Conservation International works to raise awareness of the direct connection between international conservation, resource scarcity and economic, national and global security.
Because of the enormous economic and geopolitical influence of the United States, addressing the world’s most pressing environmental challenges requires deep engagement with the U.S. government. CI works to build bipartisan support for international conservation, providing key information and advice to the U.S. legislative and executive branches on congressional appropriations and other policy priorities such as ocean health, wildlife trafficking, fisheries management, conservation finance, sustainable agriculture and forest practices. Our Direct Connection initiative works to raise awareness on the vital role of nature in promoting economic, national and global security, and in enhancing the well-being of people.
Our Direct Connection initiative works to raise awareness on the vital role of nature in promoting economic, national and global security, and enhancing the well-being of people. Our goal is to inspire government and private sector actions motivated by the need for sustainable management of the world’s natural resources. The initiative’s education and communication efforts are backed by documented examples of natural resource impacts and security risks resulting from illegal logging, wildlife trafficking, fresh water scarcity, soil degradation, illegal fishing, piracy and other threats to the world’s ecosystems.
We work to build bipartisan support for international conservation, providing timely information and advice to the U.S. legislative and executive branches on congressional appropriations and other policy priorities such as ocean health, wildlife trafficking, fisheries management, conservation finance, sustainable agriculture and forest practices. In Congress, we are positioned as a trusted adviser to members of the U.S. House and Senate, congressional staff and committees responsible for crucial decisions on international conservation. We work closely with numerous U.S. executive branch departments and agencies such as the Departments of State, Treasury and Interior, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The U.S. government is a major contributor to international conservation programs, notably through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Development Assistance Account administered by USAID. These accounts have been crucial sources of funding for our efforts and other partners on field demonstration, enforcement capacity, science and conservation finance. Results achieved by many our programs have been made possible by support from USAID, the U.S. Departments of State and Energy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NASA and NOAA. Our goal is to sustain U.S. investments in international conservation and to ensure that those investments yield maximum benefits for people both domestically and around the world.
By the numbers
US$ 15.5+ billion
More than US$ 15.5 billion in U.S. funding was secured in FY11-FY16 congressional appropriations for Development Assistance and the Global Environment Facility, including key programs for forest conservation, wildlife protection, healthy marine ecosystems, sustainable landscapes and adaptation.
There is a direct connection between international conservation and America’s economic and national security interests. The unprecedented draw down of critical natural resources poses enormous challenges for the United States and the world. As the global population grows from 7.3 billion today to more than 9 billion by 2050, greatly increasing the demand for food, water and energy, nature’s ability to provide for people will be further tested. The loss of natural resources — such as forests, fresh water, fertile soils and natural pollinators — and the resulting competition for these increasingly scarce resources, can lead to instability, conflict, radicalization and even failed states.
The illegal extraction of natural resources impacts the economic security of Americans by distorting international markets, undermining U.S. competitiveness and placing our economy at risk. Illegal logging alone is estimated to cost the American economy over US$ 500 million annually. Many international conservation programs work to stop the illegal extraction of natural resources, helping to ensure legitimate export markets for U.S. businesses.
The link between the loss of natural resources and the likelihood of conflict in the developing world has never been clearer. According to the U.S. National Intelligence Council, “[resource] scarcities are likely to hit hardest on poorer states, leading in the worst case to internal or interstate conflict and spillover to regional destabilization.”
Food security is one of the cornerstones of global stability, and Somalia provides one example of how resource scarcity is a growing security threat to the U.S. and the world. Overfishing and the subsequent depletion of fish stocks have driven some Somali fisherman to piracy. This has resulted in an increased U.S. military presence in the area to safeguard international sea lanes off the Horn of Africa.
In 2010, the U.S., other countries and NATO spent an estimated US$ 2 billion on piracy prevention and enforcement efforts in the region. Unsustainable land use and deforestation in Afghanistan, and water declines in Pakistan and Yemen, are other examples that illustrate how resource scarcity is a growing security threat to the United States and the world.
