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Title: Evaluating impacts of development and conservation projects using sustainability indicators: Opportunities and challenges

There has been an increased interest in using sustainability indicators for evaluating the impacts of development and conservation projects. Past and recent experiences have shown that sustainability indicators can be powerful tools for measuring the outcomes of various interventions, when used appropriately and adequately. Currently, there is a range of methods for applying sustainability indicators for project impact evaluation at the environment–development interface. At the same time, a number of challenges persist which have implication for impact evaluation processes especially in developing countries. We highlight some key and recurrent challenges, using three cases from Kenya, Indonesia and Brazil. In this study, we have conducted a comparative analysis across multiple projects from the three countries, which aimed to conserve biodiversity and improve livelihoods. The assessments of these projects were designed to evaluate their positive, negative, short-term, long term, direct and indirect impacts. We have identified a set of commonly used sustainability indicators to evaluate the projects and have discussed opportunities and challenges associated with their application. Our analysis shows that impact evaluation processes present good opportunities for applying sustainability indicators. On the other hand, we find that project proponents (e.g. managers, evaluators, donors/funders) face challenges with establishing full impacts of interventionsmore » and that these are rooted in monitoring and evaluation processes, lack of evidence-based impacts, difficulties of measuring certain outcomes and concerns over scale of a range of impacts. We outline key lessons learnt from the multiple cases and propose ways to overcome common problems. Results from our analysis demonstrate practical experiences of applying sustainability indicators in developing countries context where there are different prevailing socio-economic, cultural and environmental conditions. The knowledge derived from this study may therefore be useful to a wider range of audience who are concerned with sustainable integration of development and environmental conservation. - Highlights: • Sustainability indicators are increasingly used for evaluating project impacts. • Lessons learnt are based on case studies from Africa, Asia and South America. • Similar challenges when assessing impacts of development and conservation projects • Need for pragmatic solutions to overcome challenges when assessing project impacts.« less
 [1] ;  [2] ;  [3] ;  [4] ;  [2] ;  [5]
  1. University of East Anglia, School of International Development, Norwich NR4 7TJ (United Kingdom)
  2. International Institute for Sustainability, Estrada Dona Castorina 124, 22460-320 Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
  3. (Poland)
  4. (United Kingdom)
  5. (Brazil)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Environmental Impact Assessment Review; Journal Volume: 48; Other Information: Copyright (c) 2014 Elsevier Science B.V., Amsterdam, The Netherlands, All rights reserved.; Country of input: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Country of Publication:
United States