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International Institute for Environment and Development

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is an independent policy research institute (think tank) whose stated mission is to "build a fairer, more sustainable world, using evidence, action and influence in partnership with others."[1] Its director is Dr Andrew Norton.

International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
Founded1971; 48 years ago (1971)
FounderBarbara Ward
TypeRegistered charity
FocusSustainable development
Area served
World wide
MethodResearch, policy, advocacy
LeaderAndrew Norton
Key people
Andrew Norton, Camilla Toulmin, David Satterthwaite, Lorenzo Cotula, Diana Mitlin, Saleemul Huq, David Dodman

IIED is one of a small group of independent, not-for-profit organisations that has provided core concepts and methods for thinking about sustainability and social change. IIED's main way of working is through partnership with like-minded organisations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The institute's work is currently divided into five main areas: natural resources;[2] climate change;[3] human settlements;[4] sustainable markets;[5] and governance.[6]

IIED is based in central London on Gray's Inn Road, and has a smaller office in Edinburgh. It formerly had offices in Dakar, Senegal (now an independent organisation IED-Afrique) and Buenos Aires, Argentina (also an independent sister institution, IIED-America Latina). There was also an office in Washington DC, USA (until IIED North America merged with the World Resources Institute in 1988).

The International Institute of Environment and Development has more than 120 employees and researchers from 16 countries. They are hired on experience and skill sets that help toward the mission of the IIED, to create a fairer, environmentally healthy global community. The organisation's Board of Trustees are all volunteers, currently 13 representative from 11 different countries. The board's duty is to oversee all cases of the IIED to ensure laws are being followed, standards of the IIED are being upheld and take legal responsibility when necessary. The working budget of the IIED, £20 million, is achieved through donations, grants and mutually beneficial partnerships.[7][8]



IIED was set up in 1971 with backing from industrialist Robert O. Anderson and was originally called the International Institute for Environmental Affairs. In 1973, its first director Barbara Ward moved the organisation to London and changed its name to IIED.

Ward's book Only One Earth (co-authored with René Dubos) was the key text for delegates at the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (also known as the Stockholm Conference), which led to the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). At that conference Ward introduced the term sustainable development to a global audience and highlighted the links between the environment and human wellbeing.

IIED carried out research and lobbying work on a range of contemporary environment and development topics, using funds obtained from donor organisations and occasionally from corporations and foundations. It held its first symposium at the 1974 UN World Food Conference and in 1975 joined forces with UNEP to create Earthscan, an information and environment service for media. In 1976 it was heavily involved in HABITAT, the first UN Conference on Human Settlements.


In 1985, IIED and the World Resources Institute (WRI) began to produce the biennial World Resources Report, which today is solely a WRI publication. In 1987, the Brundtland Report, also known as Our Common Future, cited IIED's contribution to creating "a global agenda for change".

The institute's staff published a series of landmark books[10] including Africa in Crisis by Lloyd Timberlake (1986), The Greening of Africa by Paul Harrison (1987), and No Timber Without Trees by Duncan Poore (1989) and Squatter Citizen: Life in the Urban Third World by Jorge Hardoy and David Satterthwaite (1989).


IIED played an important role ahead of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, or Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by mobilising civil society and drawing international attention to the summit. For this, IIED was awarded the Blue Planet Prize. One of IIED's major projects of the 1990s was called "Towards a Sustainable Paper Cycle".


In 2001, IIED set up a climate change programme, led by Dr Saleemul Huq. He and several other IIED researchers have served as lead authors or coordinating lead authors for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. IIED was active at Rio Earth Summit's follow-up conference, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. Between 2000 and 2002, IIED led the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD) project, a global review of the impacts and practices of the mining sector that engaged industry players and recommended improvements to their operations. In October 2008, the Independent newspaper cited IIED's director Camilla Toulmin as one of Britain's top 100 environmentalists.[11]


In 2012, IIED organised a major conference ahead of the Rio+20 Summit in Brazil.

Current workEdit

IIED continues to both conduct research with partners in dozens of countries and act on a global stage through processes such as various multilateral environmental negotiations.

Its individual research groups focus on varied topics that include:

  • Natural Resources (Group head: James Mayers)

Includes research on large land acquisitions in Africa (land grabbing), improved governance in the forestry sector in Africa and Asia, how to share the benefits of large dams with local communities, the connections between poverty and conservation, and agroecology, food sovereignty, biocultural heritage and agricultural biodiversity.

