The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) is an international organization dedicated to natural resource conservation.
Founded in 1948, its headquarters is located in the Lake Geneva area in Gland, Switzerland. The IUCN brings together 83 states, 108 government agencies, 766 Non-governmental organizations and 81 international organizations and about 10,000 experts and scientists from countries around the world.
IUCN's mission is 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.
The first Director General of UNESCO, (Sir Julian Huxley), wishing to give UNESCO a more scientific base, sponsored a congress to establish a new environmental institution to help serve this purpose.
At that first congress (held at Fontainebleau, France), on 5 October, 1948, 18 governments, 7 international organisations, and 107 national nature conservation organisations all agreed to form the institution and signed a "constitutive act" creating an International Union for the Protection of Nature.
From this beginning, the overriding stategy and policy of the institution has been to explore and promote mutually beneficial conservation arrangements that suit those promoting development as well as assisting people and nations to better preserve their flora and fauna.
At all times, the institution (in all its forms) has heavily emphasised as a key operating principle the strong need to cater for and address the needs of local nations, communities and peoples, so that those nations, communities and peoples can take ownership of future, long term conservation goals and objects in their local areas:
The IUCN's World Conservation Strategy (1980) was founded upon this kind of principle, and clearly announced the IUCN's ambitions to more effectively enter into dialogue with the promotors of human development. The strategy was internationally applauded by many and served to secure the IUCN funds from several donors who didn't themselves feel they could open up effective dialogue in the world's developing countries, nor that United Nations organisations and international banks would effectively engage in such dialogue.
The IUCN has now expanded into many of the nations around the world, making available the services of a large pool of mainly voluntary specialists, providing local level advice and conservation services, and expanding its networks of Committees and regional advisory bodies into increasing numbers of countries.
Some key dates in the growth and development of this organisation include:
- Name changed from International Union for the Preservation of Nature (IUPN) to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)
- UNESCO decides to create an international list of Nature Parks and equivalent reserves, and the United Nations Secretary General asks the IUCN to prepare this list
- After more than a decade of funding difficulties, eminent science and business personalities (including Sir Julian Huxley) decide to set up a complementary fund (the World Wildlife Fund) to focus on fund raising, public relations, and increasing public support for nature conservation
- The IUCN obtains a grant from the Ford Foundation which enables it to boost, substantially, its international secretariat.
- UNESCO adopts the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage and the IUCN is invited to provide technical evaluations and monitoring
- The IUCN is involved in obtaining the agreement of its members to sign a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), whose secretariat was originally lodged with the IUCN
- The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention) comes into force, and its secretariat is administered from the IUCN's headquarters
- The IUCN (together with the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Wide Fund for Nature) collaborate with UNESCO to publish a World Conservation Strategy
- Following IUCN preparation and efforts, the United Nations General Assembly adopts the World Charter for Nature
- Began using the name World Conservation Union as the official name, while continuing using IUCN as its abbreviation
- the IUCN (together with United Nations Environment Programme and the World Wide Fund for Nature) publishes Caring for the Earth
- Stopped using World Conservation Union as its official name and reverted its name back to International Union for Conservation of Nature
The Union has three components: its member organizations, its 6 scientific commissions, and its professional secretariat.
The Union unites both States and non-governmental organizations. They set the policies of the Union, define its global programme of work and elect its Council (comparable to a company board) at the IUCN World Conservation Congress. Member organizations organize themselves into National and Regional Committees.
There are six Commissions that assess the state of the world’s natural resources and provide the Union with sound know-how and policy advice on conservation issues:Commission on Ecosystem Management
- IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM): CEM provides expert guidance on integrated ecosystem approaches to the management of natural and modified ecosystems. As of May 2008, it has 400 members and is led by Chairwoman Hillary Masundire.Commission on Education and Communication
- IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC)[: CEC champions the strategic use of communication and education to empower and educate stakeholders for the sustainable use of natural resources. As of May 2008, the commission claims 500 members led by Chairman Keith Wheeler and Vice Chairwoman Juanita Castaño.Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy
- IUCN Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP): CEESP provides expertise and policy advice on economic and social factors for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. As of May 2008, CEESP has 500 members and is led by Chairman Taghi Farvar.Commission on Environmental Law
- IUCN Commission on Environmental Law (CEL): CEL advances environmental law by developing new legal concepts and instruments, as well as by building the capacity of societies to employ environmental law for conservation and sustainable development. As of May 2008, there are 800 members on this commission, with the Chairwoman being Sheila Abed.Species Survival CommissionIUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) : SSC advises the Union on the technical aspects of species conservation and mobilizes action for those species that are threatened with extinction. It produces the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. As of May 2008, SSC's members include over 7000 species and biodiversity specialists worldwide, organized under Chairwoman Holly Dublin.World Commission on Protected Areas
- IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA)[
The members and commissions work together with a professional secretariat
consisting of over 1,100 people in 62 different countries. Ms. Julia Marton-Lefèvre—a global expert and leader in development and conservation—has been its Director General since 2 January
She succeeded Achim Steiner, who was appointed Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme UNEP
in June 2006.
Key products and contributions
Among the IUCN key products and services, it has produced and continues to maintain and monitor: