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Standard 1: Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resource Management


Conserving biodiversity, (18) m​aintaining ecosystem services, (19) and sustainably managing natural resources are fundamental to sustainable development. UNDP seeks to maintain and enhance the goods and services provided by biodiversity and ecosystems in order to secure livelihoods, food, water and health, enhance resilience, conserve threatened species and their habitats, and increase carbon storage and sequestration.

UNDP is committed to integrating biodiversity and ecosystem management into development planning and production sector activities, strengthening protected areas systems, and managing and rehabilitating ecosystems for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. ​UNDP seeks to strengthen effective governance and decision-making systems affecting biodiversity and ecosystems, including strengthening the rights of affected populations including women, (20) indigenous peoples and local communities to sustainable use of resources.​

This Standard reflects the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity, including the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources. (21) UNDP promotes an ecosystem approach to biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of natural resources. (22)​​​

  • To conserve biodiversity
  • To maintain and enhance the benefits of ecosystem services
  • To promote sustainable management of living natural resources

Scope of Application

The applicability of this Standard is established during the social and environmental screening and categorization process. Requirements of this Standard apply to Projects that (i) are located in modified, natural, and critical habitats; and/or (ii) potentially impact or are dependent on the ecosystem services of modified, natural, or critical habitats; and/or (iii) include production of living natural resources (e.g. agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry).​


Precautionary approach: UNDP will ensure that a precautionary approach is applied to the use, development, and management of natural habitats, the ecosystem services of such habitats, and living natural resources.​

Assessment: As an integral part of the social and environmental assessment process, UNDP will ensure that direct and indirect impacts on natural resources, biodiversity and ecosystem services in the Project’s area of influence are identified and addressed. The assessment process will consider, inter alia (i) risks of habitat and species loss, degradation and fragmentation, invasive alien species, overexploitation, hydrological changes, nutrient loading, pollution, and (ii) differing values (e.g. social, cultural, economic) attached to biodiversity and ecosystem services by potentially affected communities. Potential cumulative and induced impacts will be assessed. Project-related impacts across potentially affected landscapes or seascapes should be considered.

Use of experts: For Projects that may adversely affect natural habitats, UNDP will ensure that qualified professionals assist in conducting assessments and in the design and implementation of mitigation and monitoring plans.

Siting preference: As far as possible, UNDP Projects that may have adverse impacts shall be sited in areas of low value for biodiversity and ecosystem services, and of low sensitivity to the anticipated impacts. In particular, whenever feasible, such Projects shall be sited on lands where natural habitats have already been converted to other land uses. However, UNDP will seek to avoid siting Projects on lands that were converted in anticipation of the Project.

Modified habitats: In areas of modified habitat, (23) UNDP will ensure that measures are adopted to minimize further unwarranted conversion or degradation of the habitat and resident species populations and will identify opportunities to enhance the habitat as part of the Project.

Natural habitats: Where avoidance of adverse impacts on natural habitats is not possible, (24) UNDP shall proceed only if (i) viable alternatives are not available, (ii) the overall benefits from the Project substantially outweigh the environmental costs, and (iii) if appropriate conservation and mitigation measures are in place, including those required to maintain ecological services.​

Mitigation hierarchy: Risk reduction measures will follow a mitigation hierarchy that favours avoidance of potential adverse impacts over minimization, mitigation where adverse residual impacts remain, and, as a last resort, application of offset and compensation measures. (25) Mitigation measures will be designed to achieve at least no net loss of biodiversity, (26) where possible. (27) However, it must be recognized that no net loss is not possible in all cases, e.g. where endemic species have highly restricted distributions. In such instances, UNDP will explore alternative designs to avoid the adverse impacts on biodiversity.

Use of offsets: Biodiversity offsets (28) may be considered only after appropriate avoidance, minimization, and restoration measures have been applied. A biodiversity offset must be designed and implemented to achieve measureable conservation outcomes (demonstrated in situ and on an appropriate geographic scale) that can reasonably be expected to result in no net loss and preferably a net gain (29) of biodiversity. In the case of critical habitats, biodiversity offsets are to be considered only in exceptional circumstances, and in such circumstances a net gain is required. The design of a biodiversity offset must adhere to the “like-for-like or better” principle (30) and must be carried out with best available information and current best practices. External experts with knowledge in offset design and implementation must be involved. (31)

Critical habitats: UNDP seeks to ensure that Project activities have no adverse impacts on critical habitats. (32) No Project activity will be implemented in areas of critical habitats, unless all of the following are demonstrated: (i) there are no measurable adverse impacts on the criteria or biodiversity values for which the critical habitat was designated, and on the ecological processes supporting those biodiversity values (determined on an ecologically-relevant scale); (ii) there is no reduction of any recognized Endangered, Vulnerable or Critically Endangered species, (33) (iii) any lesser impacts are mitigated, and (iv) a robust, appropriately designed, and long-term Biodiversity Action Plan is in place to achieve net gains of those biodiversity values for which the critical habitat was designated. Existing protected area management plans shall be reviewed to ensure alignment with this requirement.

Protected areas: In circumstances where some Project activities are located within a legally protected area (34) or an internationally recognized area, (35) UNDP will ensure that, in addition to the requirements specified in paragraph 13 of this Standard, the following requirements will also apply: (i) act in a manner consistent with any existing protected area management plans; (ii) consult protected area sponsors and managers, local communities, and other key stakeholders on the proposed activities; (iii) implement additional programmes, as appropriate, to promote and enhance the conservation aims and effective management of the area. Where restrictions of access to protected areas may have potential adverse impacts on livelihoods of local communities, the requirements of Standard 5: Displacement and Resettle​ment​ will apply.​

Invasive alien species: UNDP requires that under no circumstances will alien species known to be invasive be introduced into new environments and that no new alien species (i.e. species not currently established in the country or region of the Project) will be intentionally introduced unless it is subjected to a risk assessment to determine the potential for invasive behavior and carried out in accordance with the existing regulatory framework, if such a framework exists. Prior assessment of the possibility of accidental or unintended introduction of invasive alien species will be undertaken, and appropriate mitigation measures adopted.

Biosafety: For Projects that may involve the transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms/living modified organisms (GMOs/LMOs) that result from modern biotechnology and that may have adverse effects on biological diversity, UNDP will ensure that a risk assessment is carried out in accordance with Annex III of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity. UNDP will ensure that Projects involving GMOs/LMOs include measures to manage any risks identified in the risk assessment.

Forests: Project activities will:
​a. be consistent with the conservation of natural forests and biological diversity, ensuring that they are not used for the conversion of natural forests;

b. incentivize the protection and conservation of natural forests and their ecosystem services, and enhance other social and environmental benefits;

c. enhance the sustainable management of forests, including the application of independent, credible certification for commercial, industrial-scale timber harvesting;

d. maintain or enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functionality in areas where forest restoration is undertaken; and/or

e. ensure that plantations are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable, and utilize native species wherever feasible.
UNDP will give preference to small-scale community-level management approaches where they best reduce poverty in a sustainable manner.

Water resources: For Projects that affect water resources, UNDP promotes an integrated water resources management approach that seeks the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximize the economic and social welfare in an equitable manner and without compromising the sustainability of ecosystems. UNDP seeks to ensure that Projects avoid significantly altering flow regimes in ways that prevent water resources from fulfilling their functions for upstream and downstream ecosystems and their services to local communities. (36) Social and environmental risk assessments should address, among other issues, potential effects and impacts related to climate variability, water pollution, sedimentation, water-related disasters, drinking water supply, energy production, agriculture, and fisheries. Environmental flow analysis and management should be carried out to the extent feasible in the context of river basin planning. (37)

Sustainable management of living natural resources: Living natural resources (38) will be managed in a sustainable manner. Sustainable resource management is the management of the use, development, and protection of resources in a way, or at a rate, that enables people and communities, including indigenous peoples, to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being while also sustaining the potential for those resources to meet the needs of future generations. This includes safeguarding biodiversity and the life-supporting capacity of air, water, and soil ecosystems. Sustainable management also ensures that people who are dependent on these resources are properly consulted, women and men have opportunities to equally participate in development, and benefits are shared equitably.

UNDP will ensure sustainable resource management through the application of appropriate, industry-specific best management practices, and where codified, through application of one or more relevant credible standards as demonstrated by an independent verification or certification system. (39)

For Projects that involve the production, harvesting, and/or management of living natural resources by small-scale landholders and/or local communities, UNDP will support adoption of appropriate and culturally sensitive sustainable resource management practices.

For Projects that involve the utilization of genetic resources, UNDP will ensure that the collection of such resources is conducted sustainably and that benefits derived from their utilization are shared in a fair and equitable manner. UNDP will ensure such Projects are consistent with the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Nagoya Protocol. (40) Where genetic resources are collected from traditional or customary lands of indigenous peoples, the provisions of Standard 6: Indigenous Peo​ples apply, including the requirement of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC)

