Die monster die…

August 28, 2010

You know how those monsters in the movies are killed in the end, but just before the movie credits roll some slimy body part spookily begins to twitch ? Cue hopelessly optimistic producers hoping to turn the ghastly movie you’ve already regretted watching into a franchise horror, usually replacing the meagre traces of acting with even more special effects and sex.

The same holds true for the mining giant Vedanta whose controversial bauxite mining permit in the Nyamgiri Hills in eastern India was revoked. You couldn’t make it up ; big mining company with a dodgy reputation, picturesque tribals whose way of life was threatened, international organisations who fed the media with Avatar movie parallels, an Environment Ministry that suddenly woke up to its responsibilities and finally even the Church of England withdrawing its shares in Vedanta fearing negative publicity or fall in share prices or both. Vedanta was caught in a perfect storm that had only one inevitable conclusion. They took it in the balls. And like all good movie monsters they slithered to a dark place to lick their wounds and bide their time. We know the beast still lives and breathes and that a sequel is in the offing; But now is the time to rejoice.


Indigenous peoples have always had others making decisions about their lives; where they should live (wherever we want them to), what they should be called (primitive, criminal, scheduled, backward), how they should look (colourful, noble, bare-breasted) and which Gods they should pray to (Jesus, Hanuman, Mao, Capitalism, Marxism). And they have had enough of this shit. So, instead of pretending I know how they feel about being screwed by all and sundry, I give you the Dehradun Declaration of June 2009;

“We, the forest people of the world – living in the woods, surviving on the fruits and crops, farming on the jhoom land, re-cultivating the forest land, roaming around with our herds – have occupied this land since ages. We announce loudly, in unity and solidarity, that let there be no doubt on the future: we are the forests, and the forests are us, and our existence is mutually dependent. The crisis faced by our forests and environment today will only intensify without us.

This is no ordinary crisis. Not merely a climate crisis – or in your words, this magnified self-created monster of a financial crisis. We believe it is a Crisis of Civilizations. It’s no ordinary clash but a fundamental clash between our knowledge systems; of being, of nature and your wisdom, technology, and demonic tendencies. Your world rests on ideas of power, territories, boundaries, profit, exploitation and oppression and you try to own everything, including Mother Nature. This is what drives your civilisation. You need this world of oppression and exploitation; to survive and feel good. If you want to include us in your world by ‘civilising’ us, we will happily choose to remain uncivilised. Call us savages, we do not care! We have learnt amidst these trees, this water, this air, and other forest beings – a life of freedom, of being without boundaries, and yet never forgetting the boundaries of nature. You need your legal monoliths and your structures of governance to attempt to tide over this crisis, but for us the laws of nature, learnt and assimilated over generations are sufficient.

You talk of attaining Independence on August 15 1947… What is that? We, the forest people and the forests have been independent since ages. You tried enslaving us; by trapping us in your illusion that believes in converting living beings into slaves – hollow occupants of servile bodies – a life of death; by capturing our forests, establishing your false laws of oppression and exploitation – contradicting the fundamental laws of nature. We know the way you exploited and enslaved our native American comrades in other parts of the world. Let us remind you that you behaved no differently than those feudal and imperialist ancestors of yours. We, therefore, reject your unnatural law, your civilization of tyranny and cruelty. What freedom? We see no freedom, in being driven out of our forests, separated from water, land, fields, trees, air, and friendly animals, to the ecosystem to which we belong. What freedom, which doesn’t forget to chain its own brothers and sisters. False Freedom! We see no truth in a society that remains haunted by the prosperity of a few capitalists, whilst, never forgetting to oppress the workers, adivasis, dalits, women and poor of the world! We reject you!

Forest Rights Act, you need it more than us. If you think you are bestowing rights on us, then you are wrong. We have lived with these forests for ages. Our ancestors, gods, goddesses, friends and life lived in this and will continue to live here. We don’t define rights, we know what is ours and to whom we belong. We are the forests, the forests are us. Out of necessity, if you want to talk the language of rights, we are ready for it. It’s your need to recognise our rights over the forests and correct the historical injustices and exploitation. However, if by granting pattas (land titles) over a portion of forest you conspire to control, commodify, and sell the rest of the forests, then you are wrong. We understand your vested intentions and are determined to save the forests from your corrupt desires of exploitation, developmentalism, ill-sighted conservation, and technological fixes.

