International Union for Conservation of Nature
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; officially
International Union for Conservation of Nature
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural
Resources) is an international organization working in the field of
nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It is
involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects,
advocacy, and education. IUCN's mission is to "influence, encourage
and assist societies throughout the world to conserve nature and to
ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically
Over the past decades, IUCN has widened its focus beyond conservation
ecology and now incorporates issues related to sustainable development
in its projects. Unlike many other international environmental
organisations, IUCN does not itself aim to mobilize the public in
support of nature conservation. It tries to influence the actions of
governments, business and other stakeholders by providing information
and advice, and through building partnerships. The organization is
best known to the wider public for compiling and publishing the IUCN
Red List of Threatened Species, which assesses the conservation status
of species worldwide.
IUCN has a membership of over 1400 governmental and non-governmental
organizations. Some 16,000 scientists and experts participate in the
work of IUCN commissions on a voluntary basis. It employs
approximately 1000 full-time staff in more than 50 countries. Its
headquarters are in Gland, Switzerland.
IUCN has observer and consultative status at the United Nations, and
plays a role in the implementation of several international
conventions on nature conservation and biodiversity. It was involved
in establishing the
World Wide Fund for Nature
World Wide Fund for Nature and the World
Conservation Monitoring Centre. In the past, IUCN has been criticized
for placing the interests of nature over those of indigenous peoples.
In recent years, its closer relations with the business sector have
IUCN was established in 1948. It was previously called the
International Union for the Protection of Nature (1948–1956) and the
World Conservation Union (1990–2008).
2 Current work
2.1 IUCN Programme 2017–2020
2.2 Habitats and species
2.3 Business partnerships
2.4 National and international policy
3 Organizational structure
4 Governance and funding
5 Influence and criticism
7 See also
10 External links
IUCN was established on 5 October 1948, in Fontainebleau, France, when
representatives of governments and conservation organizations signed a
formal act constituting the International Union for the Protection of
Nature (IUPN). The initiative to set up the new organisation came from
UNESCO and especially from its first Director General, the British
biologist Julian Huxley.
Julian Huxley, the first Director General of UNESCO, took the
initiative to set up IUCN
The objectives of the new Union were to encourage international
cooperation in the protection of nature, to promote national and
international action and to compile, analyse and distribute
information. At the time of its founding IUPN was the only
international organisation focusing on the entire spectrum of nature
conservation (an international organisation for the protection of
birds, now BirdLife International, had been established in 1922.)
Early years: 1948–1956:47–63
IUPN started out with 65 members. Its secretariat was located in
Brussels. Its first work program focused on saving species and
habitats, increasing and applying knowledge, advancing education,
promoting international agreements and promoting conservation.
Providing a solid scientific base for conservation action was the
heart of all activities; commissions were set up to involve experts
UNESCO were closely associated. They jointly organized the
1949 Conference on Protection of Nature (Lake Success, USA). In
preparation for this conference a list of gravely endangered species
was drawn up for the first time, a precursor of the
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species. In the early years of its existence IUPN depended
almost entirely on
UNESCO funding and was forced to temporarily scale
down activities when this ended unexpectedly in 1954.
IUPN was successful in engaging prominent scientists and identifying
important issues such as the harmful effects of pesticides on wildlife
but not many of the ideas it developed were turned into action. This
was caused by unwillingness to act on the part of governments,
uncertainty about the IUPN mandate and lack of resources. In 1956,
IUPN changed its name to International Union for Conservation of
Nature and Natural Resources.
Increased profile and recognition: 1956–1965:67–82
In the 1950s and 1960s Europe entered a period of economic growth and
formal colonies became independent. Both developments had impact on
the work of IUCN. Through the voluntary (i.e. pro bono) involvement of
experts in its Commissions IUCN was able to get a lot of work done
while still operating on a low budget. It expanded its relations with
UN-agencies and established links with the Council of Europe. In 1961,
at the request of
United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC),
United Nations Economic and Social Council, IUCN published the
first global list of national parks and protected areas which it has
updated ever since. IUCN's best known publication, the Red Data Book
on the conservation status of species, was first published in 1964.
