"IUCN has a special magnetism that is quite incomparable," observes CEC member Suzana Padua in her report on the opening of the IUCN office in Brazil. CEC Chair Keith Wheeler welcomes the chance to expand Commission work in Brazil.
IUCN is now officially in Brazil
Suzana M. Padua
IUCN formally launched an office in Brazil on August the 2nd, during a whole day event in Brasilia. There are many reasons to celebrate, as IUCN could not consider itself truly “international” without having a significant presence of a country that holds such natural richness and with the continental dimension of Brazil, as was stressed in Claudio Maretti’s speech, a many years Brazilian Board Member to the organization. IUCN’s general director, Julia Marton-Lefèvre and two current Commission Presidents Piet Wit (Ecosystem Management) and Keith Wheeler (Education and Communication) showed support and enthusiasm, after traveling long distances to participate among a group of specialists of different fields from Brazil and form other countries who attended the event.
In fact, the Commission for Education and Communication (CEC) was well represented. Besides Keith, our current president, two former ones were there: Frits Hesselink and Denise Hamu. Being the Co-Chair for CEC in South America, I felt proud to have such great participation, and still count on the generosity and professional skills of Ricardo Carvalho, a CEC Member, who filmed the entire event with the aim of producing a video about the importance of IUCN in Brazil.
IUCN has a special magnetism that is quite incomparable. Confirming this characteristic, it was again able to attract government authorities, heads of respected NGOs, and even good examples of the business sector. Luis Fernando Merico, the new director for the Brazil office, organized three round tables with specialists from different segments, who focused on what the opening of such an office meant to the country, to IUCN and to conservation in general.
Some speakers focused on the role IUCN can have in influencing policies, as this has been one of its strengths worldwide. Adriana Ramos, from ISA (Instituto Socioambiental), for example, expressed her concern about how economic priorities have prevailed over the environmental needs, causing irreparable losses to nature. Now, with IUCN being more present in Brazil, this reality can hopefully change. Claudio Padua, from IPÊ (Institute for Ecological Research), praised the fact that IUCN was vanguard when it attracted 12 thousand volunteers that compose the six Commissions, promoting a powerful network that has strengthened over the years. Today, with modern technology, this can be seen as somewhat easily achievable, but not approximately 40 years ago, when the process started.
Many emphasized the importance of the Commissions, due to the vast group of high quality professionals who give IUCN the content to which it is known. Publications such as the Red List of Threatened Species, for example, have become references that guide decisions in most parts of the world.
The history of IUCN was recalled by some of the speakers, like Denise Hamu and Russ Mitermeier, who remembered how the organization was brought to Brazil many years ago and was able to obtain government and NGO’s participation. Because of discontinuation, the new office is seen as a landmark. After working in Brazil for almost 40 years, Russ was emphatic about the value of having a strong presence of IUCN where he knows it can enhance conservation in general.
Miguel Pellerano, a Board Member from Argentina, pointed to Brazil’s importance for Latin America, being in itself a symbol for conservation. Also mentioned by Rafaela Nicola of ECOA is the potential the organization has of reaching beyond boundaries, which can help integrate countries that have common conservation goals and those that share biomes in their frontiers. Finally, the business world was referred to as essential, by Dalberto Adulis, due to its effectiveness in achieving results, and the example of Itaipu was presented by Nelton Miguel Friedrich.
From the government standpoint, there were important representatives: from the Foreign Affairs, Paulino Franco Neto; from the Ministry of Environment, more precisely the Director for Biodiversity, Maria Cecilia Wey de Brito; specialists from the Environmental Agencies, such the President of the Instituto Chico Mendes, Romulo Melo; and, Manuel Picasso from OTCA (Cooperation Organization for Amazonian Countries). The Brazilian Minister of Justice, Antonio Herman Benjamin, who is also an active member to IUCN’s Law Commission, gave total support to the entire event, and in fact helped organize it from the start. Indeed, the presence of such notorious participants is an indication of the importance that is attributed to IUCN’s new office in Brazil.
For CEC, I believe the office in Brazil can be of utmost significance. As Keith Wheeler said, the Commission will have a potential to expand even more, strengthening the scope of its mission. Keith has really been incremental on bringing CEC to a modern way of combining change management, knowledge management, strategic communication and learning with the aim of increasing the impact of biodiversity science and policy. The beauty of it is that it has not been as a goal on itself, but as an integrated part of all conservation efforts.