If you think the ghosts of commodity capitalism are going to chain our minds and souls for eternity, then you are mistaken. From the forests, the nature we have learnt that power is not infinite, exploitation is not infinite too. We, the labouring workers, adivasis, and dalits don’t treat the forest a resource to be exploited but as something which lives and supports life.

There is a climate crisis around and no amount of free trade, capital, or technology will eliminate the roots of this crisis. You forget that the crises has emanated from the way your society is structured – an edifice based on an unending desire for resources and a way of life that sees nature as an object of exploitation and extraction. Fools! You are doomed to bear the brunt and suffer the pains of your actions, but we ask you – Why must we suffer? You have intruded in our lifestyle, in the rhythm of Mother Earth. You have corrupted the environs by your vehicles, industries, arms, and development and your actions have created a crisis in our homes. You have sinned against the essence of our being, and amidst our rage and tears, we reject the basis of your being: a thought – of mistrust, of control, of vicious self-interest, of injustice, and blame.

How dare you blame us for a climate crisis? It is the product of un-natural practices, and it has devastated our lives. How could you cut our trees unthinkingly? The temperature is increasing, rainfall is diminishing, and the forests are burning – consuming themselves in pain. Now you want us out of our habitats in the name of conserving our forests! You kill, unsparingly, relish in “terrorizing” busts of tigers, decorating your mantelpiece – all pointing to your moral sensibility – and yet you have the audacity to tell us to leave the forests so that you can protect the Tigers! What law do you know? Who are you to teach what is legal? You are illegal – contradicting the very law of nature – of coexistence. You have no solutions – you only destroy.

You may not care of our times, but spare a thought for the coming generations, their inheritance. Do you wish to present to them a world of chaos and destruction? Are you so blinded by your greed? At least, now – in this crisis – we need to unite, all civilizations, and forest people of the world, to resolve the crisis, to restore our relationship with nature.

Today, at Dehradun, we call for and welcome the solidarity and harmony of all world’s forest people – workers, adivasis, and fellow travellers – on this journey to realizing the fulfilment of our existence, in communion with our forests. We warn your civilization that we are a people, united in struggle against the structure of capitalism – of greed, thievery, and profiteering. We warn the nations of the world, that you must not forget to honour our existence, or else – from deep within our hearts – we shout out loud: NO MORE SILENCE! We will rise from the ashes of your devastating fire! To resist your order, undeterred by your traps. We will rise – a united forest people – together, in strength and solidarity, to challenge the very fabric of your civilization, and become one with nature, again!”

Rage against the machine

February 24, 2010

There is a moment in every environmentalist’s life when disillusionment descends like a tsunami. We’ve gone by the book ; shaken hands, started campaigns, joined the protest march, written articles and reports, filed a petition, the works. And yet shit happens oblivious to it all. Has happened to the best of us. As bulldozers ripped a canal though the ONLY home of the one of the world’s rarest birds and as convoys of trucks filled up a wetland visited every year by pelicans, the tsunami pummelled me silly. Was so easy for ‘them’ to cross the line, while I jumped obediently through one hoop after another within the system.  And while I jumped, the bulldozers and trucks ceaselessly continued their zombie like destruction. End result- I became a world-class jumper and the world got another power plant and an irrigation canal. One of those win-win outcomes so beloved by those on the winning side.

And there are those that have crossed the line. Too tired or clever to jump through hoops, they took the monkey wrench to the bulldozers and trucks. Extremists, eco-terrorists, saboteurs…, call them what you will, but they definitely did not major in ‘sitting-on-the-fence’ in college. They showed the world that there was another way to fight scum. To kick them in the nuts where it hurts the most. The testimony to their impact was the disproportionate retaliation they faced from the state. Ask activist Jeffrey Luers who got 22 years for torching 3 SUVs in a showroom in the middle of the night. This while corporate giants destroy forests, pollute our rivers, butcher animals on a daily basis to make their billions.

A few wise words from our articulate brothers and sisters who crossed the line ;

“You can destroy people, families, communities, and the entire quality of life on Earth for the almighty dollar and somehow be beyond question. But destroy even a few thousand dollars worth of property, for any other ends than money, and you’ll quickly be reminded just how below the law this system regards its citizens.” (Leslie James Pickering)

“We are under attack by a system that values profit over life, which has, and will, kill anything to satisfy its greed. We have seen the results of millions of years of evolution destoryed in the relative blink of an eye” (Earth Liberation Front press office statement)

“We will never succeed in convincing corporate interests to stop the exploitation of animals and the earth, it is against their ‘nature’. We want to defend life at all costs, they want to protect an exploitative way of life no matter what the cost. Their job is to make as much money as possible regardless of the suffering. Our job is to put the bastards out of business.” (Craig ‘Critter’ Marshall)

“We also should not continue to pretend that negotiating with powerful groups whose only concern is short-term monetary profit has gotten us somewhere.”(John Wade)

“On the rare ocassions that politicians talk about saving the environment it is in terms of what is ‘practical’ or ‘cost-effective’. What is an accepetable arsenic-to-water ratio ? How much cancer is too much cancer ?” (John Wade)

“They say we resort to breaking the law. There ain’t no ‘resort’ about it. I’ve resorted to begging, pleading, petitioning and protesting for petty policy changes. I’ve resorted to walking their walk and talking their talk in front of their media and their courts. But I never had to ‘resort’ to breaking the law, it was always a pleasure.” (Leslie James Pickering)

Walk into any conference on biodiversity or natural resources conservation today and you’ll find a whole host of characters that 10 years ago had no business or interest being there. Representatives from large companies, economists, vice-ministers for business development, UN agencies with annoying acronyms and consultants who always seem reluctant to reveal their area of expertise. This mixed bunch of folks are a bit like tourists who stumble into a local bar; tolerated as long as they keep quiet and pay for their drinks (at special tourist rates of course). Occasionally they are allowed on stage provided they punctuate their talks with suitable phrases like sustainable development, triple bottom lines and win-win situations.

The only ‘stakeholder’ you don’t see is a representative of indigenous people. I mean the real kind not someone who has ‘worked’ with them for 20 years. There is no shortage of representatives claiming to know what indigenous people want and willing to make decisions on their behalf. All one has to do is mention Indigenous Traditional Knowledge, Equitable Sharing of Benefits and Prior Free Informed Consent a few times and the box on indigenous people concerns is ticked.

That conservation organisations do not have the legitimacy to speak on behalf of indigenous people has become increasingly obvious. For example, the Resolution of Amazonian Indigenous Forum on Climate Change states in its introduction that;

“Considering that the positions and measures taken by the majority of the NGOs and their representatives do not represent our viewpoint in the decision making process in the negotiations and agreements on the Kyoto Protocol and its consequences;”

When indigenous people do make it to conservation forums, they end up feeling marginalised. For example, at the ad hoc Working Group on Protected Areas of the Convention on Biodiversity in 2008, members of the International Indigenous Forum of Biodiversity staged a walkout to protest against not being taken seriously. In their statement they said that;

“the International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity (IIFB) withdrew from the Working Group on Protected Areas because on the previous two days, indigenous peoples were not given the floor on matters of concern to them in a timely manner. This led to missed opportunities for indigenous peoples’ comments and proposed text to be appropriately discussed and reflected in the conference room papers (CRPs)”

Indigenous groups are still hurting from the failure of big conservation organisations to support local movements relating to forest rights, land tenure, extractive industry and encroachment of forests by non-indigenous people. Lack of opportunities for meaningful representation and marginalisation is definitely not the way to rebuild trust. When it comes to indigenous people issues, conservationists tend to shy away as they believe it is a complicated minefield that is best left to others. If conservationists can spend lifetimes in hostile environments trying to understand what makes elusive species tick, they sure can spend some time trying to understand how to regain the trust of indigenous communities.

Part driven by a primitive urge to crucify our heroes and part by a voyeuristic longing to look at somebody else’s inbox, news of the now infamous leaked climate emails spread faster than you could say ‘Copenhagen’. Yes it’s true; despite breathing the rarefied air of science, scientists are sometimes seized by the impulse to get back to being plain old Clark Kent again.  Politicians have affairs, celebrities do drugs and scientists…er..um.. express personal views.

Not such a big deal you might think. But when the stakes are this high and world is on the precipice of a paradigm change, the personal becomes the profane. However, the truth is that frustration is getting to them scientists. Climate models that provide more questions than answers, inconvenient/incomplete data that blows holes in hypotheses, demands on time from meetings, conferences and workshops not to mention climate sceptics and sceptical decision-makers.

