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International Institute for Environment and Development

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International Institute for Environment and Development

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
Founded 1971
Founder Barbara Ward
Type Registered charity
Focus Sustainable development
Area served World wide
Method Research, policy, advocacy
Key people Camilla Toulmin, David Satterthwaite, Lorenzo Cotula, Diana Mitlin, Saleem Huq, David Dodman

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent policy research institute (think tank) whose stated mission is to "build a fairer, more sustainable world, using evidence, action and influence in partnership with others."[1] Its director is Camilla Toulmin, an economist and expert on development challenges in African drylands.

IIED is one of a small group of independent, Natural resources;[2] Climate change;[3] Human settlements;[4] Sustainable markets;[5] and Governance.[6] Its internal organisation has changed over the last few decades to reflect research and policy priorities.

IIED is based in central London on Gray's Inn Road, and has a smaller office in Edinburgh. It formerly had offices in Dakar, Senegal (now an independent organisation IED-Afrique) and Buenos Aires, Argentina (also an independent sister institution, IIED-America Latina). There was also an office in Washington DC, USA (until IIED North America merged with the [7][8]



IIED was set up in 1971 with backing from industrialist Robert O. Anderson and was originally called the International Institute for Environmental Affairs. In 1973, its first director Barbara Ward moved the organisation to London and changed its name to IIED.

Ward's book Only One Earth (co-authored with René Dubos) was the key text for delegates at the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (also known as the Stockholm Conference), which led to the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). At that conference Ward introduced the term sustainable development to a global audience and highlighted the links between the environment and human wellbeing.

In the 1970s, IIED carried out research and lobbying work on a range of contemporary environment and development topics, using funds obtained from donor organisations and occasionally from corporations and foundations. It held its first symposium at the 1974 UN World Food Conference and in 1975 joined forces with UNEP to create Earthscan, an information service for media. In 1976 was heavily involved in HABITAT, the first UN Conference on Human Settlements.


In 1985, IIED and the World Resources Institute (WRI) began to produce an biennual World Resources Report, which today is solely a WRI publication. In 1987, the Brundtland Report, also known as Our Common Future, cited IIED's contribution to creating "a global agenda for change".

The institute's staff published a series of landmark books[10] in the 1980s. These include Africa in Crisis by Lloyd Timberlake (1986), The Greening of Africa by Paul Harrison (1987), and No Timber Without Trees by Duncan Poore (1989) and Squatter Citizen: Life in the Urban Third World by Jorge Hardoy and David Satterthwaite (1989).


IIED played an important role ahead of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by mobilising civil society and raising international attention to the summit. For this, IIED was awarded the Blue Planet Prize in 1992. One of IIED's major projects of the 1990s was called "Towards a Sustainable Paper Cycle".


In 2001, IIED set up a climate change programme, led by Dr Saleemul Huq. He and several other of IIED's researchers have served as lead authors or coordinating lead authors for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IIED was active at Rio Earth Summit's follow-up conference, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. Between 2000 and 2002, IIED led the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) project, a global review of the impacts and practices of the mining sector that engaged industry players and recommended improvementst to their operations. In October 2008, The Independent cited IIED's director Camilla Toulmin as one of Britain's top 100 environmentalists.[11]

Current work

IIED continues to both conduct research with partners in dozens of countries and act on a global stage through processes such as the various multilateral environmental agreements. In 2012 it will hold an major conference ahead of the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil. Its individual research groups focus on varied topics that include:

  • Natural Resources (Group head: James Mayers)

Includes research on large land acquisitions in Africa (land grabs), on improved governance in the forestry sector in Africa and Asia, on how to share the benefits of large dams with local communities, on the connections between poverty and conservation, and on agroecology, food sovereignty, biocultural heritage and agricultural biodiversity.