IUCN began to play a part in the development of international treaties
and conventions, starting with the African Convention on the
Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.
Environmental law and
policy making became a new area of expertise.
Africa was the first regional focus of IUCN conservation action
Africa was the focus of many of the early IUCN conservation field
projects. IUCN supported the ‘Yellowstone model’ of protected area
management, which severely restricted human presence and activity in
order to protect nature. IUCN and other conservation organisations
were criticized for protecting nature against people rather than with
people. This model was initially also applied in Africa and played a
role in the decision to remove the
Maasai people from Serengeti
National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
To establish a stable financial basis for its work, IUCN participated
in setting up the World Wildlife Fund (1961) (now the World Wide Fund
for Nature WWF). WWF would work on fundraising, public relations, and
increasing public support. IUCN would continue to focus on providing
sound science and data, and developing ties with international bodies.
Funds raised by WWF would be used to cover part of the operational
costs of IUCN. Also in 1961, the IUCN headquarters moved from Belgium
Morges in Switzerland.
Consolidating its position in the international environmental
Public concerns about the state of the environment in the sixties and
seventies led to the establishment of new NGOs, some of which (e.g.
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth) also worked globally. Many of
these new organisations were more activist and critical of government
than IUCN which remained committed to providing science-based advice
to governments. As a result, IUCN was criticized by some as being
old-fashioned and irrelevant.
IUCN’s membership still grew (from 200 in 1961 to 350 in 1974) and
its formal standing and influence increased. A grant from the Ford
Foundation in 1969 enabled it to boost its secretariat and expand
operations. During the 1960s, IUCN lobbied the UN General Assembly to
create a new status for NGOs. Resolution 1296, adopted in 1968,
granted 'consultative' status to NGOs. IUCN itself was eventually
accredited with six UN organizations. IUCN was one of the few
environmental organisations formally involved in the preparations of
United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm,
1972). The Stockholm Conference eventually led to three new
international conventions, with IUCN involved in their drafting and
Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural
Heritage (1972). IUCN co-drafted the World Heritage Convention with
UNESCO and has been involved as the official Advisory Body on nature
from the onset.
CITES- the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Wild Fauna and Flora (1974) IUCN is a signatory party and the CITES
secretariat was originally lodged with IUCN.
Ramsar Convention – Convention on Wetlands of International
Importance (1975). The secretariat is still administered from IUCN's
IUCN entered into an agreement with the
United Nations Environment
UNEP to provide regular reviews of world conservation. The
income this generated, combined with growing revenue via WWF, put the
organisation on relatively sound financial footing for the first time
This period saw the beginning of a gradual change in IUCN’s approach
to conservation. Ensuring the survival of habitats and species
remained its key objective, but there was a growing awareness that
economic and social demands had to be taken into account. IUCN started
to publish guidelines on sustainable development. In 1975 the IUCN
General Assembly passed a resolution to retain indigenous peoples and
cater for their traditional rights in National Parks and protected
areas. As a result, IUCN became more appealing to organisations and
governments in the developing world.
The World Conservation Strategy 1975–1985:132–165
In the late seventies, between its General Assemblies in Kinshasha
Ashkabad (1978), IUCN went through a phase of turbulence in
governance and management. Its work program continued to grow, in part
as a result of the partnership with WWF. In 1978, IUCN was running 137
projects, largely in the global south. The involvement of
representatives from the developing world in the IUCN Council,
Committees and staff increased.
In 1975 IUCN started work on the World Conservation Strategy.
Stopping illegal trade of wildlife is one of IUCN's priorities
The drafting process – and the discussions with the UN agencies
involved – led to an evolution in thinking within IUCN and growing
acceptance of the fact that conservation of nature by banning human
presence no longer worked. (The debate about the balance between
strict nature protection and conservation through sustainable
development would, however, continue within IUCN well into the 1999
s.) The World Conservation Strategy was launched in 35 countries
simultaneously on 5 March 1980. It set out fundamental principles and
objectives for conservation worldwide, and identified priorities for
national and international action. It is considered one of the most
influential documents in 20th century nature conservation and one of
the first official documents to introduce the concept of sustainable
development. The Strategy was followed in 1982 by the World Charter
for Nature, which was adopted by the
United Nations General Assembly,
after preparation by IUCN.