Some excerpts of the good, bad and ugly in a climate scientist’s inbox

(To see all the emails visit http://www.eastangliaemails.com/emails.php?page=1&pp=100)

The Good

“This is a complex issue, and your misrepresentation of it does you a dis-service. To someone like me, who knows the science, it is apparent that you are presenting a personal view, not an informed, balanced scientific assessment”

“When scientists color the science with their own PERSONAL views or make categorical statements without presenting the evidence for such statements, they have a clear responsibility to state that that is what they are doing. You have failed to do so. Indeed, what you are doing is, in my view, a form of dishonesty more subtle but no less egregious than the statements made by the greenhouse skeptics, Michaels, Singer et al. I find this extremely disturbing”

The Bad

“Remember all the fun we had last year over 1995 global temperatures, with early release of information (via Oz), “inventing” the December monthly value, letters to Nature etc etc? I think we should have a cunning plan about what to do this year, simply to avoid a lot of wasted time”

“As always I seem to have been away bullshiting and politiking in various meetings for weeks! I try to convince myself that this is of use to us as a dendrochronological community but I am not so sure how much that is really true these days”

The Ugly

“Our population is only 25 % of yours so we only get 1 for every 4 you have. His name in case you should come across him is  Piers Corbyn. He is nowhere near as good as a couple of yours and he’s  an utter prat but he’s getting a lot of air time at the moment”

“The other stuff is of course interesting but I would have to see it and the board would want the larger implications of the stats clearly phrased in general and widely understandable (by the ignorant masses) terms before they would consider it not too specialised. I suspect that this might not be straight forward”

Commons sense

November 19, 2009

Elinor Ostrom won the Nobel Prize for Economics this year. So who cares? Economists are not exactly the flavour of the season right now. After all it was economists who thought subprime mortgages were a good idea and look what a mess that has got us in. As if running economies on rampant consumerism financed by debt wasn’t bad enough in the first place. It seems the only thing economists are good at is finding new ways of getting people and countries into debt.

Hence it should come as no surprise that Ms. Ostrom is also interested in consumption. But what makes her Nobel prize material is that is she studies how we consume resources that all of us (including future generations) own and manage. Most of us are familiar with Hardin’s ‘tragedy of the commons’ theory that basically says commonly owned resources will be exploited by free-riders who will make the good guys look like morons and eventually result in collapse of the system. Hence, we end up with overgrazing, overfishing, overhunting, etc. This theory has been embraced by governments and private entities to reinforce the idea that the Common Pool Resource (CPR) system is inevitably doomed to failure and we need external intervention (state or private) to manage our natural resources.

Ms. Ostrom has studied a truckload of different CPR systems around the world and believes that they cannot be so casually dismissed as viable alternative to public or private sector management. She has seen that humans, despite all their deficiencies, can cooperate and work something out without killing each other. She also believes that the bad rep of CPR systems is not usually attributable to failure of the system itself. Factors internal to the group such as lack of communication, trust and a sense of stewardship can seriously affect the success of a CPR system. External factors such as interference from central authorities, lack of autonomy and conflicting regulations can undermine the efforts of communities to manage their commons.

The reason why Ms. Ostrom’s work is so important today is that we are faced with the incredible challenge of managing the ultimate commons- Our Atmosphere. We only have one atmosphere which is common to all of us. Like any CPR it is a finite resource in the sense that it only has a limited capacity to absorb greenhouse gases. We are close to this limit or might even have exceeded it. The amount of carbon space in the atmosphere is scarce.  Until now we have paid handsomely for fossil fuels from the ground but nothing for the atmosphere to absorb its combusted waste. Economists Peter Barnes and Marc Breslow put it another way “It is not oil that is in short supply, it’s sky“. In their article titled ‘Pie in the Sky’ they argue that it is possible and necessary to fix the current market flaw that has so far ignored atmospheric scarcity rent.

However, it is in theory not an impossible problem to fix. Like any finite resource, all that needs to be done is determine who owns the atmosphere and charge non-owners for using it. Like Ms. Olstrom, Barnes and Breslow also believe that the atmosphere should belong to citizens in trust. They don’t trust governments as they have a history of favouring the elite and selling natural resources below market value. Unlike traditional scenarios like land grants in exchange for infrastructure, the private sector could not give much to the public in return for control of the atmosphere. They argue for the creation of a Sky Trust financed by emissions permits auctioned to fossil fuel companies for whatever the market could bear. The trust would pay equal dividends to all citizens. To address equity issues they propose that 25% of the revenue from permits be diverted to a transition fund for communities worst affected by climate change and to help those adversely affected by the shift to a low carbon economy.

The Sky Trust is not really a far-fetched idea. It is inspired by the Alaskan model where natural resources of the state belong to its people. The state constitution was amended in 1976 to transfer 25% from oil revenues to a Permanent Fund. Half of this is used to finance schools, highways and public projects while the rest is paid in equal dividends to all Alaskans (this dividend amounted to $1770 in 1999). Whatever the mechanism, consumers must pay for what they use especially for a resource that is limited and whose overuse can have catastrophic consequences. This would help avert Hardin’s ecological tragedy of the commons and also the economic tragedy of loss of commons to commoners.

Pond scum anyone?

October 28, 2009

The BP Energy Review 2008 says that we have enough oil to last us 42 years (at 40% of our total energy mix). Discovery of new oil fields was highest between 1960-70 and has fallen ever since. However, OPEC countries continue to show constant instead of declining oil reserves since the 1980s as during this period country production quotas were introduced. These quotas were based on the ‘proven’ oil reserves  and therefore the more oil reserves OPEC show, the more they are allowed to sell. The fact that many OPEC members do not reveal their reserve engineering field data (instead they provide unaudited claims for their oil reserves) also does not inspire confidence.

You would think that the Big Oil companies would be worried about depleting oil reserves. Not really. Sure, they will be less to sell but it will sell at exorbitant prices. Hence, the scheming oil barons stand to make as much or more money than they do now. Meanwhile, they are happy to promote some obscure ‘revolutionary’ technology to create the illusion that they are dead keen to walk away from dirty oil. For example, Exxon Mobil is trying to convince us that algae (a.k.a pond scum) is the next miracle fuel and that their scientists are on the verge of a breakthrough. The only thing that they are on the verge of is pulling off a massive con game. The truth is Big Oil will not invest in proven renewable technologies like wind and solar. They would prefer we remain slaves to oil as long as possible to ensure they get the big profits at the bottom of the oil barrell. Meanwhile, governments will continue to subsidise oil, protect pipelines, invade hostile oil countries, destroy wilderness and hasten climate change to eventually benefit the real pond scum.

Lip Service

September 24, 2009

The sun has set on the 2009 Summit on Climate Change at the U.N HQ in New York. Despite the media getting its knickers in a twist, the summit faithfully followed the ‘set menu’ pattern of previous climate summits. Kids pleading to ‘save the planet’, green celebrities stating ‘time is running out’  and world leaders reading out ‘what needs to be done’ speeches. Oh yes, the emissions generated by flying everyone to the summit were offset by funding a tidy little project in poverty land. The awards for the outstanding performers of the Summit go to…

1. The most confusing statement: Barack Obama, President of the United States

“Unease is no excuse for inaction. And we must not allow the perfect to become the enemy of progress”

2. The most feel-good but highly unlikey statement: Hu Jintao, President of China

“China stands ready to join hands with all countries to build an even better future for the generations to come”

3. The most honest: Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt

“We are only 76 days from the Copenhagen meeting- but the negotations are going far too slow and they are still lacking real progress. We are close to a deadlock.”

4. The most funny without intending to be: French President, Nicolas Sarkozy

“Considering how complex this negotiation is, a new summit before Copenhagen is needed”

5. The most heart-breaking: President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives

“We at the Maldives desperately want to believe that one day our words will have an effect, and so we continue to shout them even though, deep down, we know that you are not really listening”

Dirty debt

September 9, 2009

With the climate change summit not far away in December in Copenhagen there is a perceptible buzz about possible outcomes and consequences. While few countries are keen to accept tough emission targets, nobody wants to be labelled as the spoilsport who sabotaged the ‘deal that could save the planet’. However, there are disturbing signs of ‘scapegoat hunting’ and ‘excuse exploration’ even before delegates have booked their flight tickets for the summit. One such example is placing all the onus on developing countries as deal makers or breakers. Media and think tanks in developed countries (that are responsible for the great majority of past as well as current CO2 emissions) are increasingly trying to shine the spotlight on developing countries to divert attention from their own unwillingness to adopt tough emission cuts or clear mid-term targets. As a result, even developing countries that have shown an interest in embracing a low carbon development strategy are feeling like the schoolkid who is being bullied for his lunch money.

