Every day, we make decisions that affect our natural world – from international treaties, government policies and business strategies to indigenous traditions and community decisions on local development and resource use.
Governance is about how those decisions are made, who makes them, how they’re applied and who’s accountable.
If we’re going to reverse nature loss and share resources fairly, now and in the future, then good governance is essential.
That’s why it’s such an important part of WWF’s work – whether tackling corruption, poaching and illegal logging, supporting local communities to govern natural resources, or ensuring development plans take into account environmental impact and the needs of local people.
'Given the scale of the environmental and social challenges we face, achieving sustainable prosperity is up to all of us – governments, industry and citizens at large all bear responsibility'
Global Leader, WWF Governance Practice
Many of today’s threats to nature result from governance failure.
Fish stocks collapse where fisheries are poorly regulated. Protected areas fail if they’re not well-managed and don’t involve the people living in and around them. And infrastructure projects and industrial activity can have disastrous consequences when they don’t take full account of impacts on people and nature.
Often these failures result from deeper underlying problems.
Discrimination, unequal power relationships and lack of transparency exclude many from decision-making. The rights of indigenous peoples, local communities and women often aren’t recognized, particularly around land ownership. And strong legislation is undermined by corruption and weak enforcement.
Decisions made without consultation or serving only a narrow set of interests can lead to conflict, while short-term thinking can lead to high long-term costs.
We must address these issues to reverse nature loss.
Where poor governance can harm people and nature, better governance can make a positive difference – and in recent years we’ve seen signs of progress.
Governments have made commitments on the environment and human rights, as well as passed laws to protect nature. Many businesses are becoming serious about creating a better future for people and nature − and have become more open about their actions. Community groups and civil society organizations have successfully challenged and influenced decisions that affect them.
And there are many examples of good environmental governance in practice – locally-managed marine areas where fish stocks are recovering; certification schemes that balance production with conservation and workers’ rights; businesses, communities and local government working together to manage shared water resources.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
As part of its work on species conservation, WWF supports both enforcement of, and the listing of endangered species in, CITES – the world's largest and, by some accounts, most effective international wildlife conservation agreement.
WWF has years of experience in bringing different groups together to find solutions to shared challenges – an essential part of good governance.
A key task is helping people take the lead in protecting the areas where they live, by strengthening their rights and helping them benefit from looking after nature.
We’re also finding new ways to tackle corruption – one of the biggest barriers to preventing environmental crimes like poaching and wildlife trafficking, illegal logging and pirate fishing.
And we’re helping governments and businesses put their sustainability commitments into practice. This includes involving communities in the Sustainable Development Goals - the UN roadmap for a sustainable future - and ensuring the development of water, energy, food and transport systems meet the needs of people and nature.