top of page
  • IUCN

IUCN U.S. National Committee Annual Meeting Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington D.C.June 24, 2019

Opening and Earth Optimism

The 2019 United States National Committee (USNC) Annual Meeting was hosted by the Smithsonian National Zoo at its Conservation Pavilion and was attended by 90 participants representing 49 Members, all six Commissions and the IUCN Secretariat.

Christopher Dunn, Chair of the USNC opened the meeting expressing deep gratitude to the Smithsonian for hosting IUCN for the second year in a row.

Christopher Dunn, USNC Chair. Photo by Sarah Over

Christopher introduced Marshall Jones from the Smithsonian who welcomed everyone and noted that Steven Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, extended his regrets for not being able to join but is looking forward to the results of the forum.

Marshall asked how many were present for the last committee meeting and many participants raised hands; he welcomed them back. He expressed that IUCN has special importance to the Smithsonian: staff members have been involved in various ways since its establishment in 1948. He explained that IUCN plays a crucial role that no other organization can fulfill.

Marshall encouraged participants to explore the zoo where they would encounter the National Zoo slogan “We save species.” He explained that the phrase was not meant to be literal. Rather, the Smithsonian works with partners worldwide to build capacities for conservation: “you can’t save any species on your own, you have to work together”. He added that it takes bringing together government, non-government, and academic institutions working together. The “save” part of the statement represents a perpetual process, needing an adaptive approach in assessing priorities. He underlined that this all depends on actions by all those present along with other organizations and partners. Marshall expressed pride to be a part of this community and its efforts.

Marshall introduced Ruth Stolk, Founding Executive Director, Smithsonian Conservation Commons, and explained that she has a long history with the Smithsonian. She worked with Tom Lovejoy who brought biological diversity into the forefront, long before it was “cool”.

The Smithsonian is a large complicated organization and it needed something that could reach across lines to bring people together who share common interests. Ruth had a critical role in creating a unifying initiative: Earth Optimism.

Marshall then shared a story of why he is an optimist. He lives next to Shenandoah National Park, which means close encounters with black bears. The previous night, a black bear decided it wanted to have a close encounter, and broke into his back porch. He explained that no one has been seriously injured by a black bear in this area. He went on to detail that bears do not see humans as prey, they prefer to avoid them. Thirty years ago this would not have happened, there were very few black bears then. Fifty years ago there were none at all. The North American Black bear is the largest conservation success story. Bears now inhabit the area as a result of habitat restoration, controlled hunting programs, and due to the bear’s adaptability. Now the North American black bear is classified as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. Incredible stories like this can give us hope. Even a large and potentially dangerous animal can come back.


Marshal Jones, Smithsonian. Photo by Sarah Over

Ruth took the floor and explained that IUCN, through its Members, initially put forward the idea of the commons at one its Congresses. With IUCN in support, the Smithsonian used this concept and its message in building and unifying their constituency. Ruth explained that there are now have twelve signatories to a compact for the commons, led by a steering committee.

Ruth continued in noting that the Smithsonian has nineteen science centers and the National Zoo. She explained that it stands in as a ministry of culture for the U.S and has important role diplomatically. The Smithsonian is working on creating net zero waste and phasing out plastic in museums and at the zoo. She expressed excitement about this being a “bottom-up” initiative, with staff fully committed and pushing for this change.

Ruth then gave a quick overview of the Smithsonian’s work in convening people from diverse fields to meet and share ideas; creating incubators and opportunities to understand evolution within the field and how the Smithsonian can respond, creating “watering holes” for scientists and partners. One example project is “Movement of Life,” which aims to advance the understanding – for scientists and leaders - of how all living things, big and small, move across changing land and seascapes to better sustain a biodiverse planet. She also noted the “Sustainable Food Systems” initiative, which works towards including sustainable fishing practices leading to fishery reform. She underlined the importance of finding ways to have working land and seascapes while enhancing biodiversity, rather than depleting resources.

Ruth noted that the Smithsonian is a cultural institution and, as such, that it could and should have a role in changing behaviors.

Ruth Stolk, Smithsonian. Photo by Sarah Over

Ruth then revisited Earth Optimism’s launch. It had been inspired by Nancy Knowlton’s efforts in starting #oceanoptimism with eleven fellow scientists. The Smithsonian attended the World Conservation Congress in Honolulu and held a focus group there to share stories of successes. This led to the official launch of Earth Optimism aiming to build inspiration from successes.

