IUCN works to better manage nature for human well-being and promote an understanding that conservation and livelihoods are inextricably linked. It does this by developing policies and strategies to help natural resource-dependent people, especially women, to sustainably manage ecosystems to improve their livelihoods; and by helping to implement sustainable and equitable environmental management.

IUCN promotes recognition and respect of indigenous peoples and local communities' rights and institutions, and supports conservation practices based on traditional knowledge and cultural values.

The fulfilment of IUCN’s mission requires the Union to address and effectively integrate key social issues in its conservation programmes.

IUCN links its Mission to the paramount goals of the international community on environment and sustainable development, in particular Agenda 21 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). Consequently, IUCN is committed to making its programmes and activities fully responsive to such agreements, and to actively contribute to their fulfilment, particularly in relation to the objectives of sustainable human development, erradication of poverty, and environmental sustainability.

Conservation requires an in-depth understanding of the complex inter-linkages between the environment and people. Conservation and use of natural resources are social processes par excellence, as people relate to their natural environmental through social relations and institutions. IUCN's work is primarily about facilitating social change, since overcoming unsustainable development requires influencing and changing people's behavior and social institutions. The success of our work relates to the degree to which it contributes to the wellbeing of people and to the maintenance and preservation of biodiversity and ecosystems. Individual and collective wellbeing, social equity, cultural diversity and peace are foundations for sustainable conservation and management of natural resources, and they rely on increased social equity among all stakeholders.

IUCN seeks to promote sustainable conservation and natural resource management, which embrace social equity and cultural diversity, enhance people's capacity and ability to maintain healthy ecosystems, and enhance human and environmental security in a changing world. Our work on social policy issues aims to:

  • Improve the understanding of the linkages between biodiversity, ecosystem goods and services, human wellbeing, livelihoods and other socio-economic and cultural factors among IUCN membership and staff
  • Enhance the Union's capacity to apply sustainable and equitable approaches to natural resource management, based on principles of social equity  
  • Advocate institutional mechanisms that ensure effective, equitable and people-centred conservation and natural resource management approaches.