  • Climate Change (Group head: Clare Shakya)

Includes research on community based adaptation to climate change, strengthening the capacity of the Least Developed Countries in UN climate change negotiations, the role of pastoralism as an adaptive strategy in drylands. It is by initiating the adaptations of the societies that the poor are less stricken by the harshness of climate change (a former group on Drylands has been subsumed into this group).

  • Human Settlements (Group head: David Dodman)

Includes research on rural-urban migration, urbanisation, the role of slum dwellers in improving urban environments, the contributions of cities to climate change, how urban areas can adapt to impacts of climate change, and improving water and sanitation in deprived urban areas.

  • Shaping Sustainable Markets (Interim group head: Paul Steele)

Includes research on environmental economics, energy, business and sustainable development, direct investment and market governance, focusing on building an independent market that is based on the skills of the people and resources at hand to ensure the growth of the society at whole.


IIED's founding director Barbara Ward died in 1981. She was succeeded by William Clark, Brian Walker, Richard Sandbrook, Nigel Cross, Camilla Toulmin and, currently, Andrew Norton, who took over in late June 2015.


IIED publishes a variety of reports, working papers, books, policy briefs and opinion papers, most of which are free to download as pdfs from its website. Its online presence has expanded to include social media applications in recent years. The institute also runs a free dissemination scheme that provides hard copies of publications for no cost to residents of non-OECD countries.[12]

Its long-standing series include the international journal Environment and Urbanization and Gatekeeper, along with three discontinued series: Participatory Learning and Action (dealing with participatory research), Haramata (dealing with drylands development issues) and Tiempo (dealing with climate change impacts, long before interest was widespread).

Until 1986 IIED, also ran Earthscan Publications until 2011 when it was taken over by Taylor and Francis. It has published many of IIED's books.

Barbara Ward LecturesEdit

IIED organises the 'Barbara Ward Lectures' in memory of the institute's first director, who died in 1981.



IIED is generally acknowledged to be a successful organisation - its ideas are pragmatic and pro-poor, and it has helped to influence of major organisations including the World Bank, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the Department for International Development of the UK government, and Scandinavian aid agencies like SIDA and DANIDA. For example, a former staff member, Gordon Conway, was partly responsible with Robert Chambers for developing participatory rural appraisal, a suite of largely visual techniques widely used in international and community development to elicit public views and ideas. IIED's Environmental Economics programme helped to develop some of the first 'green accounting' and eco-taxation techniques that are now used in government and industry. Richard Sandbrook lobbied some of the world's largest corporations to improve their environmental performance - notably in the mining sector.[10][17]


IIED's Annual Report[8] lists its sources of financial support.

  • Governments and government agencies

Including: AusAid, GTZ, DFID, Defra, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IrishAid, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

  • International and multilateral agencies

Including: African Development Bank, European Commission, European Parliament, World Bank

  • Foundations and NGOs

Including: African Centre for Technology Studies, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Comic Relief, Ford Foundation, Hivos, Oxfam UK, WWF UK

  • Corporate

Including: The Cooperative, Indufor Oy, Price Waterhouse Coopers Service, The British Petroleum Company, The Policy Practice. Work on Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development in the 2000s was operated separately from IIED offices to avoid corporate influence.[18]


  1. ^ "About - International Institute for Environment and Development".
  2. ^ "Natural Resources research group". 13 June 2016.
  3. ^ "Climate Change research group". 13 June 2016.
  4. ^ "Human Settlements research group". 3 October 2014.
  5. ^ "Shaping Sustainable Markets research group". 13 June 2016.
  6. ^ "Governance".
  7. ^ "International Institute for Environment and Development". International Institute for Environment and Development.
  8. ^ a b IIED Annual Report 2015/2016
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c Batterbury, SPJ. 2004. The International Institute for Environment and Development: notes on a small office. Global Environmental Change 14: 367–371.
  11. ^ "The Independent on Sunday Green List: Britain's top 100 environmentalists".
  12. ^ "free dissemination scheme".
  13. ^ Video of Mary Robinson delivering Barbara Ward Lecture
  14. ^ Address by LN Sisulu, Minister of Housing of the Republic of South Africa, at the third Barbara Ward lecture, Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), London
  15. ^ Barbara Ward Lecture: Implications of the Durban outcome for enhancing action on climate change on the ground towards a more sustainable future. London, 9 March 2012.
  16. ^ "2014 Barbara Ward Lecture: Fatima Denton calls for a "new paradigm" for African development". International Institute for Environment and Development. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  17. ^ Richard Sandbrook obituary, the Independent
  18. ^ "Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (MMSD)". 3 March 2009.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit