Ecological Experts and the Conservation Policy of International Organisations

Schleper, S. MPhil

Ecological Experts and the Conservation Policy of International Organisations, about 1960 – 1980


Prof.  Ernst Homburg and Dr  Rafaël de Bont


The PhD project is part of the NWO funded research project “Nature’s Diplomats”, which examines the role ecological experts have played in international organisations for nature protection from the 1930s to today. The project has two major research objectives: It analyses the relation between (neutral) scientific expertise and advocacy with regards to nature conservancy amongst experts of ecology. Moreover, it focuses on the interrelation between local ecological knowledge production and experts’ application of this knowledge in international conservation enterprises and policies.

The timespan covered by my project was marked by the politics of post-war international organisations like the UN, the dismantlement of pre-war colonies in Africa and Asia, and the developments of the Cold War. It was in this context that ecologists strove for a stronger scientific recognition, while nature preservation was increasingly put on an international agenda. By the 1950s first international nature conservancy organisations (like the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, founded in 1949) had become established. In the following two decades, environmental issues increasingly became part of world politics, being discussed at an increasing number of international congresses, conferences and meetings.

At the same time, nature preservation received increased media attention, while environmental activism burgeoned. Further crucial events of the period were the foundation of the World Wildlife Fund in 1961, the adoption of the International Biological Programme between 1964 and 1974, and the landmark United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972 and its aftermaths. My project particularly looks at changes in forms of ecology experts’ conception and advocacy during these years of professionalisation and international institutionalisation of nature conservation.

Ecological Experts and the Conservation Policy of International Organisations