"The Congress, which has become known in Korea as "Nature's Olympics", has brought home gold for conservation," says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General as the 2012 IUCN's World Conservation Congress drew to a close. The Congress was held from 6-15 September on Jeju Island, Republic of Korea, where more than 10,000 people participated, including over 5,000 conservation experts from 153 countries and more than 550 events.
"It has demonstrated how nature-based solutions, as expressed in the Congress slogan "Nature+", help us address many of our most pressing challenges."
The crisis facing the natural world was underlined with new statistics on the decline of Caribbean corals and the publication of the top 100 most endangered species. Other highlights include updates on the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas, the Protected Planet Report and new findings on locally managed forests.
A strong emphasis was put on business responsibility. Major corporations, such as Nespresso and Rio Tinto, set new standards in sustainable practise, while Microsoft and Google signed up to support innovative conservation technologies. A €20m investment in biodiversity and protected areas management was announced by IUCN and the European Union.
More than 180 motions were proposed to the Members' Assembly, IUCN's unique global environmental parliament bringing together governments and non-governmental organizations to debate and vote.
The Assembly approved resolutions on a wide range of issues including action to recover Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks and avert extinctions of rare dolphin species; shutting down illegal bear farms; scaling back offshore drilling in French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana; and providing better payment channels for ecosystem services in poor countries.
Action on stopping the escalating poaching of elephants and rhinos was approved, and the push for a globally binding treaty on protecting wildlife from mercury contamination was endorsed, as was greater enforcement of laws on wildlife crime and reducing the impact of recreational divers on marine environments.
IUCN's work programme for the coming four years was also approved, recognizing that global production and consumption patterns are destroying nature, and at the same time, people, communities, governments and business are underutilizing the potential of nature and the solutions it provides. The new programme builds upon IUCN's niche as the world's leading authority on biodiversity conservation.
As the Congress drew to a close, Zhang Xinsheng of China was elected as the new President of IUCN for the coming four years. Zhang is co-founder and Executive Chairman of Eco-Forum Global, and a devoted advocate for environmental protection and sustainable development.
"I am honoured to have been elected IUCN President in such an era when the world needs IUCN more than ever," says Zhang. "This Congress has showed, more than ever before, how by valuing and conserving nature, we can achieve a more prosperous and harmonious society".