Who shall be the next IUCN president?


Munir Ahmed

The French government and IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature will be organizing the World Conservation Congress from September 3-11, 2021. Initially it was planned for 2020 but could not happen because of the Covid-19 situation. As the health situation has been improved in many of the IUCN member countries and in France as well, the plan is to go for a ‘hybrid event’. Some participants will be present in-person while mostly joining the congress sessions and other proceedings virtually.

The bright side of the Covid-19 pandemic is that it has forced the world to explore the potential of the internet. Many have successfully experienced it. The developed countries are leading the virtual world. Many companies out there have made billions in the business and are still counting on. Environmental conditions improved and biodiversity flourished while the Covid-19 pandemic was rising. We, the human beings, especially the (un)gentlemen, need to understand that our undue interventions for the lust of money and power are the biggest and the largest threats to other species on the earth.

Do we need pandemics all the time to push away human beings from nature to give it some breathing space to flourish freely? Can’t we put a stop to the (un)gentlemen’s lust for money and power? Many out there are bearable. Some are genuinely appreciative for their dedicated humane leadership. They were the genuinely admirable men in leadership from France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and some others from the developed world who launched the environment and sustainable development regime about three decades back. Environmental consciousness began even in earlier decades. All led by men of morals, values, ethics and norms.

We shall be grateful to France for taking the lead yet another time for hosting the global event to brainstorm nature conservation strategies and set goals for the world. The Paris Agreement, adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris on 12 December 2015, was considered a historic milestone for the global climate change framework. It is a legally binding international treaty that is playing a central role in combating climate change impact. With the unmatchable support from France, we shall believe the IUCN World Conservation Congress next month would come up with a meaningful Marseille manifesto for global nature conservation.

Industrialization was essential for development. But what the ungentle was done to nature and the environment by the men leading the industrial development have led us to the present-day disasters, pandemics and ecological crisis. Unfortunately, the men of morals, values, ethics and norms could not stop the outrage of lustful money mongers and power patrons. One bright side of the development is the emergence of women leadership in all spheres from national political leadership to the world environment and conservation regimes.

I don’t know why women are more humane and naturist than men. They never led wars or paved paths for over-exploitation for natural resources. Rather they have been more nature conservationists as I have seen them in three decades of my career in media, advocacy and outreach. Can we undermine the role of women like Julia Marton-Lefèvre who have unmatchable contributions to the environment and climate regime globally? She was Director General of IUCN from 2007 to mid-January 2015. Prior to this, she was Rector of the UN’s University for Peace (UPEACE), and Executive Director of LEAD (Leadership for Environment and Development) International, a programme established by The Rockefeller Foundation to bring together and train mid-career leaders from all parts of the world in improving their leadership skills around the issues of sustainable development. Julia has been the Executive Director of the International Council for Science (ICSU) while she began her international career in a programme on environmental education at UNESCO. Now she is serving several international organizations on their boards and as an advisor. Her career is a best combo of dynamic leadership and humanely possible conservationism. I had the chance to meet her in-person as an Associate of the LEAD International in 1998 (Yan’an-China) and in 2001 (Moscow-Russia) as the LEAD graduate. Since those years, I devotedly followed her to learn from her passionately professional speeches and writings that used to have an impactful imprint on the hearts and souls of the listeners and readers. Her nominations and selection of experts for different tasks have been on merit and keeping in view their potential.

The IUCN members will have an election for their next president during the World Conservation Congress next month in Marseille (France). Julia Marton-Lefèvre has endorsed Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, as the candidate for the IUCN next president. Many IUCN member states and international organizations have endorsed Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak’s candidacy against two men in the row. Let’s push forward a woman’s leadership for global conservation. She will be the only second woman in 73 years of IUCN history if elected. World needs another devoted Julia Marton-Lefèvre on the global map of changing climate and conservation.   

The writer is a freelance journalist and broadcaster, Director Devcom-Pakistan, an Islamabad-based policy advocacy and outreach think tank. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @EmmayeSyed