This Newsletter is being published on a quarterly basis pursuant to CBD decision IX/7. The aim of this e-Newsletter is to facilitate sharing of information on the application of the ecosystem approach and promote the use and voluntary update of the Ecosystem Approach Sourcebook. To subscribe, please visit
Seeking Sustainable Economic Recovery through the application of the Ecosystem Approach
This March 2009 issue introduces some recent initiatives at both global and national levels, which may lead to a sustainable way of reviving global and local economies by incorporating the ecosystem approach within economic and development planning and decision-making. This issue was prepared in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme, UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, IUCN, and UK Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) presents their Ecosystem Management Programme and new Green Economy Initiative, including efforts with countries toward implementing a Global Green New Deal as well as the progress made in “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)” programme.
UK presents a national example of applying of the ecosystem approach in addressing the cumulative impacts of development, which are further exacerbated by climate change, focusing on Ecosystem Approach Action Plan.
An Indonesian example illustrates that a multi-stakeholder forestry programme increased the likelihood of policy change in support of better ecosystem management through encouraging better land-use policy, more understanding of livelihood needs, and greater trust in local people’s technical management capacity.

In this issue, in order to further enhance our understanding on the international policy context relevant to the ecosystem approach, the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) provides a brief on ecosystem approaches and oceans discussed at the UN General Assembly.

UNEP Ecosystem Management Programme – A new approach to sustainability

The UNEP Ecosystem Management Programme aims to transform sector-based environmental management into an ecosystem-based approach that integrates forests, land, freshwater, and coastal ecosystems where they impact upon the overall delivery of ecosystem services. The new programme is guided by five major interlinked elements: human well-being, indirect and direct drivers of change, ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services. As ecosystem services are interlinked and cannot be treated in isolation, UNEP promotes a holistic perspective for dealing with bundles of interlinked services to reverse their decline through improved ecosystem functioning and increased resilience. UNEP assists countries and regions in: integrating an ecosystem approach into development and planning processes; acquiring and improve the capacity to use ecosystem management tools; realigning environmental programmes; and financing priority ecosystem services. UNEP provides specialized expertise from different disciplines, including: assessment and monitoring (e.g., indicators, research and access to knowledge); risk management; management tools e.g., conservation and protection, restoration, sustainable management, legislation, certification; ecosystem economics e.g., payments for ecosystem services, incentives and financing mechanisms, valuation, equity and fairness principles; governance e.g., international agreements, legislation, policies; and capacity-building and technology support. (For full details on the programme, please visit

UNEP Green Economy Initiative

Mobilizing and re-focusing the global economy towards investments in clean technologies and 'natural' infrastructure such as forests and soils is the best bet for real growth, combating climate change and triggering an employment boom in the 21st century. In October 2008, UNEP and leading economists launched the Green Economy Initiative (GEI) aimed at seizing an historic opportunity to bring about tomorrow's economy today. The GEI has three key elements: a Green Economy report providing an overview, analysis and synthesis of how public policy can help markets accelerate the transition towards a green economy; “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB)” programme, a partnership project focusing on valuation issues; and a Green Jobs report. A phase II of the TEEB programme launched Feb 2009 will examine in greater detail how we can improve our economic models and policies to secure the flow of ecosystem services, in a transparent and fair way. This will not only protect biodiversity, but also improve the well-being of our present generation and the generations to come. Main objectives of Phase II of the TEEB study are to rethink today’s subsidies for tomorrow’s policies; create new markets and policy instruments; share the benefits of conservation more equitably; and account fully in economic terms for the costs and benefits of ecosystem services.
   Download the study ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity’