The situation with developing countries is this; They will not accept binding emission reductions until the carbon inequity issues are addressed first. Developed countries have to pay developing countries for;

1. Reducing their legitmate share of the historically available carbon space from 1800 to present day.

2. Currently consuming more than their fair share of the carbon space.

3. The consequences of extreme weather events like floods and droughts that can be scientifically attributed to human-induced climate change.

4. Climate change adaptation infrastructure like flood defenses, relocation of displaced people, crop technology, etc.

Not to mention the tranfer of technology for renewable power generation that had been promised but nor delivered since the Kyoto protocol.

Martin Khor of the South Centre estimates that the total bill will amount to $ 23 trillion. This may seem like a fantasy number but let us not forget that bailout package for failed banks financed by the U.S Governments alone is expected to add up to $ 23.7 trillion by this year. Even if we take into account that climate change was acknowledged formally only in 1992 and write off the historical carbon debt (1800-1992), we are still left with a bill of $ 3.9 trillion according to Fraser Durham of Carbon Sense. He also states that this amount is roughly equal to the monetary debt of all developing countries. And this just begins to takes care of the carbon equity issue. It does not however magically make the CO2 emissions from developed countries disappear (only realistic emission reduction targets, regular verification and strict penalties can do that). What it does is make the climate change negotiations a more level playing field.

Who watches the watchdogs?

August 30, 2009

Over the past 50 years or so NGOs have carved a unique niche for themselves in contemporary society. A professional bunch of individuals with impressive degrees were better able to articulate the widespread anger, frustration and outrage over the destruction of the environment than grumpy old men or rebellious teenagers. These NGO chaps could sweet talk the media as well as any industry or government P.R machinery. In addition, their ridiculously low salaries meant that they managed to look like Mother Teresa in front of bespoke suit-wearing hired guns.

As champions of civil society causes, NGOs won a lot of credibility and trust that would give them their legitimacy for existence. This legitmacy along with their expertise and grassroots support, positioned NGOs to challenge the role of Governments as sole guardians/caretakers of society. Simultaneously, Governments realised that NGOs could deliver public services to their citizens in a more efficient manner than they could ever hope to themselves. Plus if things went wrong, Governments could still emerge smelling of roses for having attempted the noble step of  decentralised decision-making. A truck load of public services began to be outsourced to NGOs who were suddenly handling multi-million dollar contracts from bilateral and multi-lateral agencies. NGOs in effect, became smaller versions of Government departments entrusted  to develop management plans, work with communities, build capacity of frontline staff and ensure Governments meet national and internation environment obligations. Former public debaters, righteous activists and passionate scientists had to transform themselves into project managers, network coordinators and conservation communications professionals.

In their haste to gain legitimacy in the eyes of funding agencies and Governments, their legitimacy in the eyes of civil society began to take a beating. Questions were raised about credibility, accountability and transparency as Governments, Industry and multi-lateral funding agencies replaced membership and foundations as major funding sources. Eyebrows were raised as many conservation NGOs reported annual turnovers resembling medium sized corporations. Questions were also raised about the bigger NGOs using their newly acquired financial clout to bully small local NGOs and local communities into being force-fed donor-friendly, global conservation strategies. The failiure of these big NGOs to stand up to companies that were destroying the environment and to support the struggle of indigenous peoples also exacerbated the air of mistrust.

The answer to regaining lost legitimacy is not simple. Possibly the worst thing would be to enforce the sort of accountability structures on NGOs that companies or govenments are bound by. NGOs occupy a different niche and hence must answer to a different accountability regime. Each NGO must review its ‘reason for existence’ and develop an accountability system based on where their legitimacy springs from. A combination of external, peer and self review is vital to reform the way NGOs operate and understand the impact they have in the areas they work in. Bodies like the IUCN that influence the direction of  the conservation movement must also facilitate reform of the conservation NGO sector as both are inseparable. Certification, peer review, operating standards, best practices, monitoring & evaluation are means to this end. NGOs are by design not answerable to voters or shareholders. Their legitimacy springs from the support of the civil society and they will only command the respect of Governments and funders on this basis.