Story | 30 Mar, 2022

A Union for inclusive environmental action: a new IUCN Centre for Society and Governance

IUCN has put in place a new organisational structure following key decisions at the 2021 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille. This includes the creation of a new Centre for Society and Governance, which places people at the heart of nature conservation efforts. The Centre will support implementation of the Nature 2030 IUCN Programme with respect to environmental law and the inclusive governance and management of natural resources and heritage.

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Bhitarkanika Conservation Area, India

Photo: IUCN / Remco van Merm

Through the new structure, IUCN aims to increase its agility in addressing the world’s most pressing environmental challenges through its Nature 2030 vision. The new Centre for Society and Governance sits alongside three other centres, namely the Centre for Conservation Action, the Centre for Economy and Finance, and the Centre for Science and Data. Working closely with IUCN’s Members, Commissions of experts and Partners, these Centres will guide and usher the generation of knowledge – such as tools, standards, guidelines, assessments, policy advice and operational innovation – that underpins the delivery of IUCN’s programmatic work at global, regional, national and local levels.

The nucleus of this vision is people

At the Centre for Society and Governance, Radhika Murti, its newly appointed Director, oversees the thematic teams who will focus on establishing institutional, legal and collaborative arrangements with a diversity of stakeholders. The aim is to mobilise and empower the agency of different groups and actors to enable effective and equitable conservation. Leading teams on Water and Land Management, Environmental Law, Human Rights in Conservation, and Heritage, Culture and Youth, Radhika Murti shares that:

It is with much pleasure and honour that I’ve taken on the role to steer IUCN’s new Centre for Society and Governance in this crucial decade of environmental work. I look forward to working with my global team of highly skilled and professional colleagues to substantially increase our conservation impact and support the delivery of Nature 2030, and in doing so, truly fulfil the potential of the Union.

The Centre for Society and Governance supports the full scale of IUCN’s networks in focusing on how equality and rights not only can, but must, be the foundation of conservation and environmental action. The Centre’s teams will engage sub-national, national and international legal and regulatory regimes on how they can be best deployed to support conservation outcomes. They will support and advance the equitable rule of law with respect to natural resource management, working with a range of stakeholders including governments, civil society, Indigenous Peoples, women, girls and youth on rights-based approaches to environmental action. They will develop innovative approaches to building consensus on conservation action across water, land and sea, including sensitive transboundary areas and complex urban and peri-urban landscapes.

  • The Water and Land Management Team will be headed by James Dalton, who notes that IUCN’s work on water has a “long established track record on water governance, hydro-diplomacy and multi-stakeholder mobilisation” complements innovations on an IUCN Agriculture Initiative as “the interactions between water availability, quality and land management are strongly interlinked.”
  • The Environmental Law Team lead by Alejandro Iza, will make sure that conservation actions are grounded in legal and institutional frameworks that are effective and respond to the challenge of the society and today’s world. Law is not an end in itself but a set of tools to deliver good governance, equity and justice in the use of natural resources and the distribution of the benefits deriving from them, says Alejandro Iza.
  • The Human Rights in Conservation Team is led by Jackie Siles, a.i., which represents IUCN’s expertise in a broad field of social science, with a particular emphasis on gender equality, Indigenous Peoples, rights-based approaches, community-based natural resource governance and social inclusion in conservation. As Jackie Siles highlights, “this team has a central role at IUCN – to help ensure that the rights, roles and priorities of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, women and girls are not only advanced in conservation action but form the basis of our rights-based approaches.”
  • The Heritage, Culture and Youth Team, headed by Tim Badman, will “support an ambitious investment in our Urban Alliance, amplify the voice of youth across the Union and expand our work on the connections between culture, sport and nature.” The team will continue to provide the highest level of technical advice to the World Heritage Convention, and support the on-ground conservation of World Heritage Sites “as the foundation for innovation and leadership in the connection of nature and culture,” says Tim Badman.

Together the collaborative action of these teams will enhance IUCN’s work to provide technical assistance and advice on societal engagement in environment policies and programmes. They will also provide cutting-edge social, legal, cultural and gender-responsive analyses that demonstrate the importance of wide-ranging societal engagement in conservation, as well as leading related funding and regranting programmes. As Radhika Murti also notes, “we cannot meet our Nature 2030 or Sustainable Development Goals without placing people and their rights to a healthy, clean environment, and the diversity of their contributions, at the core of our initiatives.”