4 April 2022
Dear President Al Mubarak, Council members, and Director General Oberle,
Thank you for your leadership of the world’s most important conservation organization. It is a privilege to be associated with IUCN in which all voices are heard and respected. In that context, the following is a statement from the Executive Committee of the IUCN National Committee for the USA.
The consequences of the invasion of Ukraine (a sovereign nation) by the Russian Federation continues unabated and is resulting in a humanitarian and environmental catastrophe with major international implications. We note, in that context, the recent statement by IUCN on the “military conflict” in Ukraine and find it lacking in several important respects.
First, it fails to name the aggressor in this conflict, but instead mentions only Ukraine and refers to a “military conflict,” a term that could be used to describe an internal civil war. The IUCN statement has effectively sanitized the invasion and its impacts to people and environment.
Second, as noted by a motion forwarded by the French National Committee (attached), and as is well- known in the history of IUCN, the Union was born from the ashes of war. Those who have been involved with IUCN for a long time will recall the Amman Clause that was developed and unanimously approved at the Amman World Conservation Congress in 2000 (see attached) which specifically refers to environmental law and armed conflict. It was acknowledged, from the very beginning, that peace among peoples and peace with the earth are inseparable. It was this ethic that made IUCN such a well- respected voice and platform for the dignity of people and nature. This ethic has been abdicated.
Third, a large number of Members and several National and Regional Committees are dismayed by the “conflict,” desperate for strong leadership from IUCN, and sorely disappointed by the weak statement belatedly released by IUCN on 16 March 2022. That release was a simple posting on the IUCN website with no communication to or engagement with the IUCN membership.
On 11 March 2022, I forwarded to you a statement on behalf of the Executive Committee of the US National Committee which approved unanimously the motion put forward by the French National Committee. Like the French, we have yet to receive any acknowledgement of its receipt. Currently, 48 US Members (list attached) have registered their support of the French motion.
Members are increasingly disturbed by the situation in Ukraine with its much broader international impacts. We now not only request due consideration of the actions requested in the French motion, but that a more forceful statement from the Union, one that is strong, passionate, compassionate, and meaningful be issued forthwith.
We would all do well to remember that the leadership of IUCN serves at the pleasure of, and on behalf of, the members, not in spite of them. We dare say that many members are displeased.
We all know that the world is in turmoil (pandemic, climate crisis, biodiversity loss, war). All the more reason that IUCN assume the higher ground of international visibility and standing and speak with a voice of authority.
With all best wishes,
Christopher P. Dunn, PhD (Chair, Executive Committee, US National Committee)
Attached: 1. Motion on the Russian Federation’s Invasion of Ukraine, French National Committee 2. Amman Clause on Environmental Law and Armed Conflict (approved at 2000 IUCN World Conservation Congress, Amman) 3. US National Committee Members in support of French National Committee motion