Annual Review 2021

Putting nature at the heart of decision-making

Pulsar Imagens, Adobe Stock


  • Inger Andersen

    Inger Andersen

    UN Environment Programme

    UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director

    The UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre is an important part of the UNEP family and has a unique role in working with partners across the world to deliver impact towards a nature-positive future. The Centre’s work at the interface of science, policy and practice supports governments, the private sector and others in taking on board biodiversity information in better decision-making for people and nature.

    As we move towards adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, the Centre’s support for its implementation and enhanced transparency, whether through helping governments to strengthen national monitoring systems or supporting business to understand their impacts and dependencies on nature, will be more important than ever.

  • Robin Bidwell

    Robin Bidwell


    Chair of Trustees

    In spite of the difficulties arising from the Covid pandemic, UNEP – WCMC has had a really good year. Throughout this period, the Centre’s staff were able to deliver on a wide range of work that was essential for the delivery of the biodiversity agenda. They were also able to provide continuing support for our partners (including government and international agencies) around the world.

    It is a strength of the collaboration between WCMC and UNEP that underpins all the centres activities. Our work benefits considerably from our presence around the world – with WCMC staff in Asia, mainland Europe and Latin America located in UNEP offices or working in close collaboration. The Board would like to offer their sincere thanks to the staff, UNEP colleagues and partners across the globe – all of whom have contributed to a very successful year.

  • Neville Ash

    Neville Ash



    Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affecting progress in international negotiations during the previous year, UNEP-WCMC's work to support the international agenda on biodiversity, to further scientific understanding, and to guide national and private sector actions to assess, monitor and manage biodiversity continued apace. This Annual Review presents some of the highlights from our work last year, and many further details of our impacts can be found on our website.

    Our impacts in the year demonstrate a further growth of our work at the Centre to integrate the multiple dependencies between nature, climate and sustainable development. We have strengthened outreach and engagement with public, business and finance partners to help guide system transformation, and will continue to strengthen relationships with partners across all sectors to scale up our impact through ensuring that policies and action for nature are informed by the latest data, knowledge and insight.

  • Jonny Hughes

    Jonny Hughes


    Chief Executive Officer

    In the last year the Centre strengthened its relationships with philanthropic funders, enabling a growth and diversification of income, and increasing strategic investment into projects and programmes. During the year, the Centre worked with 232 partners on 250 projects, spanning 81 countries and territories, and the staff numbers working at the Centre increased by more than 20% to a team of almost 200 people across 35 nationalities.

    We have also taken steps to update our office environment and ensure that all staff receive support to work effectively through our hybrid working arrangements, and refined our staffing structures to ensure they are fit to deliver on the new UNEP-WCMC strategy.

UNEP-WCMC has a unique role in working with partners across the world to deliver impact towards a nature-positive future.
Inger Andersen, Executive Director, UNEP
It is a strength of the collaboration between WCMC and UNEP that underpins all the Centre’s activities.
Robin Bidwell, Chair of Trustees, WCMC
The Centre has strengthened its relationships with philanthropic funders, increasing strategic investment into projects and programmes.
Jonny Hughes, WCMC CEO
Our impacts demonstrate a further growth of our work to integrate the multiple dependencies between nature, climate and sustainable development.
Neville Ash, Director, UNEP-WCMC

We can make change

Our work

The year was another challenging one as governments, economies and communities continued to weather and recover from waves of COVID-19. However, nature remained high on the global agenda, with widespread international recognition of the need to conserve and restore ecosystems to support a healthy future for humanity and nature. Throughout the year, UNEP-WCMC continued to develop knowledge and capacity to tackle the global crisis facing nature and support the transition to a sustainable future for people and the planet.

Wednesday Tea at UNEP-WCMC Photo: UNEP-WCMC
A view from above of a tropical forest with a thin layer of clouds.
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We showcased international progress on protected areas

As work to forge new global goals and targets for nature continued, our flagship Protected Planet initiative issued the definitive progress report on previous international targets for protected area conservation.

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Two fishing boats on a river.
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We continued to inform new global ambitions for biodiversity

With agreement on the post-2020 global biodiversity framework further delayed during 2021, UNEP-WCMC continued to support the development of its goals,targets, and indicators.

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A field of wheat from the sky
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We continued to push for joined-up action on nature and climate

UNEP-WCMC continued to highlight the crucial connection between nature and climate change via vital new research and our involvement in the COP26 climate discussions.