Andrea Santi from the Smithsonian led an exercise to get participants interacting and to give an opportunity to share their own inspiring stories. Everyone turned to their neighbors and discussed a conservation success story, and ideas for what might be the next big thing that could be scaled up. The group then came back together and were asked if they were willing to share their story. Below are examples of what was shared:

Chipper Wichman (National Tropical Botanical Garden): spoke about the Hawaiʻi Conservation Alliance (HCA) has, over the last ten years, transformed from a purely science based to culture based institution and grown. It has engaged the younger generations. The alliance has been empowered and been made stronger and more relevant. The group is very upbeat and optimistic. He noted that the Conservation Congress in Hawaiʻi had had an impact on Governor Ige. He further stressed the importance of engaging youth and young professionals.

Sharing stories of success and hope. Photo by Sarah Over

Kurt Alt, with Wild Sheep Foundation in Bozeman Montana, explained that a big issue in the American west is pathogen transfer from domestic animals causing respiratory disease in wild sheep. For the first time, stakeholders from agriculture and conservation sectors sat together to address the issue. He noted that we always focus on human-wildlife conflicts, but we need to understand and address human-human conflict before we tackle human-wildlife conflict.

Kurt Alt, Wildsheep Foundation. Photo by Sarah Over

Ruth noted that the Earth Optimism logo exists without Smithsonian on it so any organization can adopt it. The upcoming EO Summit will be live feeding from Cambridge. EO is anticipating a summit in London and other coalitions in China, Chile, and Latin America. The Smithsonian is envisaging EO as a global movement.

The Smithsonian will host a global event for Earth Day 2020, its 50th anniversary. It also plans to have Earth Optimism featured in the Congress in Marseille.

Ruth detailed ways to get involved: If Members have story ideas and want them to be told: they should go to #Earthoptimism and link their story on the Twitter feed (EO social media is currently strongest on twitter). They can also send an email on Lastly, they can have their own event. Interested parties can also join EO in D.C. and may co-sponsor the EO summit in D.C.

Andrea explained that the EO Summit will take place the whole week surrounding Earth Day, but the theme will be highlighted across 2020 for the Smithsonian. EO is trying to reach 1 billion people and needs wide engagement of partners.

USNC business meeting: Subcommittee reports

Policy and Strategy

Co-Chairs: Beth Allgood (IFAW); Scott Hajost (ASOC, NWC); Steve Olson (AZA)

Beth Allgood shared a summary putting forth potential areas of collaboration between USNC Members (Annex 1).

She noted the potential or role of the USNC in coordinating joint positions or statements around these themes.

Themes highlighted were:

  1. Natural Resource Crime: A number of Members are working on issues and developing motions around natural crime, including wildlife trade crime (e.g. through cyber-crime). It was clarified that efforts at this time mainly focused on targeting US policies as opposed to UN policies.

  2. Corridors: Several Members are working in support of corridors within U.S. legislature and policy.

  3. U.S. Leadership in Conservation funding: Many groups do not currently lobby within US leadership and the USNC presents an opportunity to circulate letters for example in regard to appropriations.

It was clarified that there is no current process for coordinating and stating any position on behalf of the USNC.

IUCN North America can offer support convening Members to engage on political issues, through events such as last September’s panel on the Endangered Species Act with the IUCN Director General. Members from all perspectives on this issue attended to discuss and engage with the panelists. IUCN can play a convening role rather than conveying positions or a lobbying role.

Other Areas of Collaboration:

Delineation of key biodiversity areas (KBAs) in the US: Using the criteria the U.S. could choose to take on identification and delineation of its own biodiversity areas, building from the four hot spots. This would be globally significant.

Christopher thanked the group for robust conversation and thanked the sub-committee for its work and encouraged others to join the sub-committee.

Membership and Communications

The Membership and Communications Subcommittee re-grouped as the lead for this Subcommittee, Paul Salaman stepped down. Ann Powers (Center for Global Environmental Legal Studies, Pace University), Charlotte Vick (Mission Blue) and Casey Hoffman (EarthX) joined.

Charlotte Vick has volunteered to take over the Membership and Communications subcommittee, working with Casey Hoffman who will assist particularly on the communications aspect of the subcommittee, liaising with Sean Southey, Chair of CEC.

Other members of this Subcommittee include: Lane Kisonak (AFWA); Joe Goergen (Safari Club International) Scott Hajost (National Whistleblower Center); Greg Mueller (Chicago Botanic Garden) and Debbie Good (IUCN Membership Focal Point US/Canada). See Draft Minutes from the first meeting of the subcommittee – Annex 2.

The sub-committee’s mandate is to promote and increase membership, share knowledge and assist networking. The sub-committee is also responsible for tracking what Members are doing, e.g. publications and linking Members with Commissions. Communications is key to these efforts.

