.

2. Rights-based approaches: Advance the understanding and implementation of a rights-based conservation ethic in order to ensure respect for and promotion of environmental, land and resource rights as well as cultural and human rights as they relate to nature conservation and environmentally sustainable development. Co-generate knowledge and appropriately support action that local people, government and conservation organisations and others can use to better understand and act upon their rights and responsibilities.

3. Environmental human rights defenders: Raise awareness of – and advocate for an end to discrimination against – indigenous peoples and local communities seeking to defend ecosystems, rights and culture through the development of dialogues, coalitions and legal support.

4. People and nature: Promote learning to improve our understanding of how nature contributes to local livelihoods, human health and well-being. This includes understanding material use while recognising that use is embedded within worldviews that include deep-seated cultural norms, values and understandings. It considers symbolic interrelationships with nature expressed through cultural narratives, language and traditions, including diverse understandings of sacred and divine aspects of nature and peoples’ relationship with natural resources. This includes diverse approaches to conservation and the importance of recognising the validity of different approaches if these are sustainable and supported by communities. This work will contribute to valuing and conserving nature through understanding the value of nature to human societies and support further development, implementation and learning for the People in Nature Knowledge Product.

5. Effective and equitable governance: Provide leadership and expertise to enable improved natural-resource governance, including through promoting principles of ‘good’ governance at diverse levels and by different actors that recognises and supports the diverse leadership and expertise of indigenous peoples, local communities, women, and youth. This will include convening fora for co-learning, by developing and sharing knowledge on effective and equitable governance, together with further development, implementation, and learning from use of the Natural Resources Governance Framework (NRGF) knowledge product. This includes research and understanding around issues of illegal wildlife trade, crime, and illicit financial flows and corruption.

6. Gender equality in conservation: Strengthen the understanding of and promote the full achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment in conservation and sustainable development policy and practice, including gender-based violence and environmental linkages. 

7. Culture, equity and heritage: Study and increase understanding of the relationships between culture, biocultural heritage and equitable governance in conservation, sustainable development, and environmental and cultural policy. Provide technical advice on evolving norms, policies and the implementation of the World Heritage Convention and other protection efforts, as well as assessments of proposed natural heritage sites, mixed natural and cultural sites, or cultural landscapes with particular attention to the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.

8. Environment and peace: Promote the prevention, management and resolution of social conflict as key for conservation through the establishment of inclusive multi-stakeholder platforms aimed at addressing social conflicts around conservation, resource use, environmental change and development activities that impact environments and ecosystems. Share and contribute knowledge that increases understanding on environmental policies and action that reduce conflict and improve security, especially in a context of environmental change. Contribute to current knowledge about the scale of impacts and interlinkages between environmental change, human and species migration and displacement and conflict.

9. Diverse values of nature: Promote critical reflection and enable continued learning and dialogue on diverse values and valuation of nature. This will include enhancing the capacity of communities and organisations to recognise the impact of diverse values of nature and cultures, as well as their relationship to resource policies and legislation.

10. Re-Thinking nature and economics: CEESP will bring together a diverse set of economists to discuss, debate, and analyse the costs and benefits of sustaining natural ecosystems, the economic drivers of biodiversity loss, and to deepen knowledge around alternative economic models, such as circular and indigenous economies. Through this process, CEESP will increase the understanding of how these economic approaches influence and impact environmental policies and people in order to design and propose robust conservation strategies that dovetail with the objectives of social and environmental justice, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and the post-2020 biodiversity framework

11. People and oceans: Promote understanding and integration of the voices, visions, rights, and livelihood needs of coastal peoples and island nations into policies and practices related to the conservation and management of the oceans, especially through great attention to governance and social dimensions of marine protected areas, rights of small scale fishers and indigenous peoples on ocean governance and fisheries management, as well as equity and just issues in the blue economy.


The Commission is led by the Commission Chair, elected by the IUCN membership, and by a Deputy Chair appointed by the IUCN Council on the recommendation of the Chair. The Steering Committee of CEESP is appointed according to the IUCN Statutes and Regulations and assists the Chair and Deputy Chair in guiding and coordinating the activities of the Commission. How the Commission is organised to deliver results in the programme areas is at the discretion of the Chair, in consultation with the Deputy Chair and Steering Committee as appropriate. The Chair also participates as a full voting member of the IUCN Council.


The Commission has a diverse membership in terms of disciplines, cultures, languages, geographical regions, spiritual traditions, ages and gender, bringing diverse perspectives, values and experiences to bear in debating, analysing and promoting the issues of concern 4 to its vision and mission. Membership includes some of the world’s foremost conservation and sustainable development practitioners, natural and social scientists, and traditional indigenous community leaders. Experts from major conservation and development organisations and young professionals with proven capacities in sustainable development at the community, national, regional and international levels provide valuable contributions to the work of the Commission.

Membership is voluntary and by invitation or through application, usually with the support of a professional reference or existing Commission members. The broad scope of the Commission requires the extension and strengthening of capacity through increased membership, strategic partnerships, active fundraising and network mobilisation.


CEESP will continue to strengthen its membership to make it more representative in professional, geographic and gender terms. Members will be encouraged to form thematic groups, task forces and regional nodes to implement the CEESP programme and address emerging issues. CEESP will promote collaborative work with strategically chosen partners.