Background - Issues - Outputs - Opening session - Participants - PDF version - Programme


The capacity of ecosystems to deliver vital ecosystem goods and services is diminishing at an alarming rate – and human well-being is suffering as a consequence. The growing impacts of climate change, habitat degradation, unsustainable consumption, inequitable access to natural resources, pollution of the environment, and invasive alien species affect us all. The upcoming challenges are formidable.

The “Healthy Environments - Healthy People” stream at the World Conservation Forum in October 2008 will provide an exceptional opportunity to investigate the challenges for biodiversity, ecosystems and livelihoods, share our experiences and knowledge, identify the limits of our current understanding and foster sustainable solutions for the future.

One key message from the stream is that sustainable use and conservation make meaningful contributions to poverty reduction and peoples’ health and well being; conversely, improved human well-being is a fundamental condition for sustainable conservation achievements.

In this stream more than 100 workshops will be put forth as well as a wide range of diverse presentations on the challenges for ecosystems and livelihoods. Over 200 events, organized by more than 150 IUCN members and partners, will create a unique opportunity to involve participants in responding to the key issues and challenges to be addressed under this stream. The overarching challenges for the “Healthy Environments - Healthy People” stream are:

  • Can the sustainable management of natural resources and biodiversity conservation reduce poverty and vulnerable livelihoods?
  • Can improved ecosystem management reduce vulnerability to natural hazards and conflicts?
  • How can we best integrate biodiversity and ecosystem conservation into economic policy, business and markets?

As a means to address these questions, the events will focus on the following issues:

Conservation for sustainable development:

Ecosystem degradation most affects poor people and those living on the margin. One important challenge lies in finding how to reconcile rural development, poverty reduction and biodiversity conservation. The stream will highlight, in particular, promising participatory approaches in ecosystem management and alternative options for improving livelihoods. It will explore new solutions using tools and mechanisms, such as valuation and payments for ecosystem services. The stream will discuss how ecosystem management can reduce risk: direct risks to human health, but also the risks of extreme events, such as floods, droughts, and earthquakes.

Sustainable production for increasing human needs:

Coastal fisheries sustain millions of people and provide important revenues to developing countries, but with few exceptions all coastal waters are overexploited, leading to increased marginalisation of coastal communities and displacement. There are promising steps forward, such as improved governance and regulations, long-term participatory planning, and new tools including marine protected areas. Likewise, forests are also being degraded at an alarming rate. Events in this stream will look at the latest advances in designing sustainable management practices for productive sectors. Fisheries and aquaculture have always served this role but now forests and agriculture also face the twofold challenge of producing biofuels in addition to more food. Options leading to successful conservation and sustainable production will be discussed.

Protected areas for conservation and people:

What kind of potential can protected areas – established primarily to achieve conservation objectives – have for improving human well-being and reducing poverty? Can protected areas be managed for the sustainable production of goods and the provision of ecosystem services? Can “healthy parks contribute to healthy people”, as is the case of Australia, and can this contribute to making protected areas more financially viable? Events in this stream will look at parks as effective means for maintaining ecosystems services, as well as for sustaining production for local economies and beyond.

Businesses for the environment:

The private sector both affects and relies on the goods and services provided by ecosystems -- examples being the pharmaceutics, agro-industry or tourism industries. This stream will further consider the potential of the private sector for ecosystems conservation, asking questions such as, what is the role and contribution of the private sector towards the creation of solutions for ecosystem management? How can we strengthen the role of biodiversity-based industries, especially small and medium enterprises, or ecotourism, which benefit local communities?


The stream intends to produce as output of the four days of discussions practical recommendations for IUCN members, commissions and the conservation community as a whole which address ecosystem management and poverty, food security and human health needs. The stream will provide opportunities for IUCN members to discuss Congress motions, such as those on the role indigenous people play in conservation, the capacity of protected areas to support local livelihoods, or the management of coastal zone, forest, mountain or island ecosystems for livelihoods.

Opening session:

The four days of discussion begin with the opening of the Forum (6th October 2008, 11:30 – 13:00) which will feature several keynote speakers describing ecosystem functions and benefits. The speeches will be followed by a panel discussion involving government representatives, CEOs and civil society leaders, to explore linkages between ecosystems, conservation and livelihoods, and the roles that decision makers and civil society can play to enhance sustainable environmental management.


The “Healthy Environments - Healthy People” stream welcomes participants from governments and NGOs, partners including development agencies, the private sector, decision makers, and civil society to come share experience and knowledge, and develop innovative options, alliances and partnerships. Specific actions, synergies among stakeholders and innovative partnerships amongst institutions - essential to invest more effectively in natural resources management and conservation - will be explored for integration into the IUCN 2009-2012 programme.

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Check out the events under this stream in the draft programme