In 1980, IUCN and WWF moved into shared new offices in Gland,
Switzerland. This marked a phase of closer cooperation with WWF. It
was the support of WWF that allowed IUCN to weather a financial crisis
in 1980–1982. The close ties between IUCN and WWF were severed in
1985 when WWF decided to take control of its own field projects, which
so far had been run by IUCN. In 1989, IUCN moved into a separate
building in Gland, close to the offices it had shared with WWF.
Sustainable development and regionalisation: 1985 to present
In 1982, IUCN set up a Conservation for Development Centre within its
secretariat. The Centre undertook projects to ensure that nature
conservation was integrated in development aid and in the economic
policies of developing countries. Over the years, it supported the
development of national conservation strategies in 30 countries.
Several European countries began to channel considerable amounts of
bilateral aid via IUCN’s projects. Management of these projects was
primarily done by IUCN staff, often working from the new regional and
country offices IUCN set up around the world. This marked a shift
within the organisation. Previously the volunteer Commissions had been
very influential, now the Secretariat and its staff began to play a
more dominant role. Initially, the focus of power was still with the
Gland but the regional offices and regional members’
groups gradually got a bigger say in operations.
In spite of the increased attention for sustainable development, the
protection of habitats and species remained a core activity of IUCN.
Special programs were developed for Antarctica, tropical forests and
wetlands, and IUCN expanded its operations in Latin America.
In 1991, IUCN (together with
UNEP and WWF) published Caring for the
Earth, a successor to the World Conservation Strategy. It was
published in the run-up to the Earth Summit, the 1992 UN Conference on
Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro. The World Conservation
Strategy, Caring for the Earth, and the Global Diversity Strategy
(also published in 1992 by UNEP, IUCN, and WRI) are considered hugely
influential in shaping the global environmental agenda. They lay the
foundations for the Convention on Biological Diversity, a new global
treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of biological
diversity developed by
UNEP with support from IUCN, the Framework
Convention on Climate Change and Agenda 21.
Social aspects of conservation were now integrated in IUCN’s work;
projects began to take account of the role of women in natural
resource management and to value the knowledge indigenous peoples have
about their natural environment. At the General Assembly in 1994 the
IUCN mission was redrafted to its current wording to include the
equitable and ecologically use of natural resources.
IUCN’s current work makes direct contributions towards achieving the
Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, IUCN’s Programme
2017–2020 focusing on SDG 1 (No poverty), SDG 2 (Zero hunger), SDG 3
(Good health and well-being), SDG 5 (
Gender equality), SDG 6 (Clean
water and sanitation), SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities), SDG 11
(Sustainable cities and communities), SDG 13 (Climate action), SDG 14
(Life below water), SDG 15 (Life on land), SDG 16 (Peace, justice and
strong institutions), SDG 17 (Partnerships for the goals).
IUCN-Headquarters in Gland, Switzerland
Closer to business: 2000 to present day
Since the creation of IUCN in 1948, IUCN Members have passed more than
300 resolutions that include or focus on business related activities.
The range of topics covers in these resolutions varies greatly,
including a focus on fisheries, tourism, agriculture, the extractive
industries and the business sector in general.
The increased attention on sustainable development as a means to
protect nature brought IUCN closer to the corporate sector. A
discussion started about cooperation with business, including the
question if commercial companies could become IUCN members. The
members decided against this, but IUCN did forge a partnership with
the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. IUCN renewed a
multi-year MOU with them with WBCSD in December 2015.
In 1996, after decades of seeking to address specific business issues,
IUCN’s Members asked for a comprehensive approach to engaging the
business sector. Resolution 1.81 of the IUCN World Conservation
Congress held that year “urged IUCN Members and the Director
General, based on the need to influence private sector policies in
support of the Mission of IUCN, to expand dialogue and productive
relationships with the private sector and find new ways to interact
with members of the business community”.
