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Assessing the social impacts of conservation policies: rigour versus practicality

The last ten years have seen an increasing emphasis on rigorous impact evaluation by the international development community. The conservation community is also using these methods to understand the impacts of conservation policy approaches, such as protected areas and payments for environmental services schemes. But in real life, genuine controls are hard to come by, time and resources are limited and — regardless of what the data say — relationships need to be managed between managers of protected areas (or other interventions) and the people living near them. How can these issues be reconciled? A two-track strategy could be the solution, combining in-depth evaluation for a selection of interventions with increased effort to improve rapid assessment methods at the field level.

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The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is coordinating a programme that aims to develop, test and roll out a relatively simple, low cost methodology for assessing the positive and negative social impacts of protected areas.

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Assessing social impacts of protected areas