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Cities high on the agenda at major conservation gathering

September 15, 2012

IUCN World Conservation Congress, 6-15 September, Jeju Island, Republic of Korea

From 6-15 September, over 10,000 delegates from 153 countries participated in the World Conservation Congress (WCC) on Jeju Island, Republic of Korea. The quadrennial Congress constitutes the premier gathering of organizations and experts affiliated to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s oldest and largest environmental organization. IUCN comprises more than 1200 government and NGO members, including ICLEI, and almost 11000 volunteer experts.

Throughout hundreds of events, with the overarching slogan, Nature+, participants explored and promoted nature-based solutions to the world’s most pressing economic and social challenges, affording special attention to the themes, governance, development, food, and climate.

Congress highlights included updates on IUCN’s Red List of Ecosystems and Green List of Protected Areas, the launch of a publication documenting the world’s 100 most endangered species, the Protected Planet Report, the unveiling of a new EU fund of 20 million Euros earmarked for protected areas management, and the announcement by several large corporations of innovative initiatives and partnerships for nature conservation.

ICLEI partnered in several workshops, including WCC Session 790, Urban Dimensions of Nature Conservation and WCC Session 141, Collaborating with Local and Sub-national Authorities to achieve the Aichi Targets. The former examined the characteristics of urban protected areas and the unconventional conservation strategies they necessitate. The latter explored opportunities for sub-national authorities to become more actively engaged in nature conservation.


IUCN Members elected Mr. Zhang Xinsheng of China as their new President. In a tight contest, Mr Zhang saw off competition from Member of the European Parliament, Anders Wijkman and Hungarian Special Envoy, Vilmos Kiszel.

Mr. Zhang is Co-founder and Executive Chairman of Eco-Forum Global, an organization aiming to foster consensus and collaboration among a wide spectrum of stakeholders with a view to catalyzing progress in achieving sustainable development. ICLEI has a Memorandum of Understanding with Eco-Forum Global.

Additionally, Mr Zhang is President of the China Education Association for International Exchange, Vice President of the International University Sports Federation, board member of the International Institute for Education Planning, UNESCO, and Member of the 11th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

ICLEI, a voting Member of IUCN, would like extend its heartiest congratulations Mr Zhang. With great ambition, a glittering track record, and an expansive network, the experienced statesman, Mr Zhang, is extremely well-placed to guide IUCN and indeed the wider conservation movement forward.

During the same evening, IUCN Members also elected a new Council (principal governing body of IUCN) comprising a Treasurer, Chairs of the six IUCN Commissions and Regional Councilors.


Motions and Statutory Reforms

In the IUCN Members’ Assembly, a unique global environmental parliament, NGOs and governments debated and voted on over 180 motions. Motions addressing Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks, rare dolphin species, illegal bear farms, offsore drilling in South America, payment for ecosystem services, elephant and rhino poaching, mercury contamination, law enforcement, and recreational diving were adopted, as were two important motions relating to local governments:

  •  Motion 006 on Cooperation with local and regional government authorities in the implementation of the IUCN Programme 2013–2016; and
  •  Motion 058 on Redesigning future cities and related urban zones with protected areas: cities, return to nature.

ICLEI supported these motions as important steps towards unlocking the potential of sub-national governments to take action for biodiversity.

However, ICLEI opposed a proposal to amend the IUCN Statutes which would have incorporated local and regional governmental authorities into the structure of the Union.

Although ICLEI advocates for greater recognition and support to be afforded to local governments, the concerned proposal failed to recognize the complexity, diversity and importance of sub-national authorities, particularly with respect to the voting system.

The Statutory Reform would have provided aggregates of sub-national government members with only one collective vote per country. Aside from implying an inferior type of membership to States and NGOs, this system would have undermined the independence of sub-national voices and run the risk of void votes where voting consensus could not be reached, thereby weakening the democratic integrity of the Union. The proposal was eventually rejected by IUCN Members.

ICLEI has a longstanding partnership with IUCN, not least through the Local Action for Biodiversity (LAB) Pioneer Project. In light of the two successful aforementioned motions (M006 and M058), it is with heightened ambition that ICLEI looks forward to collaborating with the various bodies of IUCN to support sub-national governments in implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity with a view to meeting the Aichi Targets.



For further information on the WCC, please visit: www.iucn.org/congress 

Congress factsheets: http://www.iucnworldconservationcongress.org/news___press/press/fact_sheet/ 

Image gallery:http://www.flickr.com/photos/iucnweb/sets/72157627514768600/show/