Piet Wit, the chair of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM) is stepping down after successfully fulfilling two terms from 2008 to 2016.
A familiar face to many within and outside of IUCN, Piet has been a member of the CEM Steering Committee since 1996, serving as deputy chair under Hillary Masundire. In the beginning of his leadership he worked together with Neville Ash, the former head of the Ecosystem Management Programme. Neville says about that period: ‘I really enjoyed working with Piet, both for his very practical, insightful and grounded approach to advancing ecosystem management, but also for the creativity, passion and occasional quirkiness that he has always brought to his role as CEM Chair. His personalised monthly (or so...) bulletins will be much missed!’
Piet's professional career brought him to over 50 countries, with focus on the Netherlands, West Africa and Central Asia. His experience includes long-term missions on biodiversity conservation and management projects, including participatory management of protected areas and their buffer zones, integrated water management and integrated rural development. Piet was also a member of the board of the Netherlands Committee of IUCN for 12 years. He has also taken part in numerous missions for IUCN including in Cameroon, Botswana, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Under Piet’s leadership, the commission also increased to have more than 1,000 members and now has 22 thematic groups. Karen Sudmeier, one of the thematic group leaders says:
‘Where did those years go? I was always so impressed that you still managed to get your CEM Chair Flash reports drafted despite all your activities, and I actually did read most of them! You always managed the-not-so-always-easy task of managing us volunteer experts as we evolved in our various roles and responsibilities. You always made us feel appreciated, which kept me going as the thematic lead of the Ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction group since 2005.’
Taking opportunity of the presence of several CEM members’ at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, a farewell reception was held for Piet on 3 september 2016. During the evening, CEM members presented Piet with personal speeches and gifts and celebrated his work. Piet also presented several members of the commission with a Chair’s Award.
His fellow chair of the Species Survival Commission (SSC), Simon Stuart, says about Piet:
‘Piet’s a good man. There was never a dull moment when he was around, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him over the last eight (and more!) years.’
Former thematic group leader Gill Sheperd comments: ’I have always admired Piet's deep commitment to CEM, and the productive working relationship he forged with Ed Barrow which led among many other things to the development of the Red List of Ecosystems. His innovative 'Flash Reports' have kept all of us hooked in to CEM activities as well, and I can never read them without thinking of that wicked flash of the eyes from under his hat!'
In the future, Piet will be spending his time and energy on his foundation Chimbo, ensuring the protection of Chimpanzees together with local communities in Guinea Bissau. We wish Piet all the best with his future, undoubtedly busy, activities and congratulate and thank him for his work for CEM.