Planet at the crossroads IUCN Conservation Congress

Executive Director, Scott Buchanan and Manager Aboriginal Partnerships, Rebecca Lagerroth attended the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Conservation Congress held in Hawai’i this year. Held every four years all members of the IUCN meet to set direction for how IUCN can influence policy on the international theatre.

The Congress has two components, the forum which is an opportunity for members to share their learnings and to work through issues with a broad audience. It is also a good opportunity to engage the wider community. Attendees include heads of state, other political representatives, industry representatives, Indigenous organisations, and students.

The second component of the Congress is the Assembly, where the members get to vote on motions that will influence policy direction for the next four years. IUCN Members approved a new programme for IUCN for the next four years and elected new IUCN leadership.

The theme of the congress was Planet at the crossroads—expressing that the decisions we make now are going to be with us forever.

“Some of the world’s greatest minds and most dedicated professionals met here at the IUCN Congress to decide on the most urgent action needed to ensure the long-term survival of life on Earth and our planet’s ability to sustain us,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General.

“This IUCN Congress has come at a pivotal time in our planet’s history as we find ourselves at a crossroad, facing challenges of unprecedented magnitude”, Ms Anderson added.

The Authority’s executive director, Scott Buchanan, noted that though the theme of the Congress made it clear that the planet is in a precarious position, there was optimism that with a coordinated effort the human population can work together, and with nature, to reach a sustainable future.

“However, to be successful, it will require commitment from everyone, and I was pleased to see commitment from the conservation community to engage broadly with industry, government and the broader community”, Mr Buchanan said.

“The importance of engaging the youth was a key theme and the IUCN has identified that it needs to provide greater recognition and commitment to Indigenous involvement in the conservation movement”, Mr Buchanan added.

The IUCN Members’ Assembly voted to create a new category of membership for Indigenous peoples’ organisations. The IUCN also passed a resolution declaring that all protected areas and the sacred lands of Indigenous peoples should be 'No-Go Areas' for destructive industrial activities like mining, dam-building and logging.

Other key decisions included closure of domestic markets for elephant ivory, the urgency of protecting the high seas, the need to protect primary forests and an official IUCN policy on biodiversity offsets.

The IUCN Congress closed with the presentation of the Hawai'i Commitments. This document, titled “Navigating Island Earth”*, was shaped by debates and deliberations over 10 days, and was opened for comment to some 10,000 participants from 192 countries.

It was pleasing, from the Authority's perspective, that a lot of the initiatives raised at the Congress reflect our Board's priorities for the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. This includes greater focus on engaging the broader community, supporting Indigenous communities to have more say in land management, and investigating options to improve mitigation and adaptation to the effects of climate change. 

*You can find Navigating Island Earth here

Planet at the crossroads IUCN Conservation Congress

Published: 23rd Sep 2016

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