IUCN—The World Conservation Union
IUCN—The World Conservation Union
Founded in 1948 as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), IUCN works with governments, conservation organizations, and industry groups to conserve wildlife and approach the world's environmental problems using "sound scientific insight and the best available information." Its membership, currently over 980, comes from 140 countries and includes 56 sovereign states, as well as government agencies and nongovernmental organizations. IUCN exists to serve its members, representing their views and providing them with the support necessary to achieve their goals. Above all, IUCN works with its members "to achieve development that is sustainable and that provides a lasting improvement in the quality of life for people all over the world." IUCN's three basic conservation objectives are: (1) to secure the conservation of nature, and especially of biological diversity, as an essential foundation for the future; (2) to ensure that where the earth's natural resources are used this is done in a wise, equitable, and sustainable way; (3) to guide the development of human communities toward ways of life that are both of good quality and in enduring harmony with other components of the biosphere .
IUCN is one of the few organizations to include both governmental agencies and nongovernmental organizations. It is in a unique position to provide a neutral forum where these organizations can meet, exchange ideas, and build partnerships to carry out conservation projects. IUCN is also unusual in that it both develops environmental policies and then implements them through the projects it sponsors. Because the IUCN works closely with, and its membership includes, many government scientists and officials, the organization often takes a conservative, pro-management, as opposed to a "preservationist," approach to wildlife issues. It may encourage or endorse limited hunting and commercial exploitation of wildlife if it believes this can be carried out on a sustainable basis.
IUCN maintains a global network of over 5,000 scientists and wildlife professionals who are organized into six standing commissions that deal with various aspects of the union's work. There are commissions on Ecology, Education, Environmental Planning, Environmental Law , National Parks and Protected Areas, and Species Survival. These commissions create action plans, develop policies, advise on projects and programs, and contribute to IUCN publications, all on an unpaid, voluntary basis.
IUCN publishes an authoritative series of "Red Data Books," describing the status of rare and endangered wildlife. Each volume provides information on the population, distribution, habitat and ecology, threats, and protective measures in effect for listed species. The "Red Data Books" concept was originated in the mid-1960s by the famous British conservationist Sir Peter Scott, and the series now includes a variety of publication on regions and species. Other titles in the series of "Red Data Books" include Dolphins, Porpoises, and Whales of the World ; Lemurs of Madagascar and the Comoros ; Threatened Primates of Africa ; Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World ; Threatened Birds of the Americas ; and books on plants and other species of wildlife, including a series of conservation action plans for threatened species.
Other notable IUCN works include World Conservation Strategy: Living Resources Conservation for Sustainable Development and its successor document Caring for the Earth—A Strategy for Sustainable Living ; and the United Nations List of Parks and Protected Areas. IUCN also publishes books and papers on regional conservation, habitat preservation, environmental law and policy, ocean ecology and management, and conservation and development strategies.
[Lewis G. Regenstein ]