U.S. government policy engagement
Our experts provide advice to the U.S. Congress and executive branch on policy priorities such as:
- U.S. international conservation budget: Conservation International acts as a trusted advisor to help inform U.S. funding for international conservation. Within the U.S. federal budget, CI’s efforts are focused primarily on the Development Assistance Account and the GEF. The Development Assistance Account, administered by USAID, is a crucial source of funding for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development worldwide. As a partnership of 183 countries, the GEF works with the private sector, international institutions and non-governmental organizations to fund international conservation.
- Ocean conservation: We work to raise awareness and build U.S. government support for the Ocean Health Index, sustainable fisheries in Hawai‘i and large-scale marine protected areas in the Pacific Oceanscape.
- Wildlife trafficking: We engage with various U.S. federal departments and agencies on efforts to implement the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking issued by the White House in February 2014. Additionally, CI is deeply involved in promotion of key legislation, such as the recently-enacted END Wildlife Trafficking Act, which reflects growing bipartisan interest in stopping wildlife trafficking.
- Deforestation-free commodity supply chains: We are a founding partner in Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a major public-private partnership that promotes deforestation-free commodity supply chains (www.tfa2020.com). The Alliance was launched in 2012 by the U.S. government and Consumer Goods Forum at Rio+20, with the objective of reducing tropical deforestation resulting from expanded production of key commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef, wood and paper.
- The Tropical Forest Conservation Act: We actively support bipartisan efforts to enact The Tropical Forest Reauthorization Act (TFCA) of 2015, which would renew the highly successful federal law that has authorized debt-for-nature swaps. As a result of U.S. government funding, as well as resources mobilized through interest payments and additional funding leveraged by conservation organizations, programs under the TFCA have generated an estimated US$ 336 million for tropical forest conservation around the world.
Funding from the U.S. government supports strategic international conservation initiatives that protect natural resources, improve human livelihoods and promote national and global security. Examples of U.S. government funded programs currently being implemented by CI and partners include:
- Sustainable Landscapes Partnership – Peru: Sustainable Landscapes Partnership (SLP)-Peru is an alliance forged by CI, USAID and the Walt Disney Company. The initiative is anchored by a landmark REDD+ project in the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, located in the San Martín region of the Peruvian Amazon. Through a rights-based approach, SLP-Peru’s goal is to establish an economic development strategy grounded in natural resource protection to ensure long-term positive impacts for the region’s communities and biodiversity.
- Widening stakeholder engagement for REDD+: Funding provided by the U.S. State Department has enabled CI and partners to help reduce polluting emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. The project has been implemented in Costa Rica, Kenya, Peru, Suriname and Vanuatu to broaden engagement of key stakeholder groups, including governments, civil society, indigenous peoples and local communities, with a particular focus on the participation of women, the elderly and youth.
- Forest Carbon Markets and Communities: CI was a key partner in Forest Carbon Markets and Communities (FCMC), a USAID project implemented by Tetra Tech. The project was created to provide USAID missions, partner governments, local communities and international stakeholders with assistance in the design and implementation of REDD+ programs to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Within FCMC, CI played a leading role in the development of guidelines to ensure that REDD+ projects and programs incorporate strong social and environmental safeguards. CI is also a leader on efforts to build capacity for effective monitoring, reporting and verification of REDD+ results through remote sensing of forests and land-cover change, greenhouse gas inventories and integration of technical information.
If you are in the national security business this [international conservation] has got to be part and parcel of what you do, no less so than the traditional foreign policy agenda.
Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations and Conservation International Board Member. Remarks at Council on Foreign Relations – Conservation International Washington, D.C. Symposium – Global Resources, the U.S. Economy, and National Security – March 20, 2013.
A Council on Foreign Relations and Conservation International Symposium
March 20, 2013: Washington, D.C. Symposium – Global Resources, the U.S. Economy, and National Security. Hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations in partnership with Conservation International. Featured speakers: Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations; Peter Seligmann, Chairman and CEO, Conservation International; Harrison Ford, Vice Chair, Conservation International; Kerri-Ann Jones, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs; Major General Richard Engel, U.S. Air Force (retired), Director, Environment and Natural Resources Program, National Intelligence Council; Tebelelo Seretse, Ambassador of the Republic of Botswana to the United States