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2016 World Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature – Summary

Sometimes many of us feel isolated and wonder if anything is going on that matches the challenge of the ecological crisis. We can take heart from the work of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and what has just occurred at their 2016 World Conservation Congress.

The Congress, titled “Planet at the Crossroads, was held September 1-10, 2016, and was attended by more than 10,000 participants, including heads of state, heads of administrative agencies, business representatives, scientists and thousands of nongovernmental organization (NGO) members. The Congress was hosted by the US government and was held in Honolulu, Hawaii.

For a copy of the 50-page summary report on the Congress prepared by IISD Reporting Services, click here.

This list of topics covered at the Congress provides an overview of current pressing ecological concerns:


  • A Changing Climate: Championing Nature­Based Solutions
  • Ecosystems and Society in a Changing World: Experience, Exchange, and Learning about Ecosystem­based Adaptation (EBA) and Ecosystem­based Disaster Risk Reduction (Eco­DRR) that Works!
  • Making EBA Effective: Evidence from the Field to Improve Policy and Practice
  • Nature Protects Us: Managing Ecosystems for Disaster Risk Reduction
  • Nature­Based Solutions for Sustainable Development
  • Indigenous Peoples’ Cultural Connections to Forests: How Indigenous Values and Health Indicators are Helping Manage Invasive Species
  • Forests: Today and Tomorrow
  • Strengthening the Role of IUCN in Saving the World’s Primary Forests: Implementation of Resolution 060
  • World Heritage Sites for Biodiversity Conservation and Eco­DRR
  • Securing Global Action on Peatlands


  • Islands at Risk: Meeting the Global Challenge of Invasive Alien Species
  • Elephant Conservation Initiatives
  • Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) Consultative Forum: Exchanging Experience on Application of the KBA Standard at the National Level
  • Key Biodiversity Areas Partnership
  • Western Gray Whale Advisory Panel (WGWAP)
  • Everybody’s Business: Ending Wildlife Trafficking
  • IUCN Red List (endangered species) Update
  • Invasive Species
  • The IUCN Green List – Raising the Standard for New Generation of Protected and Conserved Areas
  • Launch of the Protected Planet Report 2016
  • Red List of Ecosystems (RLE)
  • Supporting Protected Area Designation and Management through Identifying the Most Important Sites for Biodiversity: Launch of the Key Biodiversity Areas Standard and Programme
  • Heritage Heroes Awards


  • The High Seas: Conserving the Earth’s Final Frontier
  • Marine Seismic Surveys (and other sources of ocean noise from human activity, including ships and sonar): Management Guidelines
  • Actions for a Sustainable Ocean
  • Ocean Warming Report


  • Incorporating Climate Adaptation into Agency­Level Planning in the Pacific Islands Region
  • Launch: Climate Change Best Practice Guidelines
  • New Bonn Challenge Pledges ­ Passing the 100 Million Hectares Milestone
  • Building the Climate Resilience of US Landscapes ­ Highlights and Lessons Learned from the Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative
  • Gender and Climate Change
  • NOAA Science on Sphere


  • Private Finance for Public Good
  • The Road Ahead: Toyota & the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – Driving Private Sector Engagement for Biodiversity Conservation
  • Natural Capital Protocol and Sector Guides Hawaiʻi Launch
  • Managing Conflicts Between Businesses and Civil Society Over the Use of Natural Resources
  • Africa Transforming: How Will Chinese Investments Transform Africa’s
  • The Role of Business in Developing Resilient, Green and Inclusive Agricultural Growth Corridors in Africa
  • Natural Capital Approaches: Identifying Common Ground and Fracture Points
  • Biodiversity Offsets: What are They and What Do They Mean to Different Stakeholders?
  • Conservation Finance: Lessons from the Field


  • Listen to Young Voices: Engaging Pacific Youth as Future Environmental and Cultural Leaders through Creative Expression
  • Conservation 2.0: Empowering Next Generations
  • #NatureForAll Pavilion


  • The SDGs Journey: Achieving the Conservation Imperative for Sustainable Development
  • The Role of Nature Conservation in Achieving the SDGs
  • Global Commons – Solutions for a Crowded Planet
  • Leave No One Behind: Conservation, Rights and Sustainable Development
  • Gender­Responsive Financing for the Global Environment
  • Connections: Spirituality and Conservation
  • Water and Health and Security
  • National Geographic at World Conservation Congress

Here’s a description of the IUCN from the above-mentioned report:

The World Conservation Union was established in 1948 as an independent scientific organization devoted to “influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.” Today, IUCN has 1,394 members, including 90 states and 133 government agencies, 1,006 national NGOs and 115 international NGOs, 50 affiliate members and includes scientific and academic institutions and business associations in more than 160 countries. IUCN has six Commissions, constituting a network of some 16,000 volunteer experts on biodiversity conservation. The Commissions focus on: ecosystem management; education and communication; environmental, economic and social policy; environmental law; species survival; and protected areas.

The World Conservation Congress elects IUCN’s governing body, its Council. The Council typically meets at least once a year to set the annual budget, decide major policy issues, and review the IUCN Programme’s implementation. The Congress also elects the IUCN President, who chairs the Council and guides IUCN’s work between Congresses. IUCN’s general assembly of members takes place at the World Conservation Congress, which meets every four years. The main functions of the Congress are, inter alia, to: define the general policy of IUCN; make recommendations to governments and to national and international organizations on matters related to IUCN’s objectives; receive and consider the reports of the Director General, Treasurer, Chairs of Commissions and Regional Committees; receive the auditor’s report and approve the audited accounts; determine member dues; consider and approve the IUCN Programme and financial plan for the intersessional period; determine the number of Commissions and their mandates; and elect the President, Treasurer, Regional Councilors and Chairs of Commissions. The Congress also provides a forum for debate on how best to conserve nature and ensure that natural resources are used equitably and sustainably.

IUCN’s contributions to conservation are numerous, including assistance in the development of national environmental legislation and international environmental conventions such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Convention, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the World Charter for Nature, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

IUCN has been instrumental in developing conservation programmes for major ecosystems, including forests, wetlands and coastal areas. Drawing on its global network of experts, IUCN identifies categories of threatened species and produces species action plans, as well as publishes Red Lists and Red Data Books, which detail the status and conservation needs of threatened and endangered species. IUCN also plays a critical role in supporting protected areas worldwide, publishing the UN List of Protected Areas, convening the World Parks Congress (WPC), and disseminating guidelines on protected area management issues.

Additional information about IUCN and the Congress are available on IUCN’s website https://www.iucn.org/