The IUCN Global Business and
Biodiversity Program (BBP) was
established in 2003 to influence and support private partners in
addressing environmental and social issues. The Program wants to
engage with business sectors that have a significant impact on natural
resources and livelihoods to promote sustainable use of natural
resources. In 2004, the first IUCN Private Sector Engagement
Strategy was developed (in response to Council Decision C/58/41). Most
prominent in the Business and
Biodiversity Program is the five-year
collaboration IUCN started with the energy company Shell International
in 2007. The aim was to mitigate the environmental impact of Shell's
operations. The partnership almost immediately came under fire from
IUCN's members, especially the NGO-members who feared for IUCN’s
reputation. At the World Conservation Congress (formerly the IUCN
General Assembly) in Barcelona in 2008 NGO-members tabled a motion to
terminate the Shell contract. The proposal was narrowly
In 2012, at the World Conservation Congress held in the Republic of
South Korea, the Union adopted a more focused approach to enable IUCN
to deliver both on‐the‐ground results and fit‐for‐purpose
knowledge products, working with many agencies, including business.
The Business Engagement Strategy (2012) calls on IUCN to prioritise
engagement with business sectors that have a significant impact on
natural resources and livelihoods. These include: large 'footprint'
industries, such as: mining and oil and gas; biodiversity-dependent
industries including fishing, agriculture and forestry; and, financial
services and “green” enterprises such as organic farming,
renewable energy and nature-based tourism.
Furthermore, the IUCN Operational Guidelines for Business Engagement
offer critical support to the implementation of the IUCN Business
Engagement Strategy. First developed in 2006, and then revised in 2009
and again in 2015, they provide a consistent approach to the
management of risks associated with engaging business, as well as
outline the opportunities between the different types of engagement.
Today, the Business and
Biodiversity Programme continues to set the
strategic direction, coordinate IUCN’s overall approach and provide
institutional quality assurance in all business engagements. The
Programme ensures that the Business Engagement Strategy is implemented
through IUCN’s global thematic and regional programmes as well as
helps guide the work of IUCN’s six Commissions.
Championing Nature-based Solutions: 2009 to present day
Nature-based Solutions (NbS) use ecosystems and the services they
provide to address societal challenges such as climate change, food
security or natural disasters.
The emergence of the NbS concept in environmental sciences and nature
conservation contexts came as international organisations, such as
IUCN and the World Bank, searched for solutions to work with
ecosystems rather than relying on conventional engineering
interventions (such as seawalls), to adapt to and mitigate climate
change effects, while improving sustainable livelihoods and protecting
natural ecosystems and biodiversity.
IUCN actively promoted the NbS concept in its 2009 position paper on
Framework Convention on Climate Change
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP
15, and in 2012 IUCN formally adopted NbS as one of the three areas of
work within its 2013–2016 Programme.
At the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016, IUCN Members agreed on a
definition of nature-based solutions. Nature-based Solutions are
defined as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore
natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges
effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being
and biodiversity benefits”. Members also called for governments to
include nature-based solutions in strategies to combat climate change
. A report, Nature-based solutions to address global societal
challenges, was launched at the Congress, and includes a set of
general principles for any NbS intervention.
Implementing NbS at scale can help countries achieve the targets of
Sustainable Development Goals. It can also help them achieve the land
degradation neutrality goal of the UNCCD, the Aichi Biodiversity
Targets of the CBD, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
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Some key dates in the growth and development of IUCN:
1948: International Union for the Protection of Nature (IUPN)
1956: Name changed 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
1961: The World Wildlife Fund set up as a complimentary organisation
to focus on fund raising, public relations, and increasing public
support for nature conservation
1969: IUCN obtains a grant from the
Ford Foundation which enables it
to boost 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
1974: 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
1975: The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar
Convention) comes into force, and its secretariat is administered from
the IUCN's headquarters
1980: IUCN (together with the
United Nations Environment Programme and
the World Wide Fund for Nature) collaborate with
UNESCO to publish a
World Conservation Strategy
1982: Following IUCN preparation and efforts, the United Nations
General Assembly adopts the World Charter for Nature
1990: Began using the name World Conservation Union as the official
name, while continuing using IUCN as its abbreviation.
