Defining a role for IUCN


[At left: the IUCN Members' Assembly at the 2016 World Conservation Congress in Hawai'i] 

When the IUCN WCPA Urban Conservation Strategies Specialist Group was formed in 2005, one of our main objectives was to work with others to define an urban role for IUCN and encourage the international conservation community generally to give more attention to urban matters. 

This proved to be more difficult than we anticipated. One reason was that conservationists tend to be biased toward more remote places because species and natural ecosystems have a better chance of surviving in such places. And they are often attracted to careers in conservation because they want to get out of the city. Another reason was concern that limited funds badly needed for protecting wilder lands would be diverted to urban places. It was hard for us to get across the other side of the equation, illustrated below, that remote places will be protected only if urban people experience and appreciate nature where they live. 


The adoption in 2016 of an IUCN Resolution that we drafted, "Incorporating Urban Dimensions of Conservation into the Work of IUCN" (printed below), was a turning point. Although we managed to get similar measures approved before, they had little practical effect. The 2016 Resolution is being taken more seriously because it calls for specific actions to be taken and has broader support. Also, IUCN's leadership decided to give more attention to motions, discouraging unrealistic proposals and tracking implementation of those that pass. It seems our persistence is paying off.  


IUCN Resolution: Urban Dimensions of Conservation

IUCN Resolution WCC-2016-Res-029 

Lead sponsor: InterEnvironment Institute, in cooperation with the IUCN WCPA 

   Urban Conservation Strategies Specialist Group

Adopted  by the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai'i, US

Incorporating Urban Dimensions of Conservation into the Work of IUCN

CONSIDERING that IUCN and the global conservation community generally have tended to focus attention on areas relatively remote from cities;

CONCERNED that giving higher priority to those areas where human impact on nature has been least, may risk overlooking the many reasons why urban places,  people, and institutions are also crucial to IUCN’s success;

MINDFUL that the world is urbanising fast, and that as urban influences spread ever outwards, previously remote areas will be affected;

RECOGNISING  that the majority of the world's population is urban and that urban  people are critical for nature conservation, nationally and globally, that cities are where most wealth is concentrated, and most media are based, and that conservation depends on support from urban voters, consumers, donors, and communicators – yet people living in cities have diminishing contact with nature;

NOTING that urban conservation actors include national, sub-national, and local authorities, and a range of non-governmental organisations, academic and scientific bodies,  and community groups;

AWARE that nature is essential to people’s physical and mental health, development, and well-being, that natural areas in and around cities help give residents a sense of place, offer opportunities to learn about nature and sustainability, provide a wide range of ecosystem services, contribute to carbon sequestration, and bolster resilience to climate change and natural disasters, and that many natural and semi-natural areas in and around cities are rich in  biodiversity and geoheritage and can include protected areas in any of IUCN’s six categories;

NOTING the dependency of urban populations on goods and services, such as drinking water, energy, food and flood protection, provided by rural ecosystems;

FURTHER NOTING that urban natural areas can enhance tourist attractions of cities and boost income from tourism;

RECOGNISING  that access to nature in urban areas can be important in addressing  environmental justice and sustainability issues; 

FURTHER  RECOGNISING that cities can have major negative impacts on surrounding ecosystems, for example, air and water pollution, deforestation for  fuelwood, and harvesting of wildlife for human consumption, that urban ports, airports, and gardens are entry points for invasive alien  species, and that urban sprawl is often a major threat to nature;

ALSO RECOGNISING the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDG 11  to make human settlements, inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable; and

NOTING that Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on  Housing and Sustainable Urban Development will be held in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016, and will act on the development of a new Urban Agenda;

The World Conservation Congress, at its session in Hawai‘i, United States of America, 1-10 September 2016:

1. REQUESTS the Director General to:

a.  direct all Secretariat groups to review their programmes to ensure that  urban dimensions of conservation are appropriately reflected in their priorities; and

b. appoint a focal point at senior level in the Secretariat to coordinate urban conservation matters;

2. STRONGLY REQUESTS the Director General and Commissions to:

a.  convey to leading organisations and experts concerned with urban dimensions of conservation the importance of participating in IUCN  Membership and Commissions;

b. contribute expertise on this theme to intergovernmental organisations;

c.  encourage the promotion of cooperation among conservation agencies and  museums, zoos, botanical gardens, and similar institutions in urban areas to introduce urban people to their region's natural heritage  through public programming, community engagement and citizen science; and

d. seek to develop collaborative programmes with other bodies to raise awareness of the importance of urban protected areas; and

3. CALLS ON Council to:

a. lead a strong IUCN-wide initiative to promote awareness of the crucial role that nature performs in urban places;

b. encourage actions that reinforce the role of nature in the planning and  management of urban areas, and the role of urban areas in planning and managing conservation programmes; and

c. establish an 'IUCN Urban Alliance', chaired by a member of Council and composed of Members and units of Commissions and the Secretariat concerned with urban dimensions of conservation, and charge it with assisting Members, Council, the  Director General, Commissions and National and Regional Committees in carrying out the purposes of this Resolution.