IUCN's President Ashok Khosla reflects on the strain COP15 brought to the historical alliance between the UN and civil society and calls for a dignified collaboration.
This week at CoP 15 will long be remembered as the occasion when the heavy hand of the Big, Rich and Powerful seeking to continue its full spectrum domination of the global agenda met the booted, insensitive foot of the small, petty and arrogant guardians looking after the local facilities. At one stroke, this alliance was able to destroy the other, earlier alliance, so painstakingly built over four decades of growing trust and mutual respect between the UN and civil society. We now seem to be again where we started, back in the era before the first Environment Conference, held in 1972 in neighbouring Stockholm, where the Secretary General of the Conference, Maurice Strong pioneered and vigorously supported the active involvement of NGOs in global discussions. I feel glad and reassured that IUCN was among the participants at the current CoP that maintained its dignity and contributed so substantively and effectively to the movement forward on subjects such as Ecosystem-based Adaptation, REDD, Oceans, Involvement of Women, Indigenous and other marginalized groups and the role of civil society. Its key contribution may well be a growing recognition by political decision makers of the most pressing and urgent need to nurture both biological diversity and cultural diversity - and to remember that good science or economics alone are not enough: real leadership also needs a spirit of fairness and a generosity of heart.