1991: IUCN (together with
United Nations Environment Programme and the
World Wide Fund for Nature) publishes Caring for the Earth
2003: Establishment of the IUCN Business and
2008: Stopped using World Conservation Union as its official name and
reverted its name back to International Union for Conservation of
2012: IUCN publishes list of The world's 100 most threatened species.
2016: Created a new IUCN membership category for indigenous peoples’
IUCN Programme 2017–2020
According to its website, IUCN works on the following themes:
business, climate change, economics, ecosystems, environmental law,
forest conservation, gender, global policy, marine and polar,
protected areas, science and knowledge, social policy, species, water
and world heritage.
IUCN works on the basis of four-year programs, determined by the
membership. In the IUCN Programme for 2017–2020 conserving nature
and biodiversity is inextricably linked to sustainable development and
poverty reduction. IUCN states that it aims to have a solid factual
base for its work and takes into account the knowledge held by
indigenous groups and other traditional users of natural resources.
The IUCN Programme 2017–2020 identifies three priority areas:
1. Valuing and conserving nature.
2. Promoting and supporting effective and equitable governance of
Nature Based Solutions
Nature Based Solutions to address societal challenges
including climate change, food security and economic and social
Unlike other environmental organisations, IUCN does not itself aim to
directly mobilize the general public. Education has been part of
IUCN's work program since the early days but the focus is on
stakeholder involvement and strategic communication rather than
Habitats and species
IUCN runs field projects for habitat and species conservation around
the world. It produces the
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of Threatened
Species and the
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of
Ecosystems which in a similar way measures risks to
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of
Ecosystems is a global standard to
assess the conservation status of ecosystems. It is applicable at
local, national, regional and global levels. It is based on a set of
rules, or criteria, for performing evidence-based, scientific
assessments of the risk of ecosystem collapse, as measured by
reductions in geographical distribution or degradation of the key
processes and components of ecosystems.
IUCN participates in efforts to restore critically endangered species.
In 2012 it published a list of the world's 100 most threatened
species. It wants to expand the global network of national parks and
other protected areas and promote good management of such areas, for
example through the publication of the Green List of Protected and
Conserved Areas. IUCN is the governing body responsible for the
development of the Protected Area Management Categories into which
each protected area is divided depending on its conservation
requirements and management aims. It also developed a standard to
Biodiversity Areas — places of international importance
for conservation. In particular, it focuses on greater protection
of the oceans and marine habitats.
Mongolian Przewalski Horse
Examples of endangered species and threatened habitats that are the
focus of IUCN programs
IUCN has a growing program of partnerships with the corporate sector
to promote sustainable use of natural resources. Globally, IUCN
collaborates with Black Mountain Mining, Nespresso, Rio Tinto,
Sakhalin Energy Investment Company Ltd, Shell, Shell Petroleum
Development Company of Nigeria, Ltd., the International Olympic
Committee, Natural Capital Coalition, Renova Foundation, Tiffany
World Business Council for Sustainable Development
World Business Council for Sustainable Development and
At the national and regional level, IUCN also works with Marriott
International in Thailand, the Zambezi Valley Development Agency
(ADPP) in Mozambique, Minh Phu – the largest shrimp exporter in
Vietnam, Xingzhitianxia Media Company in China, the Secretariat of the
Southern Agriculture Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), Tata Steel in
India, Engro Elengy Terminal (Pvt) Ltd in Pakistan, to name a few.
National and international policy
On the national level, IUCN helps governments prepare national
biodiversity policies. Internationally, IUCN provides advice to
environmental conventions such as the Convention on Biological
CITES and the Framework Convention on Climate Change. It
UNESCO on natural world heritage.
It has a formally accredited permanent observer mission to the United
Nations in New York. According to its own website, IUCN is the only
international observer organization in the UN General Assembly with
expertise in issues concerning the environment, specifically
biodiversity, nature conservation and sustainable natural resource
IUCN has official relations with the Council of Europe, the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the
United Nations (FAO), the
International Maritime Organization
International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Organization of
American States (OAS), the
United Nations Conference on Trade and
Development (UNCTAD), the
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),
World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
World Intellectual Property Organization
World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World
Meteorological Organization (WMO).
