Youth Councilor reports on 76th Council Meeting

Grace Mwaura reports on strengthening youth work in IUCN. She attended the May 2011 meeting of the IUCN Council as IUCN Youth Councilor. Grace is a member of the Commission on Education and Communication.

IUCN Youth Councilor

Oriented and Breaking New Ground: the 76th IUCN Council Meeting
By Grace Mwaura, Youth Councilor

The first this year, and the third for me as a young Councilor, this Council meeting, held from 22-25 May 2011 in Gland, Switzerland, has been phenomenal. The truth is that I have become oriented and can now tell what’s what in the Council. It’s an experience of a lifetime to help provide leadership to this great Union, and I feel honored.

I found this Council more engaging than the previous two. I actively participated in all the sub-meetings, including the most exciting challenges of the year, the IUCN Visioning Process and the Resolutions Working Group. I am pleased to report these successes resulting from my participation:

  • IUCN will have a youth representative on all of the Congress Preparatory Committees for future World Conservation Congresses
  • I will assist the Commission Chairs to develop a mentoring program that will help them attract more younger members
  • I will endeavor to develop an IUCN policy on youth engagement and intergenerational partnership
  • I have been invited to join the ad hoc Working Group on the IUCN Visioning Process

During our final evening together, I had a chance to chat with Julia Marton-Lefevre, the Director General, who is quite eager to strengthen the youth work in IUCN in a more formalized way. It’s up to me as a Council member to help make this happen.

Read more highlights from the meeting, below.

Council Meeting Preparations
As usual, the various Committees meet a day before the main Council meeting, but for this particular gathering, we have an additional preparation day for the Resolutions Working Group and a presentation from Shell, one of our private sector partners. The Resolutions Working Group is preparing for the World Conservation Congress in 2012 in South Korea, while the meeting with Shell is a follow-up to the in-depth discussions with Council in the past two Council meetings. See my last meeting reports for 2010 Council meetings. [Links]

Debating Private Sector Engagement
The Shell meeting and the general discussion on the engagement of the private sector is always a fascinating story to listen to, understand, and analyse. The representatives from Shell were presenting the story of their business around the world. Such discussions between conservation organizations and oil companies can lead to heated debates and this was no exception - a healthy one for the Council and IUCN staff present. My big question remains: “Will we get value for the IUCN name?” Such value would translate into the support of our vision as a conservation organization. No answers at the moment!

A Youth Policy for IUCN
At the Policy and Programs Committee, there was the groundbreaking progress on the review of the IUCN policies, which was very exciting for me to follow. In the previous Council meetings, I did not fully understand these policies but now I do understand the key policy areas in IUCN, and the current gaps. As the Youth Councillor, I would say that we are lacking a youth policy in IUCN, which will probably be my new task in the remaining one year. I have to figure out how to have a youth policy. We have already had discussions with some young professionals like Dominic Stucker, how a youth policy could promote intergenerational partnership and meaningful youth engagement.

Governance Committee
In the Governance Committee, I am now actively involved in the Resolutions Working Group, which will help Members prepare Motions for the Members Assembly during the 2012 Congress. I still can’t forget this experience sitting with IUCN lawyers, staff with experience in law, and experienced Councilors, all trying to solve the challenge of the quorum. In order to achieve quorum, we need to have our Members attend the Congress and vote in the Members Assembly.

Congress Preparatory Committee and Youth
The Congress Preparatory Committee is my catch in these Council meetings, since I have been there since its inception. One of our achievements has been the creation of the logo and the slogan for the World Conservation Congress. “Nature +” speaks to all generations in the conservation world.

Furthermore, a Council Decision was passed on the inclusion of a youth representative in all future Congress Preparatory Committees of IUCN. This is a great achievement, and it means that more young people will be interacting with the Union, giving them the ideas they have always had about IUCN and the congresses.

Commission Chairs’ Reports and Youth
Commission Chairs’ reports can never go unmentioned in any Council meeting, especially when they report on the progress in their Commissions with young professionals. It’s a challenge that we still have some Commissions that don’t have a young professional’s platform. I recommended working closely with the Chairs to assist developing a mentoring program that would encourage young people to join Commissions and then help orient them.

Evaluation of the Director General, the Commissions Chairs, and Council is one session no one wants to miss. It’s core business of the Council, but also confidential. I may only share that the general outcome is to have a radical change in IUCN structure, increase our visibility, and raise more funds for the Union. During financial discussions, I learned about the IUCN Business Plan, the loss caused by the foreign exchange, and the need to attract more donors. In due time, I should also be contributing to such a responsibility of the Council.

Picturesque Dinner and a Chat with Julia on Youth
We had a memorable dinner with staff at the Lavaux Vineyards, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the shores of Lake Geneva. IUCN is talented at identifying spots for Councilors to forget their long hours of work. I had a chance to chat with Julia Marton-Lefevre, the Director General, who is quite eager to strengthen the youth work in IUCN in a more formalized way. It’s up to me as a Council member to help make this happen.

Final Day
The last day of the Council was basically meant to make decisions and conduct the Visioning Process for the Union. And all one waits for, on a hectic day like this, is to get the dates for the next meeting. I am glad it’s in India, hosted by the President, Ashok Koshla, the government, and IUCN Members in India.

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