Speech by IUCN Vice-President, Malik Amin Aslam Khan, on behalf of IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng, 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 Vice-President, Malik Amin Aslam Khan delivered a speech on the importance of the IUCN Congress on behalf of IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng.

IUCN Vice-President, Malik Amin Aslam Khan

Excellency Mr. Nicolas Hulot, Minister of Ecological and Inclusive transition,

Honorable  Mr. Renaud Muselier, President of the regional council

Honorable Ms. Martine Vassal, President of Departental Council of Bouches-du-Rhone,

Honorable Mr.Jean-Claude Gaudin, Mayor of Marseille,

Honorable Ms. Inger Andersen, Director General of IUCN

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is a great pleasure and an honor to address you today on behalf of IUCN President Zhang Xingsheng who, despite his earnest desire, could not make it here due to some unfortunate circumstances.


We are all gathered here at this auspicious occasion, and in this beautiful city, to formally start a new and joint journey.


As a Vice-President of our great Union, I am delighted to officially announce France as the host of the next World Conservation Congress in June 2020. This event will encompass the general assembly of our more than 1300 members that includes not only Sovereign States, government agencies but also NGOs, scientific and academic institutions, Indigenous People´s organisations and business associations – a diverse gathering weaved together by IUCN and committedly sharing a passion for nature.


We feel honored that our host country France, not only possesses a strong history of leadership on environmental issues but has also shown a solid commitment to the future of nature conservation. This journey of commitment spans the creation of the first legally protected area in Fontainebleau in 1861, the founding of the IUCN itself in 1948 on French soil and also the remarkable revival of a faltering climate momentum through the 2015 Paris agreement at COP21. Moreover, this has been recently reinforced with the initiative taken on the draft “Global Pact for the Environment” - converging all major principles of international environmental law into one single treaty. In addition, Excellency Minister Hulot has just today announced an ambitious national plan for biodiversity and this follows the remarkable steps taken already to shift the economic growth trajectory in France away from fossil fuels and towards renewables. We keenly look forwards to the continuation of this momentum for a successful and productive World Conservation Congress in 2020.


In this regard, we are also most thankful to the personal support and strong endorsement of President Emmanuel Macron to the candidacy of France as the host of the World Conservation Congress. We deeply value this support coming from the highest official level - at a time when critical decisions will need to be made to ensure a future world where development is sustainable and built upon the conservation of nature.


Ladies and Gentlemen,


One of the most valued lessons of the Paris climate agreement, so laboriously cemented by the French leadership, was that two parallel momentums need to be simultaneously generated to achieve success at the global level. These include the two arms of political as well as civil society organisations. They are both intrinsically interlinked and mutually reinforce each other for success and global acceptability.


Politically, the World Conservation Congress in 2020 happens at a very opportune time with a unique diplomatic sequence. This largest gathering of passionate conservationists as well as member states committed to nature has the opportunity to set the stage for the very important Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) taking place in China in the fall of the same year. The CBD is aiming to not only take stock of Aichi targets but also frame the biodiversity vision and ambition for the next 10 years. The intrinsic opportunity lies in generating a strong message for nature protection as well as sustainable development to come out of the World Conservation Congress - so that it can be heard and adopted by the CBD.


In this background I would like to humbly suggest two pathways, which are both possible and attainable, for leveraging maximum political momentum at the WCC. Firstly, using the convening power of France we can endeavour to attract global leaders for a “Leaders for Nature” forum within the WCC which can provide ownership as well as highlight the case for nature. Secondly France, as the WCC host and G7 Chair, and China, as the CBD host and one of the leading engines of global growth which is already paving a path for “Eco-civilisation”, could jointly initiate a dialogue and exchange of ideas for biodiversity, nature protection and sustainable development. Collectively, these two options could generate the momentum to lead to a successful outcome. IUCN stands ready to be a partner to facilitate this process.


Moreover, as stated earlier, in parallel to this political momentum the civil society voices will need to be globally galvanized around the imperative of nature conservation. They have a critical role to play in proposing solutions and in implementing decisions and in so doing, reinforce the political momentum. With a vibrant civil society, the second largest number of IUCN members and a strong and active National Committee, there can be no other country better than France to organise and manage this process. IUCN, of course, has the unique convening power and platform to not only facilitate civil society but also converge its state members to forge together a “community of common destiny” to protect nature.


Finally, on behalf of the IUCN President, my fellow councillors, and of all our members, I would like to express our pleasure in having France as the host of the IUCN World Conservation Congress and it is hard to think of a better place to hold it than right here in the enchanting city of Marseille and the very welcoming and picturesque region of Provence-Alpes-Cote D’Azur region.  Aside from the work we all hope to enjoy what the beautiful summer has to offer in this region.


Let us collectively endeavour to make the WCC in 2020 a launching pad for success - for nature and for conservation.


We all look forward to seeing you at the Opening ceremony on June 11th 2020!

Thank you.

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