As an organization, IUCN has three components: the member
organizations, the six scientific commissions, and the secretariat.
IUCN Members are states (making IUCN a supranational GONGO),
government agencies, international nongovernmental organizations,
national nongovernmental organizations, and indigenous peoples’
organisations. In 2017, IUCN had 1400 members. The members can
organize themselves in national or regional committees to promote
cooperation. In 2016, there were 62 national committees and 7 regional
Stamp commemorating the 1978 IUCN General Assembly in Ashgabat
The six IUCN Commissions involve 16,000 volunteer experts from a range
of disciplines. They '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 Education and Communication (CEC): communication,
learning and knowledge management in IUCN and the wider conservation
community. Members: over 1300
Commission on Environmental, Economic, and Social Policy (CEESP):
economic and social factors for the conservation and sustainable use
of biological diversity. Members: 1465.
World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL): developing new legal
concepts and instruments, and building the capacity of societies to
employ environmental law for conservation and sustainable development.
Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM): integrated ecosystem
approaches to the management of natural and modified ecosystems.
Species Survival Commission (SSC): technical aspects of species
conservation and action for species that are threatened with
extinction. Members: 7500.
Main article: IUCN
Species Survival Commission
World Commission on Protected Areas
World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA): establishment and
effective management of a network of terrestrial and marine protected
areas. Members: 1300.
Main article: World Commission on Protected Areas
The Secretariat is led by the Director General. For management of its
operations IUCN distinguishes eight geographical regions; each is led
by a director who reports to the Director General.
The IUCN head office is in Gland, Switzerland. Eight regional offices
implement IUCN’s program in their respective territories. Since
1980, IUCN has established offices in more than 50 countries. The
total number of staff grew from 100 (1980) to around 1,000 (2014);
nearly all this growth was in the national and regional offices.
Approximately 150 staff are based in the head office.
Governance and funding
Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General since January 2015
The World Conservation Congress (Members’ Assembly) is IUCN’s
highest decision-making body. The Congress convenes every four years,
most recently in
Hawaii (2016) and previously in Jeju, South Korea
(2012). It elects the Council, including the President, and approves
IUCN’s workprogram for the next four years, and budget.
The IUCN Council is the principal governing body of IUCN. The Council
provides strategic direction for the activities of the Union,
discusses specific policy issues and provides guidance on finance and
the membership development of the Union. The Council is composed of
the President, four Vice Presidents (elected by the Council from among
its members), the Treasurer, the Chairs of IUCN's six Commissions,
three Regional Councillors from each of IUCN's eight Statutory Regions
and a Councillor from the State in which IUCN has its seat
(Switzerland). IUCN's current President is Zhang Xinsheng.
The Council appoints a Director General, who is responsible for the
overall management of IUCN and the running of the Secretariat. Inger
Andersen is IUCN Director General since January 2015. She
succeeded Julia Marton-Lefèvre.
IUCN Presidents since 1948
1948–1954 Charles Jean Bernard
1954–1958 Roger Heim
1958–1963 Jean Georges Baer
1963–1966 François Bourlière
1966–1972 Harold J. Coolidge
1972–1978 Donald Kuenen
1978–1984 Mohamed Kassas
1984–1990 M. S. Swaminathan
1990–1994 Sridath Ramphal
1994–1996 Jay D. Hair
1996–2004 Yolanda Kakabadse
2004–2008 Valli Moosa
2008–2012 Ashok Khosla
2012–present Zhang Xinsheng
IUCN Directors General since 1948
1948–1955 Jean Paul Harroy
1959–1960 M.C. Bloemers
1961–1962 Gerald Watterson
1963–1966 Hugh Elliott
1966–1970 Joe Berwick
1970–1976 Gerardo Budowski
1977–1980 David Munro
1980–1982 Lee M. Talbot
1983–1988 Kenton Miller
1988–1994 Martin Holdgate
1994–1999 David McDowell
1999–2001 Marita Koch-Weser
2001–2006 Achim Steiner
2007–2014 Julia Marton-Lefèvre
2015–present Inger Andersen
IUCN’s total income in 2013 was 114 million CHF, equaling
approximately 95 million Euro or 116 million US dollar.
