"Yes We Can" Create Change for Sustainability Says CEC Chair

CEC Chair Keith Wheeler reflects on two events that inspire action for change: the US election and the IUCN World Conservation Congress.  His essay includes a link to the November CEC e-newsletter, which features reports on six Aliances Workshops and the CEC Members Meeting.

Keith Wheeler, CEC Chair

Yes We Can. These words from Barack Obama capture the excitement I feel about two major recent events in my life: the U.S. election and the IUCN World Conservation Congress. As an American, this change in government makes me feel that HOPE IS ALIVE. And, as many of you know, creating a Paradigm of Hope is the underpinning of my view of sustainability, because it is only with Hope that we can create the change that the world needs.

In the Chicago speech that inspired me, Barack Obama said it is our moment, it is our time. He spoke about hope, opportunity, prosperity and dreams. He called for action, saying, “And where we are met with cynicism and doubt and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can.”

“Yes We Can” is a message I want to share with the global conservation community. IUCN can, if we all roll up our sleeves, share a common vision and work together as one. IUCN can, when it works as One Programme, bringing to bear scientific knowledge and governmental will for sustainable solutions for people and nature. I know the work that I share with each of you in the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) can be a strong source of the power that will change the world. My role as CEC Chair in the next four years will be to empower members to act along convergent paths towards IUCN and global sustainability goals.

For this Commission, Congress was a great success, both in terms of depth and breadth of activity that CEC contributed. The success is shared by CEC and the IUCN Learning and Leadership Unit (LLU), which supports the Commission.

  • Six Aliances workshops catalyzed participants to become interested in joining CEC, and inspired members to become even more engaged; 
  • Dozens of Learning Opportunities carried out with CEC participation were a tremendous success; 
  • Our CEC Members Meeting was an inspiring event that brought CEC members back together and set the stage for Congress. I would like to thank CEC member Teresa Franquesa for organizing our event in the wonderful Sala de Crónicas at the historic Ayuntament de Barcelona. 
  • The CEC booth (see photo) provided a place of focus, where CEC members and others could learn more about the Commission. To the diverse visitors to the booth, we handed out small buttons that identified the language(s) they spoke, encouraging communication.
  • We took to heart the idea of a paperless Congress and distributed our key documents on a USB flash drive housed in a bamboo case.

The catalytic activities offered by our six Aliances workshops and numerous other activities with CEC-member involvement introduced our Commission to a wider audience. These activities will help shape and reposition IUCN in many different programme areas as it moves into the next intersessional period. In Barcelona, we talked about how climate change is not only happening, it is happening faster than expected just a few years ago. We talked about protected areas, loss of biodiversity, energy, development, security, markets, trade and culture. There were calls for regulation of biofuels, carefully thought out engagement with the private sector, governance on the high seas, consideration of human rights in all conservation measures, and goals to limit CO2 emissions. Accelerated learning and strategic communication are essential parts of the mix that will make change happen in a world that desperately needs more sustainable solutions for people and nature.

What’s next for CEC? People walked away from Congress with a real sense of commitment and focus. We are restructuring and reorganizing CEC to better adapt to the overall IUCN institutional refocusing, so that we are able to deliver effectively on the overall promise of the IUCN One Programme approach.  We are identifying Steering Committee members, national focal points, and specialty group chairs. We are starting a list of content specializations around which members can organize, linked functionally to areas of the IUCN Programme. There is renewed effort to expand CEC membership and to ask for members to contribute actively.

Many of the potential activities listed in the CEC Strategic Plan could become cross-cutting activities in the next four years. Action is already underway as a result of the workshop on Environment and Security, with a series of dialogues leading up to the 2009 climate change conference under discussion. The next generation focus on CEPA, Communication, Education and Public Awareness, is evolving following a session with representatives from the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC). Also, in the second week of Congress, a number of motions were approved that will impact CEC, notably in the areas of furthering CEPA, strengthening links within IUCN, advancing knowledge management, cross-Commission collaboration, developing the World Conservation Learning Network, connecting children and nature, and building partnerships with youth.

What’s next for CEC? We need to move from our POWERING CHANGE slogan to DOING THE WORK of powering change. It is our time, too. Let’s work together to power the change necessary to realize the promise of sustainability.

In the next few weeks you will hear more from me and the entire team about CEC creating an expanded tent for all kinds experts on education, communication, knowledge management, youth engagement, change management, multi-media, systems thinking, scenario planning, story telling, web 2.0 networking and more. We need to come together and create the synergies and ties to be a truly catalyzing force for change. We need to dare to think BIG and BOLD about the work that we do and the power of our reach.  As we begin to fit the mosaic pieces of CEC together to implement our vision of sustainability—my Paradigm of Hope—we need your commitment and leadership.

Keith Wheeler, CEC Chair

Go to CEC e-newsletter "Barcelona Report" >>

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