The sub-committee is exploring how best to reach out to other organizations and encourage them to join or actively participate at the national level and keep the momentum and energy going. One opportunity for this is to ask Members to identify at least one organization and convince them to join, defining benefits beyond generic information. The sub-committee is working to craft such a message, specific to US membership.

Convening Members in other parts of the US would be beneficial in terms of broader participation but this requires resources.

The best time to recruit Members is in the build up to a World Conservation Congress. The next few months are the perfect time to ask people to join. The sub-committee highly recommends thinking about partners that Members work with who would be good applicants. The sub-committee will be developing a strategy and lists of organizations that might be, or should be considering joining. If five people contact these organizations they might be more willing to join.

The sub-committee was in the process of developing a brochure that can be used for recruiting, with the assistance of Rainforest Trust. This project is currently on hold awaiting further clearance and guidance. In the meantime, there is information on the website describing how to join.

On this point, it was noted that five Members were brought in as partners on projects in the Species Survival Commission. Because IUCN is such a large organization, connecting potential Members with projects is a direct way to demonstrate how IUCN works programmatically and with their conservation aims.

Membership is growing: e.g.Thinking Animals United and Earth X, attended the meeting as new Members and Jackson Wild, Earth League International and the Atlanta Botanical Garden have applied.

The following points were also raised during this discussion:

  • How to justify the monetary cost of membership?

  • The IUCN Union Development Group emphasized the need for diversity and inclusivity in membership. Notes that application requires two endorsement letters.

  • A growing interest of zoos and aquariums in IUCN membership. Efforts are being put towards increasing engagement and addressing issues in fee structures (they tend to have large operating budgets, which disproportionately increases their Membership dues).

  • Application deadlines for membership applications are on the IUCN website. There are four deadlines a year for membership applications: March 31; June 30; September 30 and December 31. It takes 4-6 months for an application to be processed. Need to be Member in enough time before the Congress: applications should be in by the December 31 2019 deadline at the latest.

  • The IUCN North America office is also available to help in recruitment.

  • Increasing indigenous peoples organization (IPO) membership is important (a new category for IPOs was created at the 2016 World Conservation Congress in Hawaiʻi). There are currently no IPOs on the continental US and three in Hawaiʻi.

  • Subnational governments as Members: the prospect is being discussed and debated in Council. There is a question as to what capacity they should participate vis a vis Sate Member, especially in the US where there could be a surge in membership if individual states could join. The governance committee is considering a formula to ensure equitable representation.

A Member asked if the IUCN Global Programme on Governance and Rights (GPGR) in the D.C. office engages U.S. IPOs. The Chair of CEESP responded that GPGR is new to IUCN and is in the process of hiring. Outreach has not occurred broadly in the U.S. yet. GPGR has been working with 18 IPO Members. Members in Canada are having a conversation and working hand in hand with first nations here in the U.S. (Update on hiring of a Programme Officer for Indigenous Peoples: Anita Tzec is now in office)

It was expressed by a representative from United Plant Savers that a priority in the US is protection of sacred sites. This would be an active component in bringing new IPO or other Members, particularly focusing on protecting those sites from fossil fuel infrastructure.

If any Members are interested in joining either the Policy and Strategy or Membership and Communications sub-committees, please contact Christopher Dunn at or Scott Hajost at

Report on Elections for USNC Executive Committee & Chair

Christopher Dunn provided a report on the election process for the next term of the Executive Committee of the USNC. He thanked outgoing Executive committee members: Denise Antolini, Russ Mittermeier and Tom Lovejoy for their service over the past two years.

The next term of members are:

Christopher Dunn (Cornell Botanic Garden), Chair (2nd term)

Deb Hahn (Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies), Scott Hajost (Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition and National Whistleblower Center) (2nd term); Healy Hamilton (NatureServe), Jennifer Luedtke (Global Wildlife Conservation), and David Reynolds (George Wright Society).

Members were previously solicited for those interested to serve on the Executive Committee and approval for the slate by email was done to be more inclusive of members. All members present voted in favor of the additional Committee member bringing the total to six members of the Executive Committee which includes the Chair.

The new Executive Committee will be looking at governance and will bring revised bylaws to full membership.

Christopher expressed it was an honor and a pleasure to serve another term as Chair.

Report from David O’Connor, Permanent Observer of IUCN to the United Nations

Photo: United Nations,

Christopher introduced David O’Oconnor, IUCN Permanent Observer at the United Nations.

