While multilateral approaches and national policies have been unable to halt the unprecedented loss of biodiversity, responses from non-state and subnational initiatives are increasing. The successful implementation of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF), to be agreed upon under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), ultimately depends on commitments and action by state and non-state actors, including subnational actors. However, non-state and subnational actors have so far received little attention in academic analysis of global biodiversity governance. In order to better understand and harness the potential of non-state and subnational involvement, this paper addresses the ways in which non-state initiatives contribute to global biodiversity governance and how productive linkages can be built between state and non-state actors in the post-2020 GBF. This paper applies an explorative case study approach and analyses six international cooperative initiatives (ICIs) that highlight novel approaches in international biodiversity governance. We analyse the qualities of ICIs for biodiversity governance in terms of strengths and potential, the governance functions that they fulfil, and how they are engaging with the CBD and the post-2020 GBF. Based on this analysis, we discuss challenges and opportunities related to non-state and subnational actors involvement in global biodiversity governance and identify possible steps forward. We emphasise the importance of a collaborative framework for non-state action within the CBD that builds on existing and emerging activities of non-state actors, organises monitoring and review as part of an accountability framework of state and non-state actors, and provides for learning, capacity building and follow-up action.


  • Despite three decades of multilateral negotiations and national level efforts, biodiversity loss continues at an alarming rate

  • We highlight key elements that help to understand the working of the six international cooperative initiatives (ICIs), their contribution to the biodiversity regime through the governance functions they perform, the challenges they address and how they engage with the emerging Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) post-2020 global biodiversity framework (GBF)

  • In the light of limited progress in reaching previous global biodiversity targets, we suggest that increased non-state actor involvement represents an opportunity that cannot be ignored by Parties to the CBD

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Despite three decades of multilateral negotiations and national level efforts, biodiversity loss continues at an alarming rate. At COP in 2018, the Sharm El Sheikh to Kunming Action Agenda for Nature and People was launched with the aim to further engage non-state and subnational actors such as cities, regions and civil society, and finance and business actors, in conserving biodiversity and building a stronger momentum towards COP (CBD, 2018). This Action Agenda could potentially become part of the institutional design of the new GBF to increase its transformative potential (Bulkeley et al, 2020; Erdelen, 2020; Pattberg et al, 2019; Rankovic et al, 2020)

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