Biodiversity and finance: building on common ground with customary rights-holders. Briefing paper. Forest Peoples Programme.

Helen Newing
1 minute read


Helen Newing | Research Fellow
My main research interests are in three broad areas: the relationship between conservation and human rights, voluntary standards for tropical commodity production, and applied interdisciplinary methodologies and approaches in conservation research. My field research has been in tropical forests, mainly in Amazonian Peru and in Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. I am particularly passionate about moving towards rights-based approaches to conservation, and about advancing social science expertise amongst conservationists.
I have a mixed disciplinary background, with a BSc in zoology and psychology from the University of Reading and a PhD in antelope ecology from the University of Stirling. After my PhD I worked for five years in the NGO sector, including with WWF (on project implementation) and Oxfam (on global environmental policy) and then joined the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent as a lecturer in conservation social science. I stayed there for 16 years. During that time my research was principally on collaborative wildlife management, the role of traditional ecological knowledge, and methods and research paradigms in the emerging discipline of conservation social science. I also introduced and directed an interdisciplinary Masters programme in conservation and rural development. Based on many years of teaching methods in mixed postgraduate classes the brought together students from conservation and from anthropology, I published a textbook on conservation social science methods and approaches, which remains the standard text in this field.
After leaving Kent I returned to the NGO sector, working as a freelance consultant. I joined ICCS in 2018 and since then I have focused on two areas: conservation and human rights, and voluntary standards for socially responsible production of tropical agricultural commodities (especially palm oil). I also remain passionate about building social science skills in the conservation sector, especially on qualitative and participatory methods and approaches.