The U.S. Regional Forum was held at the National Museum of the American Indian from 8:30 to 5:30 on September 21, 2011. The meeting, which included lunch and an evening reception, was attended by approximately 70 persons, representing 24 Member institutions, all IUCN Commissions, and numerous friends and partners of IUCN.

The meeting was called to order and chaired by Russ Mittermeier (U.S.), Vice President of IUCN and U.S. Councillor. Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN, also welcomed participants. IUCN Councillors in attendance were George Greene (Canada); Spencer Thomas (Caribbean); Keith Wheeler (Chair of Commission on Education and Communication); Simon Stuart, Chair of SSC, and Nik Lopoukhine, Chair of WCPA. The meeting included discussion of the following items:

  • The One Programme Charter
  • The Draft IUCN Programme 2013 – 2016
  • Participation in the World Conservation Congress in September 2012
  • Governance Issues under Consideration by the IUCN Council
  • IUCN Influence on International Policy – Rio + 20
  • Issues specific to the U.S. Office, including possible re-establishment of a U.S. national committee

One Programme Charter

Keith Wheeler presented the One Programme Charter, which is designed to promote coordination and communication among the IUCN components on a unified programme. Comments on the Charter included: concerns that the additional need for communication and collaboration necessary to implement the Charter would add to workload (including the workload of volunteers) and increase costs; concerns about the ability of IUCN with current staff to carry out the ambitious programme and collaboration envisioned; support for the notion that, as a large aggregation with many interests, IUCN should speak with one voice for conservation, even if it adds to the cost of carrying out IUCN’s mission, and that working together will enhance IUCN’s efforts, allowing greater impact; and questions about why a document was necessary, since the need to work together should be obvious. Some also noted the important culture change that has occurred in IUCN over time in the direction of reducing competition and building greater collaboration among the Secretariat, the Commissions and the Members, and also the need to continue that culture change as IUCN moves into the future.

Draft IUCN Programme 2013 – 2016

Alex Moiseev presented the Draft IUCN Programme 2013 – 2016, with comments from Spencer Thomas, Nik Lopoukhine, and Simon Stuart. Each Commission was also asked to give brief remarks. On behalf of CEM, Steve Edwards noted the importance of Commission input in situations like the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and the lessons to be learned where ecosystems adapt to changes. On behalf of CEC, John Francis noted that knowledge products fall short of communicating emotions behind the issues, and that we need to know how to move people to get action. On behalf of CEESP, Juanita Calbera Lopez noted the importance of working as equal partners with indigenous peoples and people in local communities, and also commented on the need to look at food security in the context of food sovereignty and to think more about what we mean under the rubric of green economy. On behalf of CEL, Richard Ottinger noted the thin staffing on climate change and also expressed concern that energy has disappeared from the Programme. CEL is trying to help raise the resources to address energy.

The many excellent interventions from participants (which have been passed on to Programme staff) included comments concerning: the importance of paying more attention to urban places and people in a world that is urbanizing rapidly; the suggestion that TPA 3 be broadened to “nature based solutions to global change” instead of just climate change; the importance of legal expertise in addressing indigenous issues, intellectual property, and property rights; the importance of looking beyond just nature based solutions to climate change; the need to make sure that biological diversity is prominently part of IPBES; the importance of addressing GMOs in food security; the importance of cost-effective and innovative approaches that promote nature as a good investment; the importance of being restrictive in defining green economy; concerns that terrestrial issues dominate the draft and that the marine biome should be represented where the document gets to that level of specificity; concerns that the document’s concentration on research, demonstration, and policy leaves out education and communication; the importance of increased focus on oceans and their governance; the need for more emphasis on the transboundary dimensions of issues; and support for the notion that nature-based solutions for food security is a good niche for IUCN.

