Making the case

Ecosystem assessments play an important role in synthesising and communicating complex information. They can both inform and influence decision-making processes. An assessment will be most effective if it is designed with decision-making in mind from the outset. 

Countries may undertake ecosystem assessments for a number of different reasons. For example, ecosystem assessments can:

Download the Role of National Ecosystem Assessments in Influencing Policy Making report.

Case Study

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) set out to assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and the scientific basis for action needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of those systems and their contribution to human well-being. A number of sub-global assessments were included as part of this global assessment, to explore the spatial aspects of ecosystems and their services in relation to decision-making. The results of the MA showed that at global scales many ecosystem services are being degraded or even lost. These findings have inspired further assessments at national and sub-national scales to be undertaken to enable countries to better understand the status and trends of their ecosystems and the benefits provided to people.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Seeking political buy-in

Key lessons learned around making the case to decision-makers include:
  • Define clear, policy-relevant questions
  • Ensure the assessment is demand-driven
  • Involve key sectors and stakeholders – particularly national planning offices/legislative institutions
  • Identify political window of opportunity – fit the assessment to national priorities/institutional concerns
  • Develop mechanisms for translating scientific results into policy-relevant information to market the benefits of the assessment
  • Sustain continual dialogue to maintain interest and ownership with decision-makers
  • Measure ecosystem services in monetary and non-monetary terms to ensure policy appraisals can take full account of costs and benefits

Case Study

Assessments and capacity building were identified by governments as two of the four functions of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). National level assessments will play an important role in synthesising information that can be incorporated into regional and sub-regional assessments that will take place under IPBES. The assessment process builds capacity of institutions and individuals within countries to understand the complex relationship between the environment and people to make more informed decisions. This is because it brings together expertise and knowledge from a wide range of sources including policy-makers, natural and social scientists, and indigenous people.

The Role of National Ecosystem Assessments