IUCN has been a Permanent Observer at the UN since December 1999. This means IUCN is able to participate in deliberations at the General Assembly. There is currently a focus for implementation of sustainable development goals by 2030. David spoke about bringing a balanced agenda having goals that are environmentally oriented. He explained that there is a tremendous opportunity to engage in the UN. (See attached speaking notes. PowerPoint presentation can be found here:

David O’Connor, IUCN. Photo by Sarah Over

He gave some examples of recent activities of his office. Lessons have been learned for scaling up conservation. For example, Lion’s Share – (an initiative aimed at transforming the lives of wildlife across the world by asking advertisers to contribute a percentage of their media spend to conservation and animal welfare projects incorporated by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), FINCH and founding partner Mars), will see companies that brand products with animals pay a share to conservation. An event was organized that addressed the application of biotech to conservation efforts. An example of this is story map technology that is being used to tell the story of indigenous groups in the Amazon.

What policy influence does IUCN have at the UN? David responded that IUCN’s policy advocacy is being underplayed; we can work with Members to figure out a stronger advocacy agenda.

IUCN has a unique status as an observer and not an NGO at the UN. It is working with its Members on the agenda in preparation for 2020 processes. David stressed that we do not want agenda items to fall off the radar in the run up to agreements and should be strategic in updating or developing any new goals in the post-2020 framework.

Members noted that they would like IUCN to engage more at the UN and to use the U.S. National Committee in these efforts. It was expressed that USNC Members need a mechanism to capture their voice and the diversity within it (early on in any processes) and feed this to the Permanent Observer Office. This should be coordinated and systematic, and can be facilitated by increased participation in meetings.


  • SDG15 (Life on Land): most countries did not address SDG15 from perspective of wildlife; they approached it as an issue forests (as an economic resource). A Member expressed hope that during 2020 meetings considerations of wildlife as aspect of biodiversity are better included and wanted to know if there is a way groups can participate/weigh in on the issue.

Comment: We should look at the World Wilderness Congress in March in India: Close relationship with IUCN.

  • A Member asked for elaboration on policy considerations – what is the process on engaging IUCN Members more broadly on issues in the UN?

Answer: The IUCN Congress represents a big opportunity for communication to heads of state. This can be done, for example, through a Resolution. If Members want IUCN to put a policy forward: the World Conservation Congress, through its Members’ Assembly must do it. Members must decide on policy positions collectively (through voting on motions) and those will be advocated for at the UN. Members should consider motions that will direct IUCN to take a stance on particular position.

Commission Reports

Please see and read reports from:

Commission on Environment, Economics and Social Policy (CEESP):

Commission on Education and Communication (CEC): To note: Parks Canada, Para la Naturalesa, WCS and Rainforest Trust committed to funds to support CEC in its work on increasing youth participation and capacities in conservation.

Species Survival Commission (SSC):

World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA):

World Commission on Environmental Law (WCEL):

Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM):

Open Mic:

Communication from IPO Member Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo:

Christopher Dunn, Chair of the US National Committee, shared a communication from Kevin Chang representing Member Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA), one of three indigenous peoples’ organization (IPO) Members in the USA (all based in Hawaiʽi). KUA was unable to send a representative but sent some questions and concurrent challenges to the USNC around: increasing IPO Membership within the USA; advancing IP issues regionally and globally; determining level of knowledge and engagement on IP issues nationally within the USNC; local impact value of IPO membership; active USNC engagement in commenting on the draft IUCN Programme to increase attention to IP issues; and opportunities for USNC support in Resolutions for action at the local level. See Annex 5.

Motions and joint priorities

During the open floor session, Members chose to review the motions process and scope joint priorities for collaboration in drafting and sponsoring motions to be submitted for adoption at the World Conservation Congress in 2020. Discussions highlighted:

Five eligible Member co-sponsors, from at least 2 different regions, are needed

Inviting government agencies to cosponsor motions is encouraged

The deadline for their submission is August 28th.

Members who had experience with submitting motions in the past were encouraged to pair up and act as mentors to those who were new to the process

Importance of a review of past Resolutions to ensure a gap exists

Importance of collaborating in merging motions addressing similar issues

Two Members in particular highlighted corridors and connectivity and climate change as important themes to push forward in this coming Congress.

The IUCN National Committee then identified joint priorities for collaboration and action as a constituency group:



Protected areas

Corridors and connectivity

Conservation funding and finance

Data and Knowledge products

Participants with extensive experience on drafting and submitting motions identified themselves.

See Annex 5 for further details.