World Conservation Congress

Luc De Wever made a presentation on the World Conservation Congress, and the ways in which Members, Commission Members and others can be involved. Questions included: (1) Whether the council or Congress would decide to abolish redundant policy resolutions as a result of the policy review exercise. (Response: while Council’s authority is to prioritize and identify policy gaps to inspire and guide Member motions for Congress, it is part of the current policy review exercise to identify redundant resolutions); (2) How to reduce the motions submitted at the last minute. (Response: the criteria for new motions to be presented at the Congress, which were made even more restrictive in 2008, should be strictly applied this time); (3) How do we envision using the Congress to strengthen commitments and actions from the Korean conservation community. (Response: through Congress’s high visibility, a letter that the Director General has already sent to the Korean Government, and taking a science-based approach); (4) Whether NGOs can join Forum initiatives after 15 October. (Response: events must have enough partners to get approved under the guidelines; others could join later).

Governance Changes

George Greene presented the proposed governance changes under consideration by the IUCN Council.

On the possibility of membership by local and regional (LGRA) authorities, the question was asked whether membership would be for LGRA agencies, or for the governments themselves. This is still to be resolved, but proposed criteria could be active engagement in conservation.
It was also asked whether sub-state governments would need to apply through the State Department. State felt that it might be a challenge for governments to organize, and that there could be a risk of imbalancing the number of Members in some regions versus other regions. Another question concerned how the organizations would pay the dues. Concern was expressed that local agencies might join because of political attractiveness – that agencies might line up to use IUCN as a political forum, perhaps arguing for LGRA membership to be limited to the affiliate category. It was also suggested that cities might go in and out of membership depending on the mayor and or elected leadership. In that case, option 3 (representation through existing international organization) might be most attractive. The treatment of indigenous governments could also raise issues: Who is a nation? Would the State Member need to approve? It was also asked whether it would be possible to pursue options in combination – i.e., to offer affiliate membership and representation through international organization at the same time and let Members choose. The response was that the hybrid would work.

With regard to criteria for membership, there has been a great deal of concern about, and opposition to, opening doors to extractive industries; however, some did not think extractive industries would fit the criteria. On the other hand, some thought it important for IUCN to be less shy about opening doors to entities in the conservation field that might not be registered as not-for-profit. Others wondered where the line would be drawn between profit and not-for-profit entities, and expressed concern that it might be difficult to draw the line between some for-profits and others. Will there need to be a detailed investigation of the supply chain? Would this become a slippery slope? It was also suggested that perhaps the draft could be more explicit about the values in Article 7, since this applies to all Members. There are, however, already a number of Members that do not comply with 7c.

With regard to the Motions Process, it was noted that the WCC Resolutions Committee will be strict on motions next year. It was also noted that it makes sense to set as a baseline for a quorum the number of members registered at WCC, not the total membership. It was noted that the Council can prioritize resolutions approved by Congress, but cannot modify them, even though there are budgetary effects.

Some participants expressed appreciation that Council decisions are being reported sooner after Council meetings, and also expressed appreciation for the DG’s monthly reports. It was asked whether Members receive Commission newsletters and noted that this is happening via the membership focal points.

IUCN Influence on Rio + 20

Julia Marton Lefèvre discussed the various avenues IUCN has to influence Rio + 20, and also the importance of IUCN’s involvement in bringing science and policy together through IPBES. Discussion included comments on the importance of pushing for sound science-based policies in helping to influence business, and IUCN’s role in establishing standards and protocols and in facilitating engagement by IUCN Members when businesses are making extremely high bar commitments that need to be verified.

General Discussion on Conclusions – US Office and National Committee

Russ Mittermeier followed up on the questionnaire sent to Members concerning whether it would be a good idea to try to re-establish a U.S. National Committee for IUCN. At his request, Lee Talbot recapped the history of the ACIC, which began in the 1930’s and operated as an IUCN National Committee from 1948 until the mid-1980’s. The Committee coordinated Members for GEF and other important meetings, and enabled the majority to present strong views to IUCN, without stopping the minority from presenting their views as well. It also organized monthly meetings with government officials. The Committee was successful in part because a very energetic volunteer director made it so. Several meeting participants spoke in favor of establishing a National Committee; it was noted that without a National Committee the U.S. voice in IUCN and the World Conservation Congress is beneath its punch. There was, however, concern about how a Committee would be funded, and also some opposition to reconstituting the Committee. It was generally thought that if a Committee were tried, it would need to start with only a few defined functions in order to maximize the possibility of success.