A Global Green New Deal

The world is in the middle of a financial and economic crisis, the most serious since the Great Depression of the 1930s. As world leaders are busy devising a new international financial architecture to prevent future economic crises and find ways to jump start recovery, there is another greater looming crisis: climate change. These global challenges are severely impacting our ability to sustain prosperity in developed countries and achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the developing world. Beyond the immediate bailout of financial firms and the design of the future international financial architecture, therefore, world leaders must take bold measures to resolve the multiple crises that are plaguing humankind. UNEP's initiative on a Global Green New Deal is to enable governments to begin the shift towards a global economy driven by massive job creation from the growth of resource- and energy-efficient building and construction; widespread use of modern public transport in mega cities; the scaling up of solar, wind, wave, thermal, and bio energy in the total energy mix; sustainable chemicals and waste management as a highly lucrative sector; and sustainable agriculture that reflects the latest thinking in ecosystem management and biodiversity and water conservation. (For more information, please refer to the UNEP Policy Brief “A Global Green New Deal”)

For full information on UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative, please visit

The England Ecosystem Approach Action Plan

Many of the UK’s most acute environmental problems are now caused by diffuse pollution and the cumulative impacts of development, and these problems are exacerbated by climate change. In the past, the policy framework for dealing with these issues has been complex and fragmented, which has made it difficult to tackle them in the most efficient way and to reconcile conflicting priorities. The Ecosystems Approach Action Plan forms the basis for a more strategic approach to policy-making and delivery on the natural environment. The action plan sets out a strategic approach to policy and delivery on the natural environment. It sets out a number of actions to enable the UK Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(DEFRA), key partners and stakeholders to work together in applying an ecosystem approach to conserving, managing and enhancing the natural environment in England. These actions are based on a number of core principles including: (i) taking a more holistic approach to policy-making and delivery, with the focus on maintaining healthy ecosystems and ecosystem services; (ii) ensuring that the value of ecosystem services is fully reflected in decision-making; (iii) ensuring environmental limits are respected in the context of sustainable development, taking into account ecosystem functioning; (iv) taking decisions at the appropriate spatial scale while recognising the cumulative impacts of decisions; and (v) applying adaptive management of the natural environment to respond to changing pressures, including climate change. Progress towards delivering the goals of the Ecosystem Approach Action Plan will be measured using the following indicators: (i) Water quality as measured by parameters assessed by the Environment Agency’s river water quality monitoring programmes; (ii) Biodiversity as indicated by changes in wild breeding bird populations in England, as a proxy for the health of wider biodiversity; (iii) Air quality – meeting the Air Quality Strategy objectives for eight air pollutants which affect public health: including particles and nitrogen dioxide; (iv) Marine health – clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas as indicated by proxy measurements of fish stocks, sea pollution and plankton status; and (v) Land management – the contribution of agricultural land management to the natural environment as measured by the positive and negative impacts of farming. An Introductory Guide to Valuing Ecosystem Services has been published alongside the action plan. The aim of this Guide is to provide an introduction to the valuation of ecosystem services. It builds on previous approaches to valuing the environment but takes a more systematic approach to the assessment of impacts on the natural environment.

For further information, please contact: ecosystems@DEFRA.GSI.GOV.UK and see

Reconciling growth and social justice through an Ecosystem Approach, Papua Province, Indonesia

Indonesia has approximately 120.4 million ha of forest, the largest area of tropical forest in the world. Over the past decade, forest has been rapidly destructed, with deforestation rate amounting to 1.6 million ha per annum, due to many causes, including over-cutting and illegal logging, forest burning and clearing, occupation, land requirements for other sectoral development, and poor forest management. Papua Province of Indonesia is typical of many resource-rich regions where high revenues have not translated into improved welfare for most of the rural population. This is mainly because land in most forest areas was formally under state control, and millions of rural people living on customary forest lands are seen legally landless squatters. The failure of government to demarcate customary rights and land use as the basis for designating forestry and mining concessions has exacerbated local people’s vulnerability and social exclusion. The case study on Papua illustrates how government, civil society and the private sector in this region have been working to develop clearer and fairer rules governing the allocation and management of forest lands. These efforts challenge long-held assumptions that customary tenure constitutes an obstacle to economic development, and that the objectives of large-scale investment and conservation are incompatible with local community-controlled resources. For example, clan institutions realised they needed to collaborate more effectively with one another, and formed clan federations. These were strengthened through mapping multiple clan areas, and developing natural resource protection rules. Both highland and lowland clan federations are now engaged in creating and empowering institutions that will represent their interests to local and provincial governments. Adaptive management is at work in the ecosystem areas with which they are associated. Small clan territories are linked first with those of other clans, and common regulations are formulated in response to challenges from outside. Similarly, government concepts of land classification and institutional responsibility must be adapted over time to working at a lower and more intense level, where land-use compromise is essential. The collaborative efforts by various stakeholders in Papua region demonstrates that the multi-stakeholder forestry programme increased the likelihood of policy change in support of better ecosystem management through encouraging better land-use policy, more understanding of livelihood needs, greater trust in local people’s technical management capacity, and a more bottom-up approach.
   Download the IUCN publication on “The Ecosystem Approach - Learning from Experience”

