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Quality of Life, Wellbeing and Biodiversity

Quality of Life, Wellbeing and Biodiversity

The Role of Biodiversity in Future Development
Cooperation and communication strategies should acknowledge and make use of the wide range of biodiversity narratives and their relations to human wellbeing

The relationship between biodiversity and human wellbeing is multifaceted and assumes diverse forms across and within populations. In developing countries, for example, biodiversity and natural resources often constitute the basis of people’s livelihoods and thus their material wellbeing. Many individuals also feel a cultural, spiritual, or religious relationship with nature and assign it an inherent value. This study explores these diverse perceptions of biodiversity and its value. The findings serve to advance discussions on how development cooperation can more effectively integrate these views and therewith improve biodiversity and nature conservation. The study is available for download.

The study looks at how different 'narratives' on biodiversity and its value are represented in international development cooperation. The main objective of this study is to highlight the importance of divergent views on biodiversity and their significance for human wellbeing. These insights are to contribute to the discussion among decision-makers and practitioners on whether current development cooperation policies and programs sufficiently reflect different perceptions of biodiversity and wellbeing.

The study adopted a range of approaches to gather a well-rounded perspective on the topics being explored. A substantial part of the study was conducted as desk research and the analysis of relevant documents and policies. Furthermore, telephone interviews were held and two expert workshops were organized in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Quito, Ecuador in June 2014 to discuss the distribution of different perceptions on biodiversity and nature and how this effects the implementation of biodiversity policy in the respective countries and the work in cooperation projects.

An additional desk-based case study was carried out, which explicitly highlighted the differences in perceptions and discourses on biodiversity and development between Bhutan and Nepal. The resultant study can also be downloaded on this website.

The general study concludes with a set of recommendations on how the protection of biodiversity can be more effectively integrated in development cooperation. Most importantly, cooperation and communication strategies should acknowledge and make use of the wide range of biodiversity narratives and their relations to human wellbeing, depending on the cultural and regional context of the target groups. A restricted focus only on the ecosystem service concept might lead to confusion and misunderstandings among various groups, sectors and policy levels. Furthermore, a narrow perspective bears the risk that people's attitudes and perceptions will transition towards a mere economic and perspective on nature, which could arguably jeopardize long-term biodiversity protection aims.

As an input to the 3rd IPBES Plenary Session held from 12 to 17 January 2015, in Bonn, Germany, a short Policy Brief was produced, summarising some of the key results of the main study. The Policy Brief can be downloaded.


Kaphengst, Timo et al. 2014: Quality of Life, Wellbeing and Biodiversity. The role of biodiversity in future development. ISBN: 978-3-937085-28-9.

91 pp.
Project ID
Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Aim and focus of the study
1.2 Brief clarification of terms
1.3 Methodological approach and structure of the study
2 Biodiversity and wellbeing in selected international policies
2.1 International Conventions and the Rio+20 Process
2.1.1 The UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with a particular focus on the Nagoya Protocol
2.1.2 The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
2.1.3 The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
2.2 Other relevant UN processes
2.2.1 The UN process towards Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 17
2.2.2 The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
2.2.3 The UN Committee on World Food Security
2.3 Summary
3 Biodiversity and its link to wellbeing – dominant narratives
3.1 The practical utility of biodiversity for humans
3.1.1 Ecosystem services
3.1.2 Livelihoods
3.1.3 Work and income
3.2 Non-utilitarian narratives of biodiversity
3.2.1 Religious / spiritual / cultural value
3.2.2 Identity
3.2.3 Intrinsic value
3.3 From theory to reality: applying the narratives discussion in practice
4 The role of biodiversity in discourses about future development
4.1 What is the predominant understanding of “development”?
4.2 Alternative approaches
4.2.1 Degrowth
4.2.2 Economics of happiness
4.2.3 Measuring development: Beyond GDP & alternative indicators for wellbeing
4.2.4 Resilience
4.2.5 The capabilities approach
4.2.6 BuenVivir and Vivir Bien
5 Integrating biodiversity in development cooperation – narratives and strategies
5.1 At the policy and strategic level
5.2 At the national and application level
5.2.1 Narratives on biodiversity in development cooperation
5.2.2 The impact of market-based instruments to conservation on the poor - insights from the literature
5.3 Conclusions
5.4 Recommendations on how to better integrate biodiversity in development cooperation

air, food, agriculture, plants, firewood, nature, global South, study