IUCN is profoundly saddened by the loss of Professor Mohamed Kassas, Professor Emeritus of Botany at the University of Cairo and former President of IUCN, who passed away yesterday in Cairo.
Professor Kassas was IUCN’s President from 1978 to 1984. During his involvement with IUCN, the Union asserted its leadership in the wider conservation community and the world became more aware of environmental issues at large, especially after the Stockholm Conference of 1972. His Presidency oversaw the publication of the World Conservation Strategy, developed by IUCN, UNEP and WWF, in collaboration with FAO and UNESCO. The launch of the Strategy in 1980 to decision-makers the world over kick-started the development of national conservation strategies.
An outstanding President of IUCN, Professor Kassas combined considerable scientific knowledge and ability with great human warmth. As a conciliator, and quiet achiever of solutions that endure, he served the international communities of science and conservation with dedication and success, and was a fitting recipient of the highest honour IUCN can confer: the John C. Phillips Memorial Medal for Distinguished Service in International Conservation.
Fondly renowned as “Egypt’s prophet of desertification”, Professor Kassas’ extensive studies on plant ecology in the desert regions of Egypt and Sudan provided new insights into vegetation patterns, successions and the processes and causes of desertification. His understanding of desert ecology led directly to his becoming one of the pioneers who warned the world about the dangers of increasing human pressure and misuse on these vulnerable systems. He played a leading part in the UNESCO Arid Land Research Programme (1950-1960) and the United National Conference on Desertification (1977). The loss of this figurehead of the international environmental movement will be felt far and wide.
Professor Kassas’ funeral was held yesterday at Omar Makram mosque. IUCN extends its deepest condolences to all of his family and friends.