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How can we use behavioural insights to develop effective IWT demand reduction initiatives?

21 March 2018

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Reported by Kasia Brzezinska, CSaP Policy Intern (Jan - April 2018)
CSaP hosted a 2-day policy workshop in collaboration with the FCO and TRAFFIC, bringing together a range of experts from government, academia and other key stakeholders to explore how behavioural insights research can help reduce demand for products of illegal wildlife trade.

Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) is a major global concern estimated to be worth up to £17 billion per year. The UK is both an important transit and destination country for this type of trade which the government has made a clear commitment to support efforts to tackle. In April 2018, the UK introduced a ban on ivory sales that is set to be one of the toughest in the world.

In October 2018, the UK will host a major international conference in London on IWT. Reducing demand for IWT products will be a key theme of the conference and is also a growing area of interest for conservationists. Behavioural change and social marketing theories have been used effectively in a variety of demand reduction campaigns in the UK and worldwide in areas ranging from conservation to health and wellbeing.

Last month, in preparation for the conference, CSaP collaborated with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and TRAFFIC to explore opportunities and challenges of delivering campaigns to reduce demand for IWT products. Participants at the workshop shared ideas and considered how we might apply some of these frameworks to IWT. For example, there was considerable discussion about the importance [and difficulties] of targeting effective messages at particular segments of IWT consumers.

Delegates also considered the effectiveness of using role models and others with high ‘connectedness’ in social networks – such as the UK’s Royal Family – in demand reduction initiatives.

It was clear from the presentations and discussion at the workshop that this is a crucial time for demand reduction in IWT. Interest in the area is growing rapidly as illustrated by demand reductions increasing profile in international agreements. Alongside this there is a rapidly growing body of evaluation work examining IWT demand reduction initiatives; however, much of this is methodologically weak. The challenge is to build on the policy momentum while developing the learning capacity of the sector to improve and demonstrate the effectiveness of interventions.