IUCN’s funding mainly comes from Official Development Assistance
budgets of bilateral and multilateral agencies. This represented 61%
of its income in 2013. Additional sources of income are the membership
fees, as well as grants and project funding from foundations,
institutions and corporations.
Influence and criticism
IUCN is considered one of the most influential conservation
organisations in the world and, together with WWF and the World
Resources Institute (WRI), is seen as a driving force behind the rise
of the influence of environmental organisations at the UN and around
It has established a network covering all aspects of global
conservation via its worldwide membership of governmental and
non-governmental organisations, the participation of experts in the
IUCN Commissions, formal involvement in international agreements, ties
to intergovernmental organisations and increasingly partnerships with
international business. The World Conservation Congress and the World
Parks Congress events organised by IUCN are the largest gatherings of
organisations and individuals involved in conservation worldwide. They
involve governmental organisations, NGOs, media, academia and the
According to some, IUCN is not only a major global player in
conservation action, but also has considerable influence in defining
what nature conservation actually is. The
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of
Species and the
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List of
Ecosystems determine which
species and natural areas merit protection. Through the Green List of
Protected and Conserved Areas and the system of IUCN protected area
categories IUCN influences how protected areas are managed.
The relevance of the scientific insights and the data that IUCN
produces are not often drawn into question, but IUCN has encountered
criticism in other matters.
It has been claimed that IUCN put the needs of nature above those of
humans, disregarding economic considerations and the interests of
indigenous peoples and other traditional users of the land. Until the
1980s IUCN favored the "Yellowstone Model’ of conservation which
called for the removal of humans from protected areas. The expulsion
Maasai people from
Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro
Conservation Area is perhaps the best known example of this
IUCN's relationships with local land users like the Maasai have caused
controversy in the past
This is linked to another criticism that has been directed at IUCN,
namely that throughout its history it has mainly been ‘Northern
focused’, i.e. had a West-European or North-American perspective on
global conservation. Some critics point to the fact that many
individuals involved in the establishment of IUCN had been leading
figures in the British Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna
of Empire, which wanted to protect species against the impact of
‘native’ hunting pressure in order to safeguard hunting by
Europeans. The fact that at least until the 1990s, most of IUCN
staff, the chairs of the Commissions and the IUCN President came from
western countries has also led to criticism. Over the past decade,
IUCN has changed its approach. It now aims to work in close
cooperation with indigenous groups. It has also become more
regionalized in its operations and more truly global in its
staffing. At the 2016 World Conservation Congress, IUCN introduced
a new membership category for indigenous peoples’ organisations in
recognition of their role in conserving the planet.
More recently, activist environmental groups have argued that IUCN is
too closely associated with governmental organisations and with the
commercial sector. IUCN’s cooperation with Shell came in for
criticism, also from its own membership. IUCN's close partnership
with Coca Cola in Vietnam – where they have together been launching
Coca-Cola-focused community centers – has also drawn some criticism
and allegations of greenwashing. Its decision to hold the
2012 World Conservation Congress on Jeju Island, South Korea, where
the local community and international environmental activists were
protesting against the construction of a navy base also led to
controversy. IUCN remains committed to its partnerships with the
business sector, seeing sustainable development as the way to ensure
long-term protection of natural areas and species.
IUCN has a wide range of publications, reports, guidelines and
databases related to conservation and sustainable development. It
publishes or co-authors more than 100 books and major assessments
every year, along with hundreds of reports, documents and
guidelines. In 2015, 76 IUCN articles were published in peer
reviewed scientific journals.
A report, released at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney on 13
November 2014 showed that the 209,000 conservation reserves around the
world now cover 15.4 per cent of the total land area. The new figures
are a step in the right direction of protecting 17 percent of land and
10 percent of ocean environments on Earth by 2020 since an agreement
between the world's nations at the Convention on Biological Diversity,
held in Japan in 2010.