Remarks by Yves Frénot, Advisor, Science and Technology, Embassy of France

Yves Frénot, Embassy of France, Washington DC. Photo by Sarah Over

The day ended with an address by Yves Frenot, Councilor for Science and Technology at the French Embassy, Washington DC. He noted that France was second to the USA in highest numbers of IUCN Members and has a very active National Committee. He explained that France is one of the 15 most biodiverse countries and it is facing great biodiversity loss. Having the second largest marine zone, it has a great responsibility to protect biodiversity. France has played a leading role in the IPBES and aims to elevate biodiversity loss to the same priority-level as climate change, propelling it into the international agenda, and support the creation international agreement based on IPBES as they did within the UNFCCC. He also highlighted in particular arctic issues and alarming rates of biodiversity loss and impacts of climate change on ecosystems and people worldwide. He informed Members of France’s commitment to being carbon-neutral by 2050 and the importance of an impactful outcome from the World Conservation Congress – to be held in France- and a strong momentum through to and beyond the CBD COP in China.


Handout - Policy and Strategy Subcommittee Report 6/24/19

Areas of priority and collaboration for USNC

Co-chairs Beth Allgood (IFAW). Steve Olson (AZA), Scott Hajost (ASOC)


IUCN’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations, David O’Conner, will provide a briefing on IUCN’s work with the UN.

We propose following this with a discussion on what members are doing on the UN SDGs, ocean conservation etc. to share action items and ideas.

Natural Resource Crime:

We recommend that groups leading/drafting resolutions on natural resource crime (cybercrime, marine, timber trade, IUU -illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, etc.) Circulate for support to USNC membership.

We will look to volunteers to circulate sign-on letters to USNC members (non-US Government) for voluntary support related to US policy – legislation and funding


Members drafting IUCN marine and terrestrial corridor resolutions (Center for Large Landscape Conservation and others) could circulate for endorsement to USNC members, Connectivity Guidance documents, etc.

We also ask volunteers leading on this issue to circulate sign-on letters to USNC members (non-USG) for voluntary support related US policy – legislation and funding.

It was noted in a subcommittee call that climate change is of importance in addressing terrestrial and marine corridor conservation and conservation generally.

US Leadership in conservation/funding:

At Congressional appropriations time, we propose to circulate sign on letters to USNC members (non USG) for voluntary support related to funding for international conservation (including IUCN) funding. If interest allows, we will organize a joint lobby day with USNC members annually.

Other Areas of Collaboration

USNC could develop shared priorities around the draft program of work where there is agreement. This could be a sign on by as many members as possible.

The subcommittee recommends creating opportunities to meet and discuss IUCN Council candidates and issues in the WCC Members Assembly and other fora.

We will circulate (periodically) a list of events and meetings of interest to members.


Rethinking Animals Summit September 13-15 New York

Jackson Wild/Ocean Summit: Sept 21-27

UN SDG Summit September 24-25 New York

Our Ocean Conference October 23-24 Oslo

CITES Cop August 17-28 Geneva

IUCN Marseille Congress countdown/deadlines:

July 5 Comments due on Consultation on the draft IUCN policy on synthetic biology and biodiversity conservation

July 17 WCC Forum proposals due

August 28 Resolutions due

Sept 30 Comments on the IUCN draft 2021-24 program due

December 11 Comments on Commission mandates due


DRAFT Minutes

Meeting of the IUCN US National Committee Subcommittee on Membership & Communications

Thursday, April 18, 2019 10:00 AM-11:00 AM EDT

Attending: Paul Salaman (Rainforest Trust), Ann Powers (Center for Global Environmental Legal Studies, Pace University), Lane Kisonak (AFWA), Joe Goergen (Safari Club International), Scott Hajost (National Whistleblower Center), Greg Mueller(Chicago Botanic Garden), Debbie Good (IUCN Membership Focal Point US/Canada).

Regrets: Charlotte Vick (Sylvia Earle Alliance-Mission Blue), Rodger Correa (IFAW)

Welcome and Introductions

Review Committee mandate:

Actively promote membership in IUCN; develop talking points on benefits of membership

Recruit new members; encourage current members to maintain membership

Develop communication tools (including a web presence) and strategies to keep all US members,

IUCN Commissions, and US-based Commission members engaged and informed.

Platform(s) for discussion and information exchange

Develop agenda for Annual General Meeting and Symposium (24-25 June)

Questions for discussion:

How to we grow IUCN membership in the US?

How do we more effectively communicate the benefits of membership?

How do we improve communication/collaboration among members?

Key points and action items:

Update from Debbie Good: IUCN-US currently has 115 members – largest number for any country in the world.

The vast majority of US environmental NGOs are not IUCN members.

