IUCN spotlight: focus conservation efforts on values, not on price, to bring about real change

The author during the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) conference.I am just coming from the Conservation Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

They say it, “is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network - a democratic membership union with more than 1,200 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries.”

There is certainly an enormous amount of knowledge and expertise on the state of nature, the loss of individual species, general biodiversity and their conservation.

The projection for the future, if we continue on our current path is grim.

Climate Change is just one example aside of over-consumption and habitat deterioration. But if we manage to limit the average global temperature increase to “only” 2°C, which unfortunately seems more a hopeful objective than a realistic one, we may still lose 20% of the world’s biodiversity.

Imagine: 20% just gone forever! And still I don’t see that governments jointly act to ensure that we are not exceeding 2° ….

But not all is lost.

We can still overcome much of the damage if we treat this as an emergency.

My feeling here at the IUCN Congress is that more and more delegates are coming to the same conclusion.

Nevertheless, it worries me very much that so many IUCN members focusing only on the economic value of wildlife and to combat poverty, but still ignoring all its great non-economic values.

And what about all these ecosystem services like clean water, medicinal plants and food which nature, when it is allowed to flourish, supplies us for free?

Not to mention the ecosystem services that are so essential for non-human species which we and IUCN trying to protect.

I take it as a good sign that we were able to convince proponents to withdraw their ill-minded proposal to condemn the EU import ban for seal products.

Instead of recognising the unacceptable cruelty involved in commercial sealing they argued that seals are a pest just because the market value dropped!

Unbelievably, the seals are still made a scapegoat for overfishing. Anyone with their head screwed on knows it is humans who are destroying our planet’s biodiversity.

Again and again I had to remind conference participants that in the past the UN and IUCN have recognized and welcomed the intrinsic, cultural, ethical, spiritual ecological, and other non-economic values of wildlife.  

Conservation can only be successful if we protect nature based on all values – not just economic ones.

To bring the animal welfare dimension into IUCN’s conservation approach is therefore essential to success.

I am pleased that we made some good progress at the congress in this regard and more delegates will focus conservation efforts on values, not on price, to bring about real change.


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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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