IUCN Director General’s speech at the signing ceremony for IUCN Congress 2020

On 18 May 2018 in Marseille, during the signing of an agreement with France to jointly organise the 2020 IUCN World Conservation Congress, IUCN Director General Inger Andersen delivered a speech on the importance of the IUCN Congress and the 2020s as a decisive decade for the planet.  

 French Minster for Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Nicolas Hulot, and IUCN Director General Inger Andersen

Monsieur le Ministre de la Transition écologique et solidaire, Cher Nicolas Hulot,

Monsieur le Président de la Région Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur,

Madame la Présidente du Conseil Départemental des Bouches-du-Rhone,

Monsieur le Maire de Marseille,

Mesdames et Messieurs les élus,

Mesdames et Messieurs les représentants de la société civile,

Mesdames et Messieurs, en vos grades et qualités,


C’est un immense plaisir de m’adresser à vous dans cette magnifique ville internationale, située au carrefour de la Méditerranée et plus généralement, du monde. Marseille est une ville qui a rassemblé les peuples et les cultures depuis près de trois mille ans, et dont la richesse, le caractère et la vitalité reposent sur sa diversité.


It is therefore perfectly fitting that the next IUCN World Conservation Congress, a celebration of our planet and its remarkable diversity, will take place here, in 2020. This city is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty which has never ceased to amaze me, ever since the first of my many visits to Villa Valmer nearly 15 years ago. Without a doubt, Marseille makes for the perfect setting for an event that brings the global community together around the common goals of conserving nature and developing sustainably. And the timing is impeccable.


Ladies and gentlemen, the planet is in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. And we are the driving factor.


Humanity’s actions are compromising our food and water supplies, our climate and, increasingly, our political stability. The growing scarcity of natural resources is contributing to insecurity, conflicts and forced migration flows. Climate change and population growth are exacerbating these pressures. Meanwhile, species are disappearing up to 1000 times faster than before humans got involved, and many ecosystems are on the brink of collapse. Unless we take action together, the degradation of nature could threaten the very survival of our own species.


But let me tell you the good news, because it’s a game-changer and it’s particularly relevant here today.


And the good news is: We can change all of this.


We have the evidence that conservation works and we have the knowledge needed to take action. We can and must work together to conserve biodiversity - a word that in essence means nature - and by doing so help address many of our greatest challenges, such as putting an end to hunger, poverty, and inequality.


This is because nature plays a critical, yet often underappreciated, role in our economic wellbeing, our health and many other aspects of our lives.  Nature forms a web that sustains all life on earth, including ours.


Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you today that the decade of the 2020s could stand out as a singular period in our century. This will be the decade that decides much of humanity’s future.


In September 2015, 193 countries looked ahead and drew a detailed and formidable picture of what the world could look like in 2030, if we get the 2020s right. So if you want to know what 2030 will look like - could look like - it’s there for all of us to see, set out in 17 goals, the Sustainable Development Goals which were agreed by the global community to set the ambition for a sustainable planet.


It’s a world free of poverty and hunger. It’s a healthier, better educated world with greater social justice, clean water, and sanitation. It’s a world that has tackled climate challenges, in part because it runs on affordable, clean energy. It’s a world where the trend of dying biodiversity has been reversed, thanks in great part to the fact that our oceans and our land have been given a new lease on life.


And because our natural world is so intimately connected to everything that we strive for in this great vision, if we get the last part right – if we get biodiversity right – our hopes of getting the rest right are greatly, greatly enhanced.


Because if we get biodiversity right, it will help provide decent work and prosperity for thousands of small and large communities around the world.


Because if we get biodiversity right, we have immeasurable assistance in getting climate mitigation and adaptation right.


Because if we get biodiversity right, we can get food security and water security right.


Because if we get biodiversity right, we will have made a major contribution to making cities and communities sustainable,


Because if we get biodiversity right, pressures on land will be reduced, and so will be the risk of conflict and migration.


In June 2020, the IUCN World Conservation Congress will be a key moment that will help define if and how we can get biodiversity right. It will set the course for ambitious, science-based conservation action post-2020, inaugurating this decade of great change. Our vision for a sustainable world hangs in the balance.


The IUCN Congress will bring together thousands of representatives from governments, civil society and Indigenous peoples’ organisations, business and academia, and youth organizations. But the IUCN Congress is far more than just numbers. During the Forum, delegates from around the world will discuss and debate solutions to the pressures so we can learn, share and together overcome the environmental challenges that our planet faces.   


During the General Assembly, IUCN’s Member organisations will vote and make decisions democratically. Because of the unique composition of IUCN, with both governmental and non-governmental members, when our membership speaks, it carries a powerful and inclusive global mandate.


This mandate will be critical because several key events later in 2020 will carry on the IUCN Congress’ momentum. Among the most important for biodiversity will be the UN Convention on Biological Diversity when world leaders will set new global targets to curb the escalating biodiversity crisis.


There is strong commitment to conserve the wealth nature represents to humanity. But we need continued ambitious action to make sure we do not veer off the path to a sustainable future. This will require a special type of leadership. It will require an unflagging leadership with great vision, dedication and one that is able to mobilise at a global level. This is exactly the type of leadership that France has shown and continues to show. It’s a leadership that stands as a model. And it’s the type of leadership that is demonstrated here today in Minister Hulot’s national plan for biodiversity.


Ladies and Gentlemen, I am an optimist. I don’t think anyone can go into my line of work and not be an optimist! I see the 2020s as the decade when humanity will rise to the challenge. I see the 2020s as the decade that will change the world, for the better, a decade that begins in June 2020, right here, in the beautiful city of Marseille.


I thank you



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