Yesterday evening at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the representatives of most of the IUCN National Committees in Europe met for a discussion about the draft 2013-2016 IUCN Programme and business plan, and the way we can implement the plan together during the coming years. Europe has 17 National Committees, and we had 11 National committees represented at our meeting.
IUCN Deputy Director General Poul Engberg-Pedersen had joined us, and gave more details about the thinking behind the four business lines (knowledge products, on-the-ground conservation, governance and policy and mobilising the Union), and we had an intense discussion about the relevance of these four approaches within the European context.
One of the challenges for the Regional Office is that Europe is not homogenous, and the other issue is that there are significant differences in the way National Committees operate. National Committees in France, Netherlands and Spain are registered as legal entities, have permanent staff and have developed a programme of work. Others are purely voluntary networks, and do not implement activities. In some countries, the National Committee comprises only a handful of Members, while several countries in Europe have more than 30 Members. Some National Committees have financial resources, in other countries there is no real budget for project implementation. We talked about the value of having guidelines on the functioning of National Committees, but agreed that this would be too restrictive. A toolbox with some examples of best cases would be more appropriate, and we agreed to work on this.
Some good examples were provided at the meeting how National Committees can bring new IUCN Members on board, how Secretariat and National Committees can work together on awareness raising and policy influence, and how Commissions and Members can work together. But, there is clearly room for improvement, and it is especially important to involve relevant National Committees in the new, large, global flagship projects that IUCN is developing. Improved communication is key, and both Kostas Makris, our membership liaison officer, and I will continue to give this priority.
An issue for future discussion and further debate is how to better involve members of the IUCN Commissions in the work of National Committees. The other question that will need further discussion is how to strengthen collaboration between National Committees.
We stressed the need to have more frequent meetings of National Committee representatives, and agreed that a workshop of all European National Committees in 2013 was a must. This is something the Regional Office should organise and we will start the arrangements as soon as the Congress is over. A request was also made to expand such a meeting to involve all IUCN National Committees around the world, and I agreed to take this up with our Constituency Support Group.
The National Committees in Europe are a major asset to the Union, and I am proud to be working with them.