photo credit : Adrian Wells

Ecosystem approaches and oceans at the UN General Assembly

In 2005, the General Assembly requested the seventh meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea to focus its discussions on the topic, “ecosystem approaches and oceans” (resolution 60/30). The meeting recognized that ecosystem approaches to oceans management should be focused on managing human activities in order to maintain and, where needed, restore ecosystem health to sustain goods and environmental services, provide social and economic benefits for food security, sustain livelihoods in support of international development goals, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration, and conserve marine biodiversity. Significantly, the meeting while recognizing that there was no single way to implement an ecosystem approach, agreed to suggest to the General Assembly elements relating to ecosystem approaches and oceans, including the proposed elements of an ecosystem approach, means to achieve implementation of an ecosystem approach, and requirements for improved application of an ecosystem approach (the report of the meeting is contained in document A/61/156). Subsequently, in resolution 61/222, the General Assembly invited States to consider the agreed consensual elements. The General Assembly, in resolution 62/177, also addressed the application of an ecosystem approach to sustainable fisheries. In order to assist States in developing and implementing ecosystem approaches to ocean-related activities, the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) of the Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations, has developed an interdisciplinary manual and training course on “Developing and Implementing an Ecosystem Approach to the Management of Ocean-related Activities”. In addition, the Division has published “Ecosystem Approaches and Oceans”, based on the outcome and discussions at the seventh meeting of the Consultative Process (see document A/61/156), which focused its discussions on the topic.

For more information, please visit

Click here for more publications related to the ecosystem approach

Help us understand your information needs on the ecosystem approach: Take a 2 minute survey

New publications

Training Manual: The Use of Economic Instruments for Environmental and Natural Resource Management
UNEP introduces a new training resource manual aiming to contribute to the capacity building of planners, environmentalists and decision makers to design and implement economic instruments. It is meant to assist trainers in preparing and delivering training courses that provide an understanding of economic instruments and their application to influence human behaviors, consumption and production towards more sustainable patterns. Designed as an interactive working document composed of flexible modules and exercises and providing guidance for trainers and course participants, this manual offers substantial flexibility for trainers to custom design courses that meet local needs and priorities.
The UNEP Year Book 2009 presents work in progress on scientific understanding of global environmental change, as well as foresight about possible issues on the horizon. The aim is to raise awareness of the interlinkages among environmental issues that can accelerate the rates of change and threaten human wellbeing. It examines in six chapters new science and developments, and discusses the cumulative effects expected from degradation of ecosystems, the release of substances harmful to those ecosystems and human health, the consequences of our changing climate, the continued human and economic loss resulting from disasters and conflicts, and the overexploitation of resources. It calls for an intensified sense of urgency for responsible governance in the face of approaching critical thresholds and tipping points.

Other useful website links

IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management
Quarterly information service on marine ecosystem-based management
Ole Vestergaard (UNEP), Diana Mortimer (JNCC, UK), Gill Shepherd (IUCN), and Valentina Germani (UNDOALOS)