The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the worlds largest global environmental network promoting sustainable relationships between people and nature. Every four years a unique World Conservation Congress brings together world leaders that discuss, debate, and decide solutions for the worlds most pressing environment and development issues. During September 2012, around 8,000 government leaders, NGOs and professionals from over 150 countries attended on the beautiful island of Jeju, South Korea. This congress established the 2013-2016 agenda focusing on the theme of Nature +, seeking nature based solutions and boosting natural resilience, for healthier people, communities, nature, and ecosystems combined. I was fortunate to be able to attend this congress and lead a session through my PhD research at Memorial University, Canada and as an IUCN commission member.
The congress had two parts: a members assembly to establish environmental policy, and a forum to discuss, share and learn. The forum held over 600 events from workshops, training courses, knowledge cafes and meetings, through to book launches, and networking events. I attended many interesting sessions and the networking possibilities were endless. The planning and organization was remarkable, with an amazing opening ceremony, a world leaders forum, and a full day eco-tour of Jeju Island included. It was truly fabulous to be a part of something so interesting, vibrant and educating all at the same time. I was able to ask questions and learn so much in my field of marine conservation and fisheries, but also engaged in many sessions that were new to me such as emerging research, philanthropy, using current technology for conservation, and engaging the public in conservation issues.
I was also at the congress to lead a Knowledge Café session. This was a 2-hour round table discussion about fishers, fisheries, and conservation. I asked four key questions, then summarized these into a practical solutions wish list. Purposely, these questions are currently highly debated topics; having a mixture of experts at the table from different countries allowed a unique opportunity to engage, that perhaps only a world congress such as this could provide. As a facilitator, my role was to keep the conversation going. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and usefulness of this session. Being PowerPoint free, it really allowed for a great discussion. In todays connected world, the importance of talking face to face, thinking, and discussing topics together are crucially important. The discussions from these questions are summarized below, responses will help to frame research combining conservation and fisheries, a combination that needs to work together to achieve the theme of Nature +.
Practical Solutions Wish List:
Fishers knowledge is an important but not the only source of information.
On land we are already ahead on working with local stakeholders, need to move into this more for the marine environment.
There are two separate pillars (fisheries and conservation) yet each one does not exist in isolation, these need to come together, need a dialogue.
Increase communication and awareness but not just to users, also to consumers.
Political willingness to find solutions and also to spend money on this.
Must be participatory to find a solution, everyone should be involved: on the ground information and involvement.
Need to combine top down and bottom up approaches: government, stakeholders, communities and organisations all working together.