TNRC Knowledge Hub - Conservation Challenge: Protected areas and natural resource governance

Countering Corruption's Impact on Protected Areas and Natural Resource Governance

To prevent corruption from undermining protected areas and wider natural resource governance systems, assess how corrupt practices impact protection regimes, strengthen transparency in land use decisions, and consider partnerships and new approaches for inclusive conservation.

Does your work focus on protected areas and natural resource governance? Are you concerned that corruption is driving negative outcomes? This page outlines three steps to start building anti-corruption approaches into your conservation programming.

The Challenge

  • Institutions and systems that govern natural resources are frequent targets of corrupt actors.
  • Investments in nature-based solutions like REDD+ are thought to need to triple by 2030 -- but these projects face serious corruption risks.
  • To strengthen results, assess how corrupt practices impact protection regimes, increase transparency in land use decisions, and consider partnerships and new approaches for inclusive conservation.

Three Steps to Follow

infographic of three steps

Step 1: Understand Corruption Get familiar with how corruption impacts conservation and ways to respond

Whether you have decades of experience or are new to the field, you may not know exactly where corruption risks lie, how they might be influencing your conservation outcomes, and what can be done about them. Start by taking the 90-minute eCourse below.

Step 2: Assess Your Situation Identify how corruption affects the objectives of your own programming

Best results will come from layering interventions at multiple risk points. The first step is to think about who has power in your implementing context. You can then start to identify drivers and facilitators of corruption and entry points for—as well as limitations on—change. The resources below will help you to ask the right questions and identify those risk points.

La Chorrera indigenous community and WWF-Colombia

Situation Analysis

Learn more about assessing the threats that corruption may pose to conservation objectives and identify responses that are appropriate to your specific context.

Step 3: Adapt Your Programming Consider approaches that fit your needs

Consider whether some of the programming avenues below would help to address your challenges. Take a moment to read these principles for getting started from recent experience testing anti-corruption approaches in various contexts.

Remember: Evidence suggests that targeting corruption through multiple approaches yields best results.

Illustration mountains and community members© TNRC / WWF Adria

Case Study: Increasing citizen engagement in spatial planning to safeguard protected areas

The preservation and management of protected areas in Serbia is threatened by illegal construction and large capital projects. Civil society organizations that have the capacity to address these problems often have no standing in official procedures, which hinders their active participation. WWF Adria piloted an approach for increasing citizen engagement in spatial planning processes to reduce the influence of special interest groups that may override environmental acts to increase their wealth and harm free-flowing rivers. The team worked with a consultant to complete a legal analysis that mapped relevant processes and regulations. Entry points were identified for local non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The pilot team delivered capacity strengthening to 10 NGOs on processes, regulations, and communications strategies. It emphasized collaborative approaches as opposed to confrontational ones to address governance issues. A handbook was rolled out that outlines issues and opportunities for further citizen actions to close opportunities for corruption in the Serbian spatial planning process (TNRC Pilot 2021-2023).

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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