(18) The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines biological diversity (i.e. biodiversity) as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.” CBD, Article 2, available at​.
(19) Ecosystem services are the benefits that people derive from ecosystems. Ecosystem services are organized into four types: (i) provisioning services, which are the goods people obtain from ecosystems (i.e., food, freshwater, timber, fibers, medicinal plants); (ii) regulating services, which are the benefits people obtain from the regulation of ecosystem processes (e.g.. surface water purification, carbon storage and sequestration, climate regulation protection from natural hazards); (iii) cultural services, which are the nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems (e.g. sacred sites, areas of importance for recreation and aesthetic enjoyment); and (iv) supporting services, which are the natural processes that maintain the other services (e.g. soil formation, nutrient cycling, primary production).
(20) Women often face socio-cultural barriers to equitable access to resources and decision-making processes on resource use. With strong reliance on natural resource livelihoods, women are often on the front lines of risks posed by degradation of, and restricted access to, ecosystems and ecosystem services.
(21) UNDP supports implementation of national commitments under the CBD, including CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the “Aichi Targets” at​. UNDP’s Biodiversity and Ecosystems Global Framework 2012-2020 outlines UNDP’s priorities and programs to conserve biodiversity and maintain ecosystem services, available at​​.
(22) The ecosystem approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. See Ecosystem Approach, Convention of Biological Diversity, available at​.  
(23) Modified habitats are areas that may contain a large proportion of plant and/or animal species of non-native origin, and/or areas where human activity has substantially modified an area’s primary ecological functions and species composition. Modified habitats may include areas managed for agriculture, forest plantations, reclaimed costal zones, reclaimed wetlands, and regenerated forests and grasslands.
(24) Natural habitats are land and water areas where the biological communities are formed largely by native plant and animal species, and where human activity has not essentially modified the area’s primary ecological functions and species composition.

(25) UNDP recognizes that compensation and offsets may eventually be incorporated as elements of a mitigation strategy; however, avoidance and minimization measures must first be fully considered.
(26) “No net loss” is defined as the point at which Project-related impacts on biodiversity are balanced by measures taken to avoid and minimize the Project’s impacts, to undertake on-site restoration and finally to offset significant residual impacts, if any, on an appropriate geographic scale.
(27) Mitigation measures may include a combination of actions, such as Project redesign, use of financial guarantees, post-Project restoration, set-asides, and, as a last resort, offsets. Set-asides are land areas within the Project area excluded from development and are targeted for the implementation of conservation enhancement measures. Set-asides will likely contain significant biodiversity values and/or provide ecosystem services of significance.
(28) Biodiversity offsets are measureable conservation outcomes resulting from actions designed to compensate for significant residual adverse biodiversity impacts arising from Project development and persisting after appropriate avoidance, minimization and restoration measures have been taken.
(29) Net gains are additional conservation outcomes that can be achieved for the biodiversity values for which the critical habitat was designated.
(30) The principle of “like-for-like or better” indicates that biodiversity offsets must be designed to conserve the same biodiversity values that are being impacted by the Project.
(31) For additional guidance on biodiversity offsets, see the Business and Biodiversity Offset Programme Standard on Biodiversity Offsets (2012), available at​​.
(32) Critical habitats are a subset of both modified and natural habitats that require special attention. Critical habitats are areas with high biodiversity value, including any of the following features: (i) habitat of significant importance to Critically Endangered and/or Endangered species; (ii) habitat of significant importance to endemic and/or restricted-range species; (iii) habitat supporting globally significant concentrations of migratory species and/or congregatory species; (iv) highly threatened and/or unique ecosystems; and/or (v) areas associated with key evolutionary processes. Critical habitats include those areas that are (i) legally protected, (ii) officially proposed for protection, (ii) identified by authoritative sources for their high conservation value (such as areas that meet criteria of the World Conservation Union classification, the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance, and the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organization’s world heritage sites), or (iv) recognized as protected by traditional local communities.
(33) As listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
(34) This Standard recognizes legally protected areas that meet the IUCN definition: “A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.” Areas proposed by governments for such designation are included. UNDP may also consider ‘legitimate protected areas’ that are not legally established but are recognized as protected by local communities.
(35) Including UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites and UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserves, and wetlands  
(36) Potential adverse impacts on natural and critical habitats and ecosystem services will be addressed per the requirements of this Standard.
(37) Notification to Riparians on International Waterways: When a UNDP Project could negatively affect the quality or quantity of water in an international waterway, UNDP or its partner will notify all riparian states in writing, at least 90 days prior to a decision on whether or not to proceed with the Project, so that the riparians have the opportunity to raise objections or concerns or to request additional information. In situations where there is an international body that coordinates management of the waterway, such as a river basin commission, formal presentation of the proposed Project at a meeting of that body will meet this notification requirement. Otherwise, notification should be directly to the appropriate ministry or agency of each riparian state. Documentation of the riparian notifications and any responses received should be included when the Project is presented to management for approval.
(38) “Living natural resources” are defined as being the plants and animals cultivated for human or animal consumption and use, whether in the wild or in a cultivated situation. It includes all types of forestry, biofuels, agriculture, including both annual and perennial crops and animal husbandry, including livestock; and both wild and capture fisheries including all types of marine and freshwater organisms, both vertebrate and invertebrate.
(39) A credible certification system would be one which is independent, cost-effective, based on objective and measurable performance standards and developed through consultation with relevant stakeholders such as local people and communities, indigenous peoples, and civil society organizations representing consumer, producer and conservation interests. Such a system has fair, transparent, and independent decision-making procedures that avoid conflict of interest.
(40) Convention on Biological Diversity can be found at The Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Dive can be found at​.