Democracy in Action

Next week, the IUCN World Conservation Congress will take place in Jeju, Korea. “So what?”, you may ask. We had Rio+20 earlier this year, there is a meeting of the Convention on Biological diversity in Hyderabad in October, so what makes an IUCN Congress so special?

I may be biased, as I work for IUCN, but in my view the IUCN General Assembly is environmental democracy in action. The Assembly is part of the Congress, with the other part of the Congress – the Forum – devoted to debates, workshops, knowledge sharing, capacity building and general networking.

The Forum may be what attracts outside participants, but the Assembly is the time when IUCN Members exercise their right to vote for candidate Presidents, Treasurers, Chairs of scientific Commissions and regional members of the IUCN Council. The strength of our democratic principles is the fact that small NGOs vote for the same issues as the largest national delegation. Members will also debate and vote on several hundred motions of scientific interests. These will become resolutions addressed to IUCN, or recommendations aimed at third parties. The resolutions are part of the priorities for IUCN in the coming years, and form part of the 2013-2016 Programme of work that will also be debated and adopted during the Assembly.

Not all Members can physically attend the Congress, and as the 2012 Congress is in Jeju, Korea, a good number of European Members have sent apologies. Where a National Committee of Members exists in a country, the input from Members is being coordinated in advance, so that votes will not be lost.

We have currently 17 National Committees in Europe, and I would like there to be more, because I believe that where National Committees of IUCN Members exist, they are an appropriate way for IUCN to implement its programme in Europe. We need to strengthen the working relationship between the Regional Office for Europe and the National Committees, and we will be talking about that in Korea, during a meeting of the European National Committees. In the years to come, I hope to work more closely with National Committee Chairs and focal points in Europe.

What else do I expect from the Assembly? I hope we will leave Jeju with a new strong President, visionary Chairs of our scientific Commissions and an adopted global programme. Most important for me is the outcome of the election of six European Councilors, from the list of 11 excellent candidates.

I will let you know of the outcome of the Assembly after the Congress has ended.

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