Story | 27 Apr, 2020

CEESP and COVID19: A Call to Action

Note from the Chair of IUCN CEESP: by Kristen Walker Painemilla

I hope that you and your loved ones are safe during this unprecedented crisis we are facing around the world with COVID-19. We are all learning to manage in this new paradigm. 


This is a critical moment. Some are in a position of privilege with respect to this pandemic - being able to work from home albeit with some challenges - and may personally feel relatively little impact.  Many of us feel or have seen the impacts of COVID-19 directly, on friends, and on family; many face dire economic hardship. We must not forget those directly on the frontlines of the pandemic; the doctors, nurses and critical personnel. The stress, strain and vulnerability are beyond our comprehension.  The loss has and continues to be great, and it will take time to recover. We must take our own time to reflect and to grieve. Through reflection, we all are looking at life differently, in ways big and small.  

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Photo: Iben Caroline Munck

At sunrise, fishing boat makes it way across the North Atlantic ocean towards a harbor.

While stress and anxiety will continue to accompany us through this process, we have the opportunity to recognize that with grief and loss also comes rebirth. During this time, we see innovation and collaboration, from families making masks for hospital workers/ to distilleries changing their gin production to produce hand sanitizer, to virtual happy hours that have created new ways of connecting with people, to the development of new - or the adaption of existing - technologies to produce respirators and other vital equipment.  

We have also seen a return to traditional ways, families spending more time together, conversation, cooking and time for reflection. This rebirth and innovation will continue, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly; we must have patience with the process.

At the same time, we are seeing existing threats increasing and new ones emerging. As communities enact their traditional protocols to safeguard their people and their lands, there is growing concern that this pandemic will or has arrived there more silently, given their distance, lack of access to health services, and all of the attention going to more urban areas. We are seeing threats to indigenous peoples with increases in land grabs as lawlessness sets in, and through the economic repercussions resulting in countless people who are losing or have lost their jobs.

In short, our world is changed - but the inequities persist. We, the world, must figure out what our pathway is, during and post pandemic.

A Call to Action

Many of you are struggling at the moment; however, I call on your help and expertise to help us think on what the new future will and should look like. We are mobilizing the members of CEESP and the other Commissions to produce thoughtful pieces that will help us shape what our collective future will look like.

How can the CEESP membership network provide evidence, guidance, solutions and policy change that will support our new world - to ensure that nature is at the center of it?

All the IUCN Commission Chairs are working on strategies within our commissions - and collectively - to consider how we all can support the Union as a whole in these global efforts.

We hope to hear from you - by the 10th of May - about your research, your ideas and your thoughts on these critical issues. Some general ideas (but not limited to) are related to the following:

  • Human Health and the Environment
  • Guidance for engaging in rural areas/ indigenous communities, post-pandemic
  • How will new economic stimulus packages impact the environment, will our economic relationship with nature change?
  • Behavior change related to wildlife trade
  • How does the environmental movement need to change to support nature….? Will we rethink how we work?
  • Will we see the rise of more conflict around some of the issues above?

As an additional note, we will be organizing online webinars - and we welcome volunteers to speak on and organize around key topics. Please let us know your interest in this.

Please email us ( your thoughts, ideas and any research you are doing by May 10th. You may also reach out to the CEESP Thematic, Specialist Group and Regional Chairs. You can see who they are on the CEESP website, here.

Chair of CEESPPhoto: Conservation International
For now, I hope you enjoy this 'Sping 2020' edition of the CEESP newsletter  (previous planned) which is focused on exploring Private Sector investment in conservation.  Our next newsletter will focus on topics related to what we are currently confronting with COVID-19.

Please stay safe and be well.  My thoughts and prayers go out to you all.

Kristen Walker Painemilla

Chair, CEESP, 2016-2020