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Earth from space. The United Kingdom and the North Sea. Credit: Anton Balazh, Adobe Stock
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We widened access to cutting-edge spatial data and insights on these latest commitments for nature

We launched a powerful tool giving decision makers access to more than 400 spatial data layers displaying biodiversity, climate and development metrics, and contributed our spatial mapping expertise in pioneering research on biodiversity and nature-based solutions.

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country flags floating in the wind
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We helped businesses understand and reduce their impact on nature

A new tool to help investors assess how their portfolios impact – and are dependent on – nature was launched, and we worked with partners to help businesses understand and use metrics for biodiversity.

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Cargo boat from above
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We helped guide state-level recognition for biodiversity

Through the National Ecosystem Assessment Initiative, we supported governments understand and act on the important relationships between nature, society and the economy.

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Cargo boat from above
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We accelerated the transition to a just and sustainable global trade system

Our GCRF TRADE Hub partnership continued research to ensure that trade in commodities and wild species becomes an engine for sustainable economic growth.

Read more

Icon 81

Countries and territories in which we’ve worked on projects in 2021
Infographic showing the countries UNEP-WCMC has worked with

The boundaries and names shown and the designations used on this map do not imply official endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

Dark blue represents countries and territories UNEP-WCMC has worked with in 2021.



Live projects


Funders and partners


Published papers

Icon 191

Number of staff at UNEP-WCMC

7 of whom started as interns



Paid interns





WCMC Financial overview

Total Income

2020: £15,281,399

2021: £16,421,000

2020 2021

Total Expenditure £15,161,603 £16,277,000
Net movement in funds £111,796 £144,000
Total assets less liabilities £4,040,883 £4,185,000
Blue Planet Studio - Adobe Stock

Looking ahead

2022 is busy with opportunities to respond to the growing political recognition of nature’s critical role in ensuring climate resilience and sustainable development. Not least, we will see the adoption of new global ambitions for nature, during the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal. UNEP-WCMC has worked hard over recent years to support development of this framework, and we look forward to supporting their implementation and ensuring transparency across countries and the international community. The focus now must be stepping up action – not just more commitments – for nature.

The Centre will continue to play a key role in helping governments monitor their commitments, better understand the need for joined-up action on nature and climate and maximise opportunities for integrated, national planning that embeds biodiversity across the whole of government.

In supporting the rollout of a shared strategy for mainstreaming biodiversity across the UN system, we will ensure action for nature is an integral as progress is made on sustainable development.

The past year has seen a sizable expansion of UNEP-WCMC’s internal capacity, as well as our outward-facing impact, reflecting the growing global demand for actionable insights on nature. Our growth comes at a time of strengthened organisational focus, with the launch of our new four-year strategy at the beginning of this year that clearly defines the innovative approaches and priority thematic impact areas in which we will focus and accelerate our work.

The Centre’s core technical expertise in spatial intelligence and modelling will continue to advance conservation science, policy and practice, developing scenarios and metrics to help plot pathways to a sustainable future. Engaging at the heart of various multilateral environmental agreements, our policy focus will support governments to plan and deliver, and strengthen considerations of gender and human rights across our work and partnerships. We will continue to produce cutting-edge digital tools to guide countries, businesses and civil society to make the right choices for nature, as well as progressing a growing UNEP-WCMC initiative to integrate myriad biodiversity data platforms.

Our new priority impact areas clearly define our commitment to helping humanity to protect and sustainably use nature. UNEP-WMC will continue to champion the expansion and effective use of protected areas via our flagship Protected Planet work, as well as supporting international efforts to increase ecological connectivity and ensure the sustainability of wildlife trade. We will continue to showcase the benefits of both ecosystem restoration and nature-based solutions and help all stakeholders to adopt and scale up actions in these areas. To help shape systemic transformations in society and the economy, UNEP-WCMC will work with governments and businesses to strengthen the use of tools and insights to expedite progress towards a nature-positive world.

Our work is driven by the global demand for solutions to combat the nature crisis, alongside the shared vision of a world living in harmony with nature. Through 2022 and beyond, we will continue to drive innovation and impact through collaboration, building even stronger partnerships with researchers, policy leaders and businesses around the world to realize lasting benefits for people and the planet.

UNEP-WCMC website
Toby Matthews, The Ocean Agency