Is membership recruitment and engagement an institutional priority of IUCN? It might be best to figure out first how to engage members, then cost it out before seeking more resources for membership.

Meeting every four years at the WCC is not enough to keep members engaged. For communications, regular annual meetings are an important way to facilitate this.

To make IUCN relevant, we need to make it active, and strengthen the USNC on regional and national levels.

There is a lot of interest from sportsmen’s groups, zoos & aquaria, sustainable-use organizations – these could be an untapped membership resource.

Hold multiple regional meetings in 2021 or earlier to engage membership – have these meetings on locations other than the East Coast.

Better way of communicating benefits of IUCN membership is needed; currently only a link on the website is available. Since funding is a major constraint, Rainforest Trust will provide funds and other resources to produce and print a brochure or similar type of promotional material, with text from IUCN.

Need talking points as well to be sure everyone is telling the same story.

Engage IUCN members in soliciting new members as well as retaining others.

Target specific types of organizations each year, as opposed to casting a wider net. Then, get current members to engage their communities.

Networking could also help identify topics that need to be addressed.

Consider what we want from new members, as well as what they want from IUCN. Does it enhance our ability to do something? Are there benefits to having certain membership organizations?

Next meeting proposed date: June 10 at 11:00 AM EDT.

IUCN USNC meeting on June 24-25 at the National Zoo.


IUCN’s Work at the United Nations

David O’Connor

Permanent Observer of IUCN to the United Nations

IUCN continues to engage actively in discussions and negotiations at the United Nations, where it has permanent observer status in the General Assembly (since December 17, 1999).

IUCN, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and BBNJ

In the period following the Rio+20 Conference in June 2012, IUCN lobbied actively for a strong reflection of nature conservation and environmental concerns in the SDGs, along with social and economic goals.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in September 2015 contains a number of goals which highlight the commitment to nature conservation, notably SDGs 14 on oceans and marine ecosystems and 15 on terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity.

The Rio+20 Conference also paved the way for international negotiations under the auspices of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to address the conservation of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Those negotiations are ongoing, with the first two negotiating sessions having taken place in New York, most recently in March of this year; 3rd round: 19-30 August.

Knowledge Dialogues

For the past 3 ½ years, IUCN’s Permanent Mission has partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Government of France to organize a series of Knowledge Dialogues for UN Delegates and civil society representatives in New York.

We have held around four or five dialogues per year, timed to coincide with other important meetings happening in New York. Events like the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Financing for Development Forum, the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum, and the High-Level Political Forum, as well as the annual start to the work of the General Assembly during high-level week. [show slide]

So far, we have had two events this year, on scaling up private investment in conservation and the other on science and technology innovation for conservation. [show slide]

In three weeks, we will have an event on nature governance, peacebuilding and sustainable development, to be held during the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, where Juha Siikamaki and Jenny Springer will speak, presenting findings from the new IUCN flagship publication. [show slide]

We will also plan to organize a high-level

Major UN events in 2019 and IUCN’s involvement

HLPF (8-18 July): final review year of the first HLPF cycle since adoption of SDGs

The last set of goals will be reviewed – SDGs 4 (education), 8 (growth and employment), 10 (inequalities), 13 (climate change), 16 (peace, justice and governance) and every year 17

Almost 50 countries will present their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) of the progress on the SDGs and 2030 Agenda

Other stakeholders will organize their own events:

Private sector: Chief Sustainability Officers (17 July)

Local governments: Local 2030 (16-17 July)

Philanthropy and the SDGs (16 July)

Higher Education Sustainability Initiative (10 July)

UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit (23 Sept 2019)

Several tracks of work leading in principle to the announcement of major commitments to accelerated action, higher ambition, including Nature Based Solutions – led by China and New Zealand, supported by IUCN (Sandeep Sengupta, Frank Hawkins, Dorothee Herr, the Forests and Mangroves teams)

SDG Summit (24-25 September)

Political Declaration (under silence procedure; if agreed):

HOS/G commit to halt ecosystem degradation and biodiversity loss

Leaders Dialogues, including one on 2020-2030 Vision, where the 2020 targets in the SDGs (notably goals 14 and 15) are among the issues to be addressed.

2020: major milestones for biodiversity, nature conservation

Earth Day 50th anniversary events (mentioned earlier)

IUCN World Conservation Congress (June)

2nd UN Ocean Conference, Lisbon, Portugal (June 2020)

Biodiversity Summit (Sept 2020)

Conference of Parties to Convention on Biological Diversity (Kunming)


Message from KUA (IPO Member)

Via email, sent on June 21st 2019

Aloha Chris and members of the US National Committee,

Kuaʻāina Ulu ʻAuamo (KUA) is an IUCN Indigenous People’s Organization (IPO) member. We cannot attend this year's meeting and would like to request that Kristen Painemilla-Walker be our designated proxy. Further, we would like to offer the following thoughts, comments and suggestions.

