Report on the IUCN’s World Conservation Congress 2016, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1-10 September 2016
What are the IUCN and WCC?
Saturday, September 10th saw the end of the biggest conservation event ever —IUCN’s World Conservation Congress.
The IUCN has almost 1,300 government and NGO Members and more than 15,000 volunteer experts in 185 countries. It supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. In some ways, it is like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , only for biodiversity and sustainable development issues.
The first part of the Congress is like the Olympics—people came together to hob nob, do some serious work, and learn more about their fields. The IUCN or International Union for the Conservation of Nature is the organizing committee — like the Olympics Committee.
The second part, is called the members assembly. This is civil society in action– “Peace at Work”—where members exercise their rights and influence the conservation agenda around the globe. Eighty five motions were debated online for the first time, and all were approved to be voted on the floor of the assembly. Fourteen were put forward for discussion and debate at the Assembly.
Through these motions, IUCN sets the conservation agenda for the globe.
The Red List and Species Conservation
The IUCN is most known for its Red List. The Red list tells us how endangered a species is, how vulnerable. IUCN likes to say the Red list is a barometer of life, a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. Since 1964 it has been cataloging the conservation status of everything that lives—fungi, plants, animals.
Main outcomes of the World Conservation Congress 2016:
The Red list was updated: The IUCN Red List now includes ~83K species of which ~24K are threatened with extinction. Some highlights were:
-For Hawaii, 400+ native species were assessed for the Red List
-Four of six great apes are faced with extinction (critically endangered)
-The Giant Panda was downlisted, but is still vulnerable
-New guidelines for climate change and vulnerability were crafted
-Through motions put forward on the Congress floor, the most hotly debated one was #007 to close domestic markets for elephant ivory. It passed, but with resistance from southern African countries.
-A major goal announced at the Congress is to list 160,000 threatened species within another four years, protecting vital information for endangered species conservation.
IUCN and Habitat Conservation
IUCN is not all about species. It is also about habitat conservation:
-The Congress started with the announcement of expansion of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (it was established by George W. Bush in 2006)
– Motion 049 to Advance conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction was passed,
-as was Motion 053 to increase marine protected area coverage (to 30%) for effective marine biodiversity conservation
When I asked EO Wilson what IUCN could do to be most effective, his response was: Habitat conservation. We need to designate more protected areas because we have so few left.
IUCN and other global agreements:
The Congress highlighted connections among other global agreements:
-Convention on Biological Diversity of course, but also
-the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and
-the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and
– The Ramsar Convention on wetlands conservation
Don’t forget–this is the organization that helped coin the term sustainable development back in 1980.
The Hawaii Commitments for WCC 2016
The Hawaii commitments were put together by input from congress participants. The main outcome was: nature based solutions to global problems of climate change, food security, ocean health, wildlife trafficking. The commitments also emphasize engaging with the private sector.
Where to find more information on the Congress and the IUCN?
The IUCN Congress portal is the best place to look.
My daily TV updates and a recap of the Congress are available here:
Twitter streams with these hashtags will allow you to follow what went on at the IUCNCongress 2016: #IUCNCongress #ELP_IUCN and #IUCN_Law.