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About Policy Support

Work in progress: This web portal is a prototype intended to present the overall planned structure and functionality of the Policy Support portal. The portal is still under development. Any feedback is welcome and will help to further develop this resource so it meets the needs of decision makers, practitioners, and experts supporting policy formulation and implementation.

What is the Policy Support Portal?

The Policy Support Portal is a toolkit of approaches, techniques, and good practices, that enables access to:

  • The Catalogue of policy support tools and methodologies, containing policy support tools and policy instruments linked to assessments, case studies, learning opportunities, and communities of practice.
  • The Methodological guidance developed by IPBES, currently including guidance on using scenarios and models, and on the diverse conceptualisation of values. Links to relevant policy support tools and instruments are included.

Why was it developed?

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has a mandate to support policy formulation and implementation for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems. This web portal provides access to the resources needed to support this mandate. Institutions and governance have a central role influencing all aspects of the human relationships with nature. In the pursuit of better informed and evidence-based policies, this is reflected in IPBES conceptual framework.

The use of the Portal could provide the opportunity for a wide spectrum of individuals and institutions to gain access to what is being done around the world in their area of interest, to allow them to access known resources while inspiring them for the use of new tools and approaches. These innovative resources may assist and inform decision makers and help develop policies that better address the direct and indirect drivers effecting biodiversity in a specific context.

Who developed it?

The Portal was developed by IPBES with the support of a wide range of experts, and resource people across the globe. This web portal has been developed together with Oppla which is supported by the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development, and demonstration.

Who was it developed for?

The Portal’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 dialogue with non-governmental organizations, conservation and development practitioners, indigenous and local communities, youth groups, businesses, local authorities, media etc.

Why would I use it?

You will find the Portal useful if you are looking for objective scientific 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 protect and sustainably use these vital natural assets.

IPBES has harnessed the best expertise from across all scientific disciplines and knowledge communities to give you access to relevant assessments, tools, instruments, case studies, training and communities of practice.

What is the catalogue of policy support tools and methodologies?

The Catalogue of policy support tools and methodologies, included within the Policy Support Portal, contains policy support tools and policy instruments linked to assessments, case studies, learning opportunities, and communities of practice (experts).


What are policy instruments?

Policy instruments are means or mechanisms by which decision-making authorities at different levels aim to achieve public policy objectives. 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:

These instruments comprise 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. More

The instruments comprise international and national human rights agreements, whether binding or non-binding, created to fit within socio-ecological systems. They comprise 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. More

These instruments can be used to change 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. More

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. More

What are policy support tools?

In IPBES context, policy support tools and methodologies refer to approaches based on science and other knowledge systems. These can inform, assist and enhance development and implementation of policy instruments to better protect nature and promote its sustainable use at local, national, regional and global levels. Policy support tools can be categorised into the following families: 

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. ​ More

Tools in this family synthesise and assess knowledge relative to status, function, and drivers of nature, nature’s contributions to people, human well-being, and the connections between these. These include scenarios, management effectiveness evaluations, quantitative modelling, cost–benefit analysis, and trade-off analysis.​ More

This family of tools is used to develop a shared understanding of policy objectives and outcomes, and contributes to identifying problems and opportunities. Those aims are achieved by supporting discussion and deliberation, for example on the implications of new knowledge and data for policy, and 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. ​ More

Those tools focus on the identification, evaluation, design, and choice of new and existing policies, and their instruments. This is done, 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 and scenarios, policy mix analysis.​ More

This family focuses primarily on supporting the implementation phase of existing 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.​ More

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, knowledge sharing.​ More

These tools aim to improve responsiveness, 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. E.g. collaborative networks, methodologies relating to adaptive governance. More

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

Policies need instruments to be materialised and operationalised. Policy instruments are means or techniques by which government/public authorities in local, national or international levels aim to achieve public policy objectives, such as to better protect nature and promote its sustainable use at local, national, regional and global levels. Furthermore, policy support tools and methodologies can inform and assist the development and implementation of policy instruments. New tools can also be developed for specific policy instruments.


What is the methodological guidance included in the Portal?

The Methodological guidance developed by IPBES is a section of the Policy Support Portal currently including guidance on using scenarios and models, and on the diverse conceptualisation of values. The methodological guidance can be seen as a ‘toolkit’ which describes the conceptual understandings, tools and data, and capacity of approaches that can be used for decision-making. It is based on the work developed so far on scenarios and models by providing an overview of what they are and how they can link to agenda setting and decision support; and on multiple conceptualizations of diverse values by providing the conceptual justification for the approach, explaining trough a six-step approach how to tackle them and providing an immersion to the topic for the IPBES community.