KUA is one of three Hawaiʻi based IPO members. Although we are based in and more culturally affiliated to Oceania- we hope to participate more as capacity allows- we also recognize the need and impact of participation in the North American region given the governance issues of the region and Hawaiʻi's history.

A few weeks ago in Guatemala about 17 members of the current IUCN-IPO membership met for our annual meeting to revisit our common agenda and progress. One issue we all seek to advance is increased IUCN membership/participation and understanding and support for indigenous people’s (IP) in our respective regions. Our work deals with on the ground localized efforts to care for our island earth and it is increasingly important to us –and the world- that impacts be made, felt and seen locally.

We learned that before the creation of the IPO membership category, since 1975, the World Conservation Congress (WCC) passed approximately 159 Resolutions that directly or indirectly refer to Indigenous People’s rights (IP rights), Indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) and IP conservation. We are looking into the use and purpose of these resolutions to understand them and perhaps further progress on the ground or globally.

We would like to propose some questions and concurrent challenge(s) to this commission and our region to consider, in part and aligned with our mission and goals as an IPO and in light of the evolving understanding of conservation that is equitable and inclusive of people, sustainable cultural practices and values and a rise in power and efficacy of community-based natural resource management:

1) Does this, will this and can this US National Committee (or its members) make a commitment to help increase and advance IPO membership and IP issues and support regionally and globally?

2) What is the depth of knowledge and connection to IP issues within this committee and region?

3) What is (or what can be) the local impact value of being an IUCN member and engaging in the US National Committee?

4) The current IPBES global assessment -which appears to be a topic of discussion for your agenda- has taken strongly into account the role of indigenous peoples and local communities. Given this and the ongoing discussion/feedback on the draft IUCN 2021-2024 program can this committee support this importance in making suggestions and amendments to the draft program?

5) What is the US National Committee’s and memberships current engagement in IP or IPO partnerships in the U.S. region? The existing 159 resolutions indicate some ongoing work over the years but the theme of the focus appears to have been more international development driven.

6) What is or can be the role of the US National Committee in supporting resolutions or actions at the local level? If support is possible in what ways and to who do we work with? As an example KUA currently has a pending letter on WCC-2016-Res-065-EN to support community-based natural resource management in Hawai’i.

Mahalo for your time and attention



Kevin Chang


Kua'āina Ulu 'Auamo (KUA)


IUCN US Committee Priorities

Crime - 12 votes

Species – 12 votes

Protected Areas – 11 votes

Corridors and Connectivity – 9

Manage lands – 1

Funding & Finance/links to economics – 6

Data and Knowledge Products – 4

Trophy Hunting Endangered Species – 0

Intact Forest – 6

Invasive Species – 1

Oceans – 6

Human Populations – 3

Eliminating Fossil Fuel Subsidies – 7

Additional Ideas

IPO engagement – 5

Identifying key issues and projects for regional collaboration with the Caribbean Region and Canada. (no votes – just an idea)

Expertise with Motions

Sue Lieberman

Aaron Laur

Denise Antolini

Ann Powers (Pace Class)

Annex 6


Keynote by Dr. Yves Frenot, Counselor for Science & Technology, Embassy of France in the U.S.

Dear distinguished members,

Let me first thank Dr. Frank Hawkins, Director of the IUCN North America Office, for inviting me today. I am honored by this opportunity to talk to you but I am also concerned by the task ahead of us.

Just few words about me: I am counselor for Science and Technology at the Embassy of France in the Unites States, but in a previous life I was a scientist involved in research on polar terrestrial ecology. And more recently, I was the director of the French polar institute and the French Antarctic program. In this position, I had the opportunity to participate during 15 years in the annual meetings of the Antarctic Treaty and to chair its Committee for Environmental Protection during 4 years. One of the key issues discussed in this arena was related to the conservation of the Antarctic biodiversity currently threatened by climate change and by an increase in the number of non-native species. Knowing the situation in Antarctica, I can testify that no region of the planet is spared from this damage to biodiversity.

As you all know, the conclusions of the latest IPBES global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services are alarming. One million animal and plant species are now at risk of extinction due to human actions and it threatens the very ecosystems people rely on for their livelihoods. Business as usual is no longer an option. Scientists have a clear message for us: we need “transformative changes”.

