Story | 19 Jul, 2023

CEC attends IUCN Conference in Oxford

CEC commission member Catherine Kühn recently attended the IUCN SSC Human-Wildlife Conflict and Coexistence conference in Oxford, UK. The conference set the stage for tackling global human-wildlife conflict issues which affect the future of nature. CEC’s vision, “a world committed to protecting nature now and into the future” speaks to the heart of what this conference was all about.

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Photo: Catherine Kühn

The international conference was well attended by 500 delegates from 70 countries around the world and consisted of a number of parallel talks, plenaries, and interactive sessions. A link to a library for the talks conducted at the conference can be found  here. The conference also provided a platform for the launch of the first ever edition of the ‘IUCN SSC guidelines on human-wildlife conflict and coexistence'

Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) is certainly not a new topic but more recently, it is a topic that is now on the global stage. HWC is effectively a development issue and the people who end up suffering the most are the poor. It impacts on education, and in some countries, 60% of children are missing school so they can guard crops against wildlife. Therefore, one could argue that solving HWC issues will lead to effective mitigation of poor education and effective education and awareness will lead to solving HWC issues.  

Meaningful and constructive dialogue for effective communication

The Commission on Education and Communication’s (CEC) values are firmly rooted in effective communication that aims to motivate and inspire people towards actionable change. This can only be done through meaningful and constructive dialogue, and much of what was discussed and presented at this conference spoke to these goals.

Change largely comes about through knowledge and awareness and the link between communication and human-wildlife conflict was very strong in many, if not all of the talks at this conference. The sessions often revolved around the need to acknowledge indigenous and traditional knowledge and recognized that this has largely been neglected and dismissed. A shortfall in the world of conservation that has led to diminished trust and broken lines of communication, and an increase in human-human conflict issues and human-wildlife conflict.

Catherine Kühn attended the conference on behalf of the CEC and Nature Connect, a South African NGO whose mission is to connect people to nature. Nature connect’ s driving interest is environmental protection but its main focus is on people. Through addressing shortcomings in education and by recognizing that people are a core component of conservation success, it aims to develop people in such a way that they become a compelling force towards protecting nature for the future.  

Rethinking Environmental Education

One of the sessions, entitled “Rethinking Environmental Education” was of particular interest as it speaks to the work being done by both the CEC and Nature Connect. The following key outcomes and take-home points were captured from this session:

  • We should be focusing on ‘decolonizing’ the environmental sciences and we should be reconnecting people to nature and indigenous knowledge. Some of the failures of past environmental education strategies include using colonized approaches – rather than indigenous approaches.
  • Environmental awareness looks at: Knowledge and understanding, changing attitudes, developing skills and critical thinking and developing deep understanding of issues.
  • Research shows that some children will also tell their parents the information that they learn.
  • Each environment is different and we need to adapt the message to the environment in which we find ourselves conducting environmental education.
  • Research shows that one’s values are formed by the age of 12 by one’s upbringing and childhood experiences, therefore reaching youth before this age is imperative.