EIA-driven biodiversity mainstreaming in development cooperation: Confronting expectations and practice in the DR Congo
Journal Contribution - Journal Article
Mainstreaming biodiversity in development cooperation activities is called for by scientists and policy-makers alike, as the current biodiversity crisis can only be mitigated if the linkages between biodiversity and human wellbeing are acknowledged. Reconciling biodiversity conservation and human development is a particularly topical challenge in highly biodiverse developing countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the population is highly dependent on natural resources for their livelihood. This study combines expert interviews with an evaluation of environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports, in order to determine the current motivations, obstacles and effectiveness of biodiversity mainstreaming in the DRC and to assess the framing, the representation and use of biodiversity in recently conducted EIAs in the DRC. Our findings indicate that biodiversity mainstreaming in the DRC is considered challenging due to enduring contextual (e.g. governance) factors; and that there is a strong support base for EIA among the interviewed experts. Turning to actual EIAs that were recently performed in the DRC, the diversity of framings motivating the uptake of biodiversity is remarkable. Instrumental reasons do not thwart intrinsic motivations –which is indicative of a support base for the non-instrumental value of biodiversity. The use of biodiversity baseline data in mitigation measures is low, and the taxonomic resolution of the biodiversity data in EIAs is uneven. Despite these challenges, the potential of EIA in the DRC is considered high, and linkages between project-driven EIA practice and biodiversity data collection and dissemination should be strengthened.