At its World Conservation Congress in
Hawaii in 2016, the IUCN
launched a report Explaining ocean warming: causes, scale, effects and
consequences, one of the most comprehensive reviews to date on ocean
List of conservation organisations
List of environmental organizations
^ The information in the section on history is largely based on
Holdgate, M. 1999. The green web: a union for world conservation.
Earthscan. For each paragraph in the section one reference to the
pages used is included following the header. Where information in the
paragraph is based on other sources a separate reference is included
in the text
^ "About IUCN:IUCN's Vision and Mission". iucn.org. IUCN. Retrieved 27
^ "About". IUCN. The organisation changed its name to the
International Union for Conservation of Nature
International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
in 1956 with the acronym IUCN (or UICN in French and Spanish). This
remains our full legal name to this day.
^ a b "About IUCN". IUCN. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
^ a b c "Kenya: The Maasai Stand up to IUCN Displacement Attempts from
their Forest". World Rainforest Movement. Retrieved 2 December
^ Block, Ben. "Environmentalists Spar Over Corporate Ties". Worldwatch
Institute. worldwatch.org (updated version). Retrieved 26 March
^ a b c d e f g h i Holdgate, Martin (1999). The green web: a union
for world conservation. Earthscan. ISBN 1 85383 595 1.
^ a b c "Understanding NGOs". agendatwentyone.wordpress.com.
WordPress.com. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
^ "IUCN and World Heritage". IUCN. 2015-11-10. Retrieved
^ a b c d "IUCN Programme". IUCN. 2015-10-01. Retrieved
^ "Global Business and
Biodiversity Programme". IUCN. Retrieved 28
^ "IUCN and Shell: Guiding the way". Business & Biodiversity.
Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 5 December
^ a b "Environmentalists spar over corporate ties". Worldwatch.
Retrieved 5 December 2014.
^ a b c "Nature-based solutions to address global societal challenges
IUCN Library System". portals.iucn.org. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
^ "077 – Defining Nature-based Solutions 2016 Congress portal".
portals.iucn.org. Retrieved 2017-07-04.
^ "What we do". IUCN. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
^ "CEC – what we do". IUCN. Archived from the original on 26
December 2014. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
^ "'Green List' awards world's top conservation sites". Australian
Geographic. 14 November 2014. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
Biodiversity Areas". IUCN. 2016-03-08. Retrieved
^ "IUCN 2016 Annual Report" (PDF).
UNESCO NGO database". UNESCO. Archived from the original on 8
December 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
^ "IUCN welcomes 13 new Members". IUCN. 2017-06-06. Retrieved
^ "IUCN 2016 Annual Report" (PDF).
^ "IUCN – Commissions". International Union for Conservation of
Nature. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
^ "About IUCN". IUCN. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
^ "Inger Andersen named IUCN Director General". IUCN. Retrieved 3
^ "Our Union". IUCN. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
^ a b Hesselink, Frits; Čeřovský, Jan: Learning to Change the
Future, IUCN 2008, p. 22. URL retrieved 2011-01-24.
^ "IUCN Annual Report 2013" (PDF). IUCN. Retrieved 22 December
^ a b "What is IUCN?". WiseGeek. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
^ a b MacDonald, Kenneth. IUCN: A History of Constraint (PDF).
UCLouvain. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
^ "What's an EKOCENTER and what does it do?". IUCN (in Urdu).
2016-04-04. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
^ "Greenwash: Are Coke's green claims the real thing?". The Guardian.
2008-12-04. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
^ "Never mind the greenwash – Coca Cola can never be 'water
neutral'". The Ecologist. Retrieved 2017-06-20.
^ "Jeju island navy base controversy divides iucn".
alliance. Retrieved 12 December 2014.
^ "Natural capital must be the way forward, says IUCN director
general". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
^ "Publications". IUCN. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
^ IUCN Annual Report 2015 (PDF).
IUCN. pp. Page 21.
^ "Big increase in Earth's protected areas". Australian Geographic. 13
November 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2014.
^ Baxter, J.M.; Laffoley, Daniel D'A (September 5, 2016). "Explaining
ocean warming". IUCN. Retrieved September 9, 2016.
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