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Environmental Forum to Assemble in Thailand in Nov

NEWS RELEASE
12 May 2004

The World's Largest Democratic Environmental Forum to Assemble in Thailand in November 2004

Bangkok and Gland, Switzerland, 12 May 2004 (IUCN) - How can our planet meet the needs of growing populations and expanding markets without sacrificing nature? This question will be at the heart of the debate at the 3rd IUCN World Conservation Congress, which will open on 17 November in Bangkok, Thailand, under the theme: "People and Nature - only one world".

The Congress is the governing body of IUCN - The World Conservation Union. It is held every four years and represents the world's largest democratic environmental forum where governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) jointly establish conservation priorities, guide the Union's policy and approve its Programme. IUCN's six specialist Commissions draw on the expertise of some 12,000 of the world's leading scientists, practitioners, economists, lawyers, and educators.

"The Congress is an assembly of over 1000 IUCN member organizations. It plays a unique and urgent role in bringing the knowledge we have about biodiversity, ecosystems and species into the mainstream of development decision-making in our societies," says IUCN Director General Achim Steiner.

The Congress will have three distinctive but related elements: IUCN Commission Meetings; the World Conservation Forum; and the Members Business Assembly.

The Commission meetings will set the priorities for conservation work for the coming four years. They will discuss new ways of addressing species extinction, improving management of protected areas, enacting new laws to conserve nature, ensuring that fair benefits flow to rural people from natural resources, building understanding of how ecosystems function, and improving public understanding of conservation.

The World Conservation Forum is expected to attract over 3000 representatives of States, government agencies, global business leaders, scientists, politicians, civil society and youth. It will discuss and define solutions for urgent problems such as the loss of species and ecosystems, globalization and related health concerns, poverty alleviation, and economic and legal steps to ensure the sustainable use of natural resources.

"What triggered the spread of the avian flu virus? What is the economic bill resulting from the invasions of alien species such as the Asian long-horned beetle that is devastating forests in North America? How can payments for ecosystem services improve the livelihoods of remote rural communities? What can be done to prevent the collapse of global fisheries? These and other issues will be explored at the Forum," says IUCN Chief Scientist Jeffrey A. McNeely.

Advancing the Global Conservation Agenda

Through a host of resolutions, recommendations, expressions of opinions and proposals that are pending before the Congress, the IUCN membership initiates the development of policy instruments that help shape the global conservation agenda.

"IUCN's motions have had substantial influence in guiding the development of the organization as well as heralding key milestones in the evolution of the conservation community," says Dr Stephen R. Edwards, IUCN Senior Advisor, who is coordinating the motions to be considered at the upcoming Congress. "Several motions led to the establishment of international agreements designed to enhance conservation of species such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the Convention on Biological Diversity, or the Polar bears protection treaty adopted by the Arctic nations a decade after a similar IUCN resolution was passed," Dr Edwards added.

Electing the Conservation Leaders

Another main function of the World Conservation Congress is to elect the President, Treasurer, Regional Councillors (three from each of IUCN eight statutory regions) and Chairs of IUCN six volunteer Commissions.

Says Yolanda Kakabadse, outgoing President of IUCN: "When the Union was established in 1948, it was a daring idea of pioneers and visionaries. Half a century later, the conservation community has matured immensely but its spirit of volunteerism remains ever high. All the elected officials are volunteers just like the IUCN's 12,000 commission members, who contribute their time and effort for the continued environmental leadership of the Union."

Having served two terms as IUCN President, former Environment Minister of Ecuador Yolanda Kakabadse will step down after the Congress. The two candidates for the new IUCN President are former South African Minister of Environment and Tourism Mohammed Valli Moosa, and a prominent environmental leader of Pakistan and former Chair of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law Dr Parvez Hassan.

The IUCN President is the top elected official responsible for the governance of the Union. The President also chairs the IUCN Council composed of thirty prominent conservationists that governs the Union in between the Congresses.

Presenting the State-of-the-Art Knowledge

In the past four decades, ecosystems have been sending ever louder distress signals: half of the world's wetlands have been destroyed in the past century; some 27% of coral reefs have been lost and many more are imperilled by human activity; 80% of grasslands are suffering from soil degradation; 70% of the world's drylands are threatened by desertification; and groundwater is being depleted almost everywhere. Latest findings and state-of-the-art knowledge on species and ecosystems will be presented in Bangkok.

The Congress will debate new approaches to maintain the many values and services provided by these ecosystems. Economic valuation, when applied to development decisions, can and will lead to very different choices - evidence from IUCN shows that the conservation of ecosystems, with their many benefits to the especially poor communities, will certainly be one of them.

Shortly before the Congress, the 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the world's most authoritative source of information on extinction risk, will be launched. The 2004 Red List is the most complete update of the vast data on species collected by the 8,000 experts who are part of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. Such major analyses are carried out every four years. The 1996 List revealed that one in four mammal species and one in eight bird species face extinction, while the 2000 List confirmed that the global extinction crisis is as bad or worse than believed. Dramatic declines in populations of many species, including reptiles and primates were reported.

Celebrating the Conservation Successes

The Congress is also a unique opportunity to recognise outstanding conservation work and other exceptional contributions to environment and sustainable development, whatever the field. During the Congress, the following awards will be presented:

Sir Peter Scott Awards for Conservation Merit. This award is given by the IUCN Species Survival Commission in the name of the late Sir Peter Scott, whose commitment to global conservation, IUCN and SSC left a legacy of achievement recognized throughout the global conservation community. Since its inception in 1984, a variety of individuals, communities and organizations have been recognized for their leadership, dedication, and commitment to biodiversity conservation.

2004 Global Reuters-IUCN Media Awards for Excellence in Environmental Reporting. At a Ceremony hosted by Reuters and IUCN, H.M. Queen Noor will present awards to six regional winners and announce the global winner of the 2004 Media Awards.

For more information contact:

In Thailand:
elroy.bos@iucn.org; www.iucn.org
saroj@iucnt.org; www.iucn.org/places/asia;

In Switzerland:
xenya.cherny@iucn.org; www.iucn.org

Media Accreditation for the 3rd IUCN World Conservation Congress

Media representatives are invited to attend the World Conservation Forum and other media events at the 3rd IUCN World Conservation Congress. All members of the press wishing to attend the Congress require an accreditation signed by the IUCN Director General. Only reporters and journalists accredited to the Congress will be granted access to The Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre. Journalists who cannot attend but wish to receive media documentation are invited to contact IUCN's communication staff.

Fact sheets on the four World Conservation Forum themes are available from the IUCN website:

Ecosystem Management - Bridging sustainability and productivity: http://www.iucn.org/congress/documents/fact_1.pdf

Health, Poverty and Conservation - Responding to the challenge of human well-being: http://www.iucn.org/congress/documents/fact_2.pdf

Biodiversity Loss and Species Extinction - Managing risk in a changing world: http://www.iucn.org/congress/documents/fact_3.pdf

Markets, Business and the Environment - Strengthening corporate social responsibility, law and policy: http://www.iucn.org/congress/documents/fact_4.pdf


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