  • Climate Change (Group head: Simon Anderson)

Includes research on community based adaptation to climate change, strengthening the capacity of the Least Developed Countries in UN climate change negotiations, the role of pastoralism as an adaptive strategy in drylands. It is by initiating the adaptations of the societies that the poor are less stricken by the harshness of climate change. (a former group on Drylands has been subsumed into this group)

  • Human Settlements (Group heads: David Dodman and Cecilia Tacoli)

Includes research on rural-urban migration, urbanisation, the role of slum dwellers in improving urban environments, the contributions of cities to climate change, how urban areas can adapt to impacts of climate change, improving water and sanitation in deprived urban areas.In connecting the settlements of the local people to the natural resources and climate of the land can the quality of life improve.

  • Sustainable Markets (Group head: Steve Bass)

Includes research on environmental economics, energy, business and sustainable development, direct investment and market governance. Building an independent market based on the skills of the people and resources at hand ensure the growth of the society at whole.


IIED's founding director Barbara Ward died in 1981. She was succeeded by William Clark, Brian Walker, Richard Sandbrook, Dr. Nigel Cross, and currently Dr.Camilla Toulmin. In October 2014, IIED announced that Toulmin was stepping down the following year to return to a research role, and started recruiting for a new director.


IIED publishes a variety of reports, working papers, books, policy briefs and opinion papers, most of which are free to download as pdfs from its website. It has expanded to include social media application sin recent years. The Institute also runs a free dissemination scheme that provides hard copies of publications for no cost to residents of non-OECD countries.[12]

Its long-standing series include the international journal Environment and Urbanization, Gatekeeper, Participatory Learning and Action and two discontinued series: Haramata (dealing with drylands development issues) and Tiempo (dealing with climate change impacts, long before interest was widespread).

Until 1986 IIED, also ran Earthscan Publications, which was independent until 2011 when it was taken over by Taylor and Francis. It has published many of IIED's books.

Barbara Ward Lectures

IIED has organised a number of 'Barbara Ward Lectures' in memory of the Institute's first director, who died in 1981.


IIED is generally acknowledged to be a successful organisation - its ideas are pragmatic and pro-poor, and it has reached the ears of major organisations including the World Bank, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the Department for International Development of the UK government, and Scandinavian aid agencies like SIDA and DANIDA,. For example a former staff member, Gordon Conway, was partly responsible with Robert Chambers for developing participatory rural appraisal, a suite of largely visual techniques widely used in international and community development to elicit public views and ideas. IIED's Environmental Economics programme helped to develop some of the first 'green accounting' and eco-taxation techniques now used in government and industry, while Richard Sandbrook lobbied some of the world's largest corporations to improve their environmental performance - notably in the mining sector.[10][16]


IIED's Annual Report[8] lists its sources of financial support.

  • Governments and government agencies

Including: AusAid, GTZ, DFID, Defra, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IrishAid, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

  • International and multilateral agencies

Including: African Development Bank, European Commission, European Parliament, World Bank

  • Foundations and NGOs

Including: African Centre for Technology Studies, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Comic Relief, Ford Foundation, Hivos, Oxfam UK, WWF UK

  • Corporate

Including: The Cooperative, Indufor Oy, Price Waterhouse Coopers Service, The British Petroleum Company, The Policy Practice. Work on Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development in the 2000s was operated separately from IIED offices to avoid corporate influence.[17]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Natural Resources
  3. ^ Climate Change
  4. ^ Human Settlements
  5. ^ Sustainable Markets
  6. ^ Governance
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b IIED Annual Report 2010/2011
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c Batterbury, SPJ. 2004. The International Institute for Environment and Development: notes on a small office. Global Environmental Change 14: 367–371.
  11. ^ The Independent on Sunday Green List: Britain's top 100 environmentalists
  12. ^ free dissemination scheme
  13. ^ Video of Mary Robinson delivering Barbara Ward Lecture
  14. ^ Address by LN Sisulu, Minister of Housing of the Republic of South Africa, at the third Barbara Ward lecture, Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), London
  15. ^ Barbara Ward Lecture: Implications of the Durban outcome for enhancing action on climate change on the ground towards a more sustainable future. London, 9 March 2012.
  16. ^ Richard Sandbrook obituary, the Independent
  17. ^

Further reading

External links

  • International Institute for Environment and Development
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