Today we celebrated the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Environment of Korea, Jeju Self-Governing Province and IUCN for the design, development and convening of the 2012 World Conservation Congress, writes Enrique Lahmann, Director of IUCN's Constituency Support Group.
As Director of the Constituency Support Group and Congress manager, it has been not only rewarding to have the MoU signed two years ahead of the Congress, but it is of special significance to witness the commitment and enthusiasm from all segments of the Korean Society. Russ Mittermeier, IUCN Vice President reminded all present in the ceremony that more than 1.3 million citizens of Korea signed a pledge to support the Congress. No question there won´t be a shortage of volunteers!
Aside from the speeches from the Minister, the Governor and IUCN´s Director General, I was truly fascinated by the presentation made by Jeff McNeely, IUCN Senior Science Advisor. Jeff, in his usual superb presentation style, was able to give us a brief overview of almost 1000 resolutions and recommendations from the past 19 IUCN General Assemblies and four World Conservation Congresses.
He focussed on five major areas:
Setting the global conservation agenda, such as the elaboration of the World Conservation Strategy that gave strong legitimacy to linking conservation with development, and was the first document to put the phrase “sustainable development” into the international vocabulary; Supporting the development of international conservation law: numerous Multilateral Environmental Agreements such as the World Heritage Convention, CITES, Ramsar and, of course, the Convention on Biological Diversity, received substantial intellectual contributions from IUCN Members and Commission members; Identifying emerging issues in conservation: the IUCN World Conservation Congresses provide an excellent opportunity to identify emerging issues that may not have yet appeared on the global conservation agenda (to name just a few: several decades before climate change was generally recognized as a major issue, IUCN Members in 1960 already called global attention on its impacts and in 1975 IUCN introduced the concept of “Ecosystem management”); Mobilizing specific actions on species and protected areas: numerous IUCN resolutions address individual species needing conservation action, from charismatic species to the lesser-known. IUCN resolutions have been instrumental in calling the world’s attention to the amphibian crisis and how to address it, making this a top global conservation priority; Incorporating people into conservation: IUCN has long been a champion for the concept of people as part of nature. Through the effort of several decades, IUCN has made a major contribution to ensuring that the world’s cultural diversity is included as part of the mainstream of conservation concerns.
I have been working for IUCN for 22 years - first as Coordinator of the Wetlands Conservation Programme for Central America, then as Regional Director for Mesoamerica. In 2008 I had the opportunity to contribute as Manager of the World Conservation Congress held in Barcelona and now as Director of the Constituency Support Group, I am also closely involved in the organization of the 2012 Congress to be held in Jeju. Jeff´s presentation has made me not only proud to be part of IUCN, but also has reaffirmed my personal commitment to contribute making the 2012 World Conservation Congress a milestone and a reference for conservation and human well-being.