TNRC External Resource | Red flags for conservation: Infrastructure safeguards for nature

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Targeting Natural Resource Corruption

Harnessing knowledge, generating evidence, and supporting innovative policy and practice for more effective anti-corruption programming

Red flags for conservation: Infrastructure safeguards for nature

Person driving a construction truck

Infrastructure underpins every aspect of human life. From transport systems to power-generation facilities and water and sanitation networks, infrastructure enables society to function and economies to thrive. The areas in greatest need of infrastructure are often also some of the world's most biodiverse regions. The acceleration of infrastructure networks in the last 50 years also coincides with sharp declines in the earth’s biodiversity. In this time period, wildlife populations have declined by 60% on average.

Systemic weaknesses in the way infrastructure is planned, procured, and implemented open up opportunities for corruption and collusion which could have devastating affects on nature. This is where more and better open data can help. This new guide provides clear guidance for a set of indicators that can guide stakeholders to identify infrastructure risks, in particular how they affect nature.

The guide defined 22 indicators as red flags for conservation. A red flag for conservation refers to when something is wrong or missing in the public infrastructure planning, procurement or implementation process, posing risks to nature and the environment. The guide also identified 31 indicators from their existing red flags for integrity resource - which helps uncover potential corruption risks from public contracts - that can also be applied to conservation. Researchers isolated the red flags that could help shed light on when potential corruption or collusion on infrastructure projects could harm nature.

Currently, most of these indicators require manual work to collect and transform data into standardized and structured formats to automate analysis. Significant policy changes to the way infrastructure is planned, procured and implemented are need to operationalize these red flags for conservation indicators.

This guidance is the first step to creating actionable solutions and practical tools for identifying and measuring corruption, and addressing systemic inefficiencies in infrastructure planning, procurement and delivery processes to better safeguard nature. Further work will be needed to test them in different environments to further enrich the guidance.

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Image attribution: © / Jen Guyton / WWF; © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF; © Georgina Goodwin / Shoot The Earth / WWF-UK; © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus