The year 2010 has been very challenging for the IUCN National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL). With 70% of its funds at risk, IUCN NL was forced to make cuts to its budget and personnel. However after a tense period the appeal IUCN NL made to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was approved. 2011 kicks off with a renewed and refocused strategy for IUCN NL with funds secured for the next 5 years. This puts the Committee in a strong position to make a difference for nature conservation abroad and in the Netherlands with its 35 members and its political and business network.
IUCN EURO has interviewed Willem Ferwerda, General Director of IUCN NL on the new strategy.
1. 2010 was a tough year for IUCN NL with its continued funding at risk. Do you think that these challenges can now be seen as a "blessing in disguise" in that it made you re-evaluate your priorities and focus areas?
Yes, it is the harsh conclusion, but I do think that the financial situation of last year gave us the trigger to add focus to our activity. In the new organizational structure, IUCN NL focuses on reinforcing and expanding partnerships with businesses and continues to set a green agenda with the membership. This approach is integrated to the more traditional ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) work which led IUCN NL activities for the past 15 years. We have also reduced the number of countries we work in from 60 to 24 to increase effectiveness. In this new global strategy, the engagement of IUCN Dutch Members plays a fundamental role. We now have the funds to implement this activity for the next five years which gives us long-term prospects and security.
2. Your focus seems to be very much on working with businesses over the coming years - why do you think this is such an important area of work?
Relying only on ODA funds does not provide certainties nowadays. The Dutch Government has taken a step back in its efforts on nature conservation both at national and international level which has resulted in high pressure on funds. IUCN NL believes that engaging businesses and establishing the breeding ground for partnerships could lead to future funding opportunities from the private sector. Businesses can react much faster to needs than governments. IUCN NL has been working with businesses since 2004. In 2010 this resulted in an agreement with the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers (VNO-NCW) to start with a platform on Business and Biodiversity. This has been possible also through the promotion of the results of the TEEB study on the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity and our business network, Leaders for Nature, which we started in 2005.
3. The number of countries you work in has reduced from 60 to 24 - were their particular criteria for keeping those coun tries or was it purely budget related?
Both factors had a role. In the selection of the focus countries we took into consideration the partnership that NGOs and IUCN members in those countries have with IUCN NL, the relationship between the impact of the Dutch economy on local ecosystems and the potential for achieving the best results with the least resources. Also, the selection was made according to the needs of the projects we are carrying out. For instance, for a project on the Pantanal/Paraná water basin we are working with NGO networks in Brazil, as well as Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. IUCN NL has established a strong network of active partners. More than 100 local environmental organizations have become IUCN Members over the last 15 years.
4. You mentioned that you are planning new methods for communications – can you tell us more about this?
In terms of communication tools, the new strategy mainly focuses on two aspects: we will stop the Dutch magazine which IUCN NL regularly produced and will launch a new communication product putting more emphasis on biodiversity in relation to the business community, economy and development; and we will increase the use of audiovisual material to illustrate the potential of ecosystem restoration worldwide. This second activity will benefit from the contribution of the film director John D. Liu who has become an IUCN Ambassador thanks to the support of IUCN NL. He will work closely with IUCN NL and IUCN Secretariat to showcase examples of ecosystem restoration not only from IUCN NL projects but also from other partners.