Skip to main content

About Policy Support

Policy support is one of the functions of IPBES. IPBES supports policy formulation and implementation through a set of activities. One such activity is the identification of policy-relevant tools and methodologies, increasing access to such tools and, where necessary, promoting their further development to inform better policymaking at different scales for the conservation and sustainable use of nature.

What is the Policy Support Gateway and why was it developed?

The IPBES Policy Support Gateway is an online platform to enable decision-makers to gain access to information relating to policy support tools and methodologies; while allowing a range of users to provide input to the gateway in regards to available tools and methodologies, their experiences and lessons on the usability of such tools in their specific contexts.

Who developed it?

The Gateway has been developed by IPBES with the support of a wide range of experts and resource people across the globe.

Who was it developed for?

The Gateway’s main users are expected to be the member and observer countries of the IPBES, and their national, regional and local authorities.

Other main target groups include:

  • IPBES (Plenary, Bureau, Multidisciplinary Expert Panel, secretariat, task forces and expert groups).
  • Strategic institutional partners of IPBES e.g. Convention on Biological Diversity, United Nations system.
  • Knowledge holders on policy-support tools and methodologies - Expert groups under IPBES, universities, scientists and scientific organizations, indigenous and local knowledge-holders.
  • Inter-scientific dialogues with non-governmental organizations, conservation and development practitioners, indigenous peoples and local communities, youth groups, businesses, local authorities, media etc.

Why would I use it?

You will find the Gateway useful if you are looking for assessments about the state of knowledge regarding the planet’s biodiversity, ecosystems and the benefits they provide to people, as well as the tools and methods to support activities which protect and sustainably use these vital natural assets, and case studies relating to these.

The gateway can also serve as a source of information for experts undertaking biodiversity and ecosystem assessments on specific policy instruments, support tools and methodologies and related resources or get in touch with other experts working on related issues around the world.

What are policy instruments?

Policy instruments are means or mechanisms to achieve public policy objectives at different levels. While policy instruments are often referred to as being designed and implemented by public authorities only, IPBES explicitly embraces a broader understanding of policy instruments as well as policy support tools and methodologies.

Policy instruments might be more effective if the supporting formal and informal institutions are in place. Relevant institutions include public authorities, but also groups, organizations, indigenous people and local communities, entities and stakeholders that undertake activities relevant to biodiversity and ecosystem services. In the context of IPBES, there are four categories of policy instruments:

1. Legal and regulatory instruments

These instruments comprise of laws and regulations developed by governments at different levels for the protection of the environment, the development of sustainable production systems, and the enhancement of human wellbeing.

2. Rights-based instruments and customary norms

These instruments consist of international and national human rights agreements, whether binding or non-binding, created to fit within socio-ecological systems. This category of instruments focuses on the strengthening of collective rights, customary norms and institutions of indigenous peoples and local communities, with the aim to promote adaptive governance and the fair management of natural resources.

3. Economic and financial instruments

These instruments can influence changes in people’s behaviour towards desired policy objectives. Fiscal instruments can in principle be used to correct policy and/or market failures and reinstate pricing that takes account of environmental and social costs. Financial instruments, in contrast, are often extra-budgetary and can be financed from domestic sources or foreign aid, external borrowing, debt for nature swaps, among others.

4. Social and cultural instruments

These instruments emphasize the relationship between ecosystems and sociocultural dynamics for the management of natural and cultural resources. While linked to them, social instruments go beyond economic and financial instruments. Some examples of these interventions include information-related instruments; corporate social responsibility; and enhancement of collective action.

What are policy support tools?

In the IPBES context, policy support tools are approaches and techniques based on science and other knowledge systems that can inform, assist and enhance relevant decisions at local, national, regional and global levels. Policy support tools can be categorised into the following families:

1. Assembling data and knowledge (including monitoring)

Tools in this family aim to provide the data that is needed to understand the function and links between biodiversity, human wellbeing and nature’s contributions to people (including ecosystem services). Tools under this family include databases, indicators, or different methods for mapping of ecosystem services.

2. Assessment and evaluation

Tools in this family assess and synthesise knowledge including indigenous and local knowledge. The family includes different types of assessment and evaluation tools, based on a variety of methods and diverse conceptualizations of values of nature, nature’s contributions to people, and a good quality of life. These include scenarios, management effectiveness evaluations, quantitative modelling, cost–benefit analysis, and trade-off analysis.

3. Public discussion, involvement and participatory process

This family of tools is used to develop a shared understanding of policy objectives and outcomes and contributes to identifying challenges and opportunities. The tools in this family support discussion and deliberation. For example on the implications of new knowledge and data for policy, or on the effectiveness of existing and potential institutions and policy settings. Examples include stakeholder consultation, field observation, focused group discussion, mass media communication, and cultural mapping.

4. Selection and design of policy instruments

These tools focus on the identification, evaluation, design, and choice of new and existing policies, and their instruments. This is achieved, for example, by evaluation and comparisons of past experience elsewhere, and outcomes under different circumstances. Examples of those tools include policy analysis, instrument impact evaluation, ex-ante evaluation of options, scenarios, and policy mix analysis.

5. Implementation, outreach and enforcement

This family focuses primarily on supporting the implementation phase of new policies. This can be coupled with information tools through monitoring, providing information to stakeholders and supporting enforcement and compliance activities. Examples of these tools include audits, process standards (e.g. ISO), reporting and verification.

6. Training and capacity building

These tools identify and/or address capacity gaps and shortfalls by enhancing the skills and capacity of relevant actors and organizations. This family of tools can be applied to develop capacity to enhance policy outcomes. Examples include handbooks, manuals, guides, e-learning resources, education, workshops, and knowledge sharing.

7. Social learning, innovation and adaptive governance

These tools aim to improve responsiveness, support risk management and overall performance of the policy process while identifying opportunities to promote social learning and strengthening links and feedback mechanisms across elements and activities. Examples include collaborative networks, methodologies relating to adaptive governance.

How do policy support tools and policy instruments relate to each other?

Policy support tools and methodologies support different stages of the policy cycle (e.g. policy design, implementation, monitoring and assessment). Policies need instruments to be materialised and operationalised. Policy instruments are means or techniques to achieve public policy objectives. In turn, policy support tools and methodologies can inform and assist the development and implementation of policy instruments and/or help refine policy objectives.

How do policy support tools and policy instruments relate to each other

What is the Methodological guidance section in the Gateway?

Through its work, IPBES undertakes methodological advancements and develops guidance on different issues such as scenarios and the conceptualisation of values.

See further details at https://ipbes.net/policy-support/methodological-guidance