This week we feature an article from our partner at South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) Romy Chevallier, on the IUCN World Conservation Congress which took place earlier this month.
The World Conservation Congress (WCC), one of the world’s largest environmental gatherings, convened under the auspices of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Hawai’i from 1–10 September 2016. The Congress included the IUCN’s 1300 member organisations from across 161 countries, all meeting to develop the conservation and governance responses necessary to tackle the drivers of biodiversity loss. Participants at the WCC represented governments, the private sector, society and youth delegations, all participating in the numerous plenary discussions and seminars.
Convening under the theme ‘Planet at the Crossroads’, the 2016 WCC was a reflection on where humanity finds itself in terms of fast-approaching planetary boundaries. The concept of planetary boundaries challenges the belief that resources are limitless or infinitely substitutable. It questions the business-as-usual approach to economic growth, as well as global development trajectories based on high rates of ecosystem damage and fossil fuel consumption. The framework lays the groundwork for a shifting approach to the governance and management of natural resources.
2015 was a defining year for international negotiations dealing with sustainable development, and environmental and planetary boundaries. The world witnessed a series of important global events and related pledges to conserve and restore the global commons, including the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015–2030); the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development; the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (and its associated Sustainable Development Goals); and the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change. All of these processes seek to achieve similar goals, namely, to reframe global development aspirations for the next 15 years and beyond; and to ensure that ecosystem integrity is upheld, that equity and social justice are achieved and that planetary boundaries are taken into account. The IUCN WCC marked a commitment to advance the ambitions and targets of these global policy frameworks for the environment.
The IUCN Programme 2017–2020, approved at the WCC in September 2016, is explicitly framed as a vehicle for delivering on the relevant dimensions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and to support the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011–2020) and its 20 associated Aichi biodiversity targets. The IUCN Programme also seeks to support countries in the implementation of their nationally determined climate change commitments.
Today the IUCN resolutions process is an important quasi intergovernmental platform where a variety of stakeholders, such as NGOs, can submit and vote on resolutions. These unique characteristics appear to serve a niche role in global environmental governance. Members can use the motions process to bring governments together on intractable or controversial decisions, and individual members can elevate specific issues to an international level. IUCN members avoted on 100 different motions – indicative of current trends and priorities for global conservation, sustainability and the environment going forward. The key international motions identified for debate at the WCC dealt with mining in protected areas, nat
ural capital valuation, biodiversity offsets, ocean governance, oil palm expansion and ecotourism. Other issues were also fiercely debated such as terminating the hunting of captive-bred lions and captive breeding for commercial, non-conservation purposes; and the closure of domestic markets for ivory trade were also voted on.
Despite the advantages of such a system the approaches to implementation are varied and many lack co-ordination and a sense of ownership. There are no formal mechanisms
for ensuring compliance or for putting motions into practice. As such, opportunities to advance conservation through collaboration between constituents of the Union are frequently missed. Action plans or strategic approaches could be put in place to improve the implementation of motions, or to explain how policy positions should be put into practice. It is therefore up to Members of the IUCN to elaborate on the agreed statements of purpose (motions), mobilise support from state entities, the private sector and civil society, and ensure that commitments are monitored to ensure tangible outcomes. Through its focus on diverse partnerships (including a strong body of scientific experts) and building capacity across key areas of work, the IUCN can help to extend international co-operation and assess opportunities for common global development and climate agendas, as well as to convert the unprecedented commitments of 2015 into transformative and meaningful action going forward.
For the link to Romy Chevallier’s full article (preceding the WCC), please visit the SAIIA website: