Are global events useful?

I am on holiday in Malta, a small island in the Mediterranean Sea.  The pace of life is different here, and you take more time to reflect on work, society and the future.

When I come back to work, there will be only 6 weeks left till we travel to Jeju island in Korea for the 2012 IUCN World Conservation Congress, which takes place from 6 to 15 September this year.  That will be the third large, international conference in 2012 that discusses aspects of sustainable development, after the World Water Forum in Marseille, France in March and the Rio+20 summit in Brazil in June.  The IUCN Congress will be followed by the Conferences of Parties of the Ramsar Convention (Bucharest, Romania – July), the Convention on Biological diversity (Hyderabad, India – October) and the Framework Convention on Climate Change (Doha, Quater – November, December)

Some people ask if it makes sense that so many people fly long-distance to discuss how to minimise our ecological footprint and how to support conservation of natural resources and maintenance of ecosystem services!  One argument goes that if we had cancelled all international conferences this year, and invested the savings in a global programme for ecosystem restoration, we might have made more impact and could have had more immediate results.  The lack of political leadership at the recent RIO+20 Summit is offered as a case in point.

But – how cynical some of you may be about global environmental governance – these international meetings are important, and the outcomes have an impact on global policies, guidelines and regulations.  IUCN carried out a study to record which nature conservation decisions can be traced back to the IUCN General Assemblies and World Conservation Congresses of the past, and we were pleasantly surprised.  I will not try to summarise the report, as you can download it from:

After the last IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona in 2008, which was attended by some 7000 people, IUCN commissioned an independent evaluation.  One of the key findings of the review team was that 90% of respondents believed that the 2008 Congress represented a good investment of their time and resources.

So – we are making the most of the opportunity to organise the 2012 Congress, and although it is on the other side of the world, IUCN Europe has its own activities and events throughout the Congress.  We will have a meeting of all European Members and a meeting of all European National Committees of Members.  The IUCN Members will elect 6 new European Councillors for the period 2013-2016, and one of the candidates for IUCN President is European.  There will be a large number of European Member’s events during the Forum, IUCN Europe will be active in all Pavilions, and there will be more.  Please look at our website for more information (  In particular, our record of short stories about specific activities by our Members gives you an impression of the variety of what is planned. 

We are updating the information every few days, and I will keep you briefed about progress in the run up to the Congress, and during the discussions in Jeju.

All the best

Hans Friederich


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