Assessing the impact of international cooperative initiatives on biodiversity

Biodiversity conservation within the gamut of global environmental governance has gained significant traction over the past three decades. Many initiatives to meet global biodiversity conservation targets have been launched in the meantime. Frameworks such as the latest Kunming/Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) have identified the importance of NGOs, social movements, firms and sub-national actors as change agents towards redressing biodiversity loss. This report terms such non-state actors ‘International Cooperative Initiatives on Biodiversity’ (ICIBs). It presents a framework to assess their impact on biodiversity conservation, and applies it to eight relevant cases. Although many uncertainties remain, the report shows that ICIBs reach 100s millions of hectares worldwide, and substantially contribute to enhancing biodiversity in those areas.

Photo Nature restoration in the Netherlands

From Government to Governance

As non-state and sub-national actors have gained importance in international environmental policy, the focus has shifted from government to governance. In this context, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity decided to implement the “Sharm El-Sheikh to Beijing Action Agenda for Nature and People”. This was launched in Egypt at the Convention on Biological Diversity's  (CBD’s) 14th Conference of Parties (COP) in November 2018, and reaffirmed by later COPs, including COP-15 in Montreal in 2022. As part of this agenda, countries agreed to invite voluntary biodiversity commitments from non-state and sub-national actors (e.g., cities, regions, civil society groups, religious groups, NGOs, and companies). With the arrival of 700 voluntary commitments of non-state and sub-national actors at the Secretariat of the CBD recently, came the need for frameworks to assess their impact and effectiveness. This agenda too has recognized the need for an accountability framework.

Report Goals

Accordingly, this report aims to present a methodology for analysing the impact and effectiveness of actors towards the realisation of (some of) the strategic goals of the CBD. This will be conducted in a two-fold manner of enquiry: 1. Designing a framework to assess the biodiversity impact of non-state actors and their voluntary commitments on the ground; and 2. Analysing eight case studies of ICIBs’ interventions that work towards the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, based on this assessment framework.


In line with its goals, this report sets out a framework  to assess the impact of such ICIBs. It consists of four levels: 1. Global reach of an ICIB (in hectares); 2. Change in management practice (description and coverage); 3. Biodiversity impact (in terms of Mean Species Abundance, or MSA); and 4. Implementation effectiveness (% of successful interventions). In conclusion, ICIBs assessed in this report cover 100s of millions of hectares worldwide, do show changes in management practices and thus possible increase in MSA, and – for as far as known – a moderate implementation effectiveness. Yet, these conclusion come with many uncertainties and various data and methodological challenges. Also, indirect governance and biodiversity effects of ICIBs beyond the areas assessed are not covered,  although these are crucial for the assessment and monitoring of non-state actors voluntary commitments in the context of the Kunming/Montreal GBF.


PBL Authors
Marcel Kok Machteld Schoolenberg Mark van Oorschot Bas Arts
Other authors
Löwenhardt, Hannah
Voora, Vivek
Arlikatti, Nikhil


Publication title
Assessing the impact of international cooperative initiatives on biodiversity
Publication date
8 November 2023
Publication type
Page count
Publication language
Product number