These conclusions were endorsed by no less than 132 countries in Paris last month. On this occasion, President Macron recalled that France had already taken measures, as a national plan for biodiversity was launched last year. But further actions are needed. France has a special responsibility in protecting biodiversity. Due to its overseas territories in three different oceans, France has the second largest maritime exclusive economic zone after the US, 11 millions square kilometers in area, and it is one of the 15 “mega-diverse” countries in the world. However, France is not spared by the biodiversity extinction crisis: it is present in 5 of the 36 "hot spots" on the planet, areas with a high concentration of biodiversity but highly threatened (Mediterranean, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, New Caledonia, Polynesia) and France is among the 10 countries hosting the largest number of globally threatened species according to the IUCN Red List.

But biodiversity knows no border. Concerted effort is necessary as no country alone will be able to counter the IPBES forecasts. That is why France is committed to make biodiversity conservation a priority at the international level, in the same way as climate change. At the end of 2020, China will host the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. The goal is to reach an ambitious international agreement that addresses the challenges raised by the IPBES.

France is playing a leading role in this mobilization effort. Under its G7 presidency, France is making biodiversity conservation a priority in the international fight against inequalities. At the same time as the IPBES scientists rang the alarm bell on biodiversity in Paris, the G7 Environment Ministers were meeting in Metz, where they pledged to strengthen their countries’ commitments for preserving biodiversity.

But States cannot do it alone. For hope not to be compromised and for success to become a reality, all actors must get involved: the private sector, academia, indigenous peoples, NGOs and think tanks. In this perspective, the 7th World Conservation Congress of the IUCN next year will be a key milestone in the road towards the biodiversity COP15 in China, as it will bring together a wide range of stakeholders involved in biodiversity conservation.

The IUCN French Committee coordinates and promotes the vast network of members of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in France, including public and voluntary organizations, experts and partners. France is now the 2nd country with the largest number of IUCN members in the world after the US. It is also the first time since IUCN's creation in 1948 in Fontainebleau that France will host the IUCN World Congress in 2020. This gives France a special responsibility in building political momentum on biodiversity issues. One lesson from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change is that the participation of various actors in different arenas is necessary to reach a comprehensive and ambitious agreement. For international negotiations to be successful, they must be supported by a dynamic built at all levels. This began with the awareness raised by the scientific assessment presented by the IPBES in Paris last May. It will continue with the mobilization of all concerned actors in Marseille on June 2020.

Beyond the actors directly concerned, the general public and decision-makers, especially political leaders, must be particularly aware of the state of knowledge, the current situation and trends, the urgency of the actions to be taken and the radical changes that will be required. The use of symbolic images of the extinction of iconic species such as polar bear and marine mammals is extremely useful in conveying warning messages, but it should not overlook threats to a very large number of less visible species that play a crucial role in the functioning of natural or anthropogenic ecosystems. The damage to ecosystem services provided by these species can have dramatic consequences not only for the natural environment, but also for the human species, whether in terms of economy, food resources or health. These are essential issues for the future that we want to pass on to our children.

This is why my Office at the French Embassy in the United States has decided to put the topic "biodiversity" at the top of its priorities. This year, in collaboration with our colleagues working in Canada, we launched the French Ameri-Can Climate Talks on Biodiversity as part of these multi-stakeholder efforts to put biodiversity on the international agenda. These high-level conferences bring together French, US and Canadian speakers from academia, government agencies, NGOs and think tanks. The goal is twofold: to raise public and decision makers’ awareness in these three countries, as well as to strengthen exchanges between experts on biodiversity issues.

Six conferences have already taken place in North-American cities: San Francisco, San Diego, Washington DC, Chicago, Vancouver and Toronto. We partnered with major US and Canadian institutions involved in biodiversity conservation: The Smithsonian Institution, the Presidio Trust, the University of California in San Diego, the University of Illinois in Chicago, and in Canada, the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation and the University of Toronto.

Among the experts who participated in these events, I would like to mention in particular Anne Larigauderie, Executive Secretary of IPBES, on the French side, and, on the American side, Thomas Lovejoy, President of the IUCN Board of Directors in the US and the “Godfather of Biodiversity”. Those discussions have brought together more than 800 participants.

The Embassy of France in the US – and its Office for Science and Technology that I lead – will of course remain committed in the coming year in bringing biodiversity issues at the center of the US public debate. In our collective journey to the biodiversity COP15, the mobilization of all will be necessary. Rest assured that France will play a leadership role alongside IUCN in this fight against the unprecedented rapid decline of biodiversity.

Thank you.

11 views0 comments
bottom of page