Story | 13 Jun, 2024

Collaboration and camaraderie

The first of this year’s IUCN Regional Conservation Fora took place in Mexico in April. Eight more are coming soon. Sign up and enjoy the opportunity to share knowledge, meet your colleagues and plan for World Conservation Congress in 2025.


For Members who are new to IUCN, RCFs are a useful opportunity to learn more about the running of the Union


This autumn, conservation professionals from across Europe and North and Central Asia will gather in the Belgian city of Bruges. Here, at the seventh of nine IUCN Regional Conservation Fora (RCF) in 2024, Union Members and other constituents will meet to discuss their current challenges, learn about IUCN’s forthcoming programme of work, and prepare for next year’s World Conservation Congress.

For Ann-Katrine Garn, Conservation Manager of Copenhagen Zoo, the Bruges Regional Conservation Forum will be a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues from other nations and find solutions. “The main aim of the RCFs is to get Members together, stimulate new connections, and learn about and understand the community you are part of,” she says.Having chaired the IUCN National Committee of Denmark since 2013, Garn has attended several RCFs over the years. This year, she is on the committee planning the programme for the joint event, which welcomes Members from the West Europe statutory region as well as the region encompassing East Europe and North and Central Asia. “A very good colleague from Russia, Alexey Zavarzin, always calls us the super-region,” says Garn smiling. “We cover an enormous area, we have the most Members – and we all work together.

Nature doesn’t have boundaries, and we are on the same continent, so we should all be working together.” Garn adds: “I love the fact you can meet people from different regions. It’s always very inspirational and I know that anyone who goes to an IUCN event like this for the first time gets blown away by it and by the other Members. That’s what IUCN can do – gather a whole bunch of fantastic people.”

IUCN National Committee UK Chief Executive Chris Mahon is also looking forward to catching up with colleagues from across his region in Bruges this autumn.

It’s like a big family reunion!” he says, enthusiastically. “This emotional thing we all have in common – this love of nature, this care for the planet – we shouldn’t forget that even though we’re all scientists, there is an emotional bond between us as well.

Every time we get together, in whatever capacity, there’s a bond between IUCN Members which is rather special, I think.”

Towards Congress

With next year’s World Conservation Congress in Abu Dhabi not far away, attendees at every Regional Conservation Forum taking place this year will be thinking about what they will collectively be looking to present to Congress.

For Members who are new to IUCN or who have not previously attended these events, RCFs are also a useful opportunity to understand more about the running of the Union, as Mahon explains: “One of the days of our RCF is given over to governance. We talk about how Members can bring forward Motions to World Conservation Congress, and we give platforms to individuals who want to stand for election. We also talk about the plan of the global programme, and the regional programmes, to try and focus in on actions we can all take.”

The decisions regarding which Motions will be presented to Congress as potential Resolutions is decided by the IUCN’s Motions Working Group. But by taking a Motion to your local RCF, a Member can gather support and potentially find co-signatories. As Mahon says: “You can test the waters to see whether there’s any interest out there for what you’re trying to say. That will give you more information on whether to proceed and who to proceed with as collaborators.”

Yellow Sea Conservation

Regional Conservation Fora also provide an opportunity to gain insights into Resolutions passed at previous Congresses, and to learn where progress is being made. For Members in Asia, one of the key areas of concern over the past decade has been the Yellow Sea, where the ecosystem of intertidal wetlands is among the ecological wonders of the world. Bordered by the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea, the Yellow Sea is the most important staging area for migratory water birds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, with millions of water birds depending on its wetlands during their migrations.

Two IUCN Motions focused on the Yellow Sea were passed as Resolutions at the 2012 World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea. Four years later, at at the Hawaii World Conservation Congress, a new Motion merged the earlier two into a single Resolution.

At the last Asia Regional Conservation Forum in Islamabad, Pakistan, Members had the opportunity to attend a session updating them on progress since the last Resolution was passed, with representatives from the three countries bordering the Yellow Sea, as well as Raphaël Glémet of IUCN, who updated participants on the trilateral Yellow Sea Working Group (YSWG). IUCN’s Asia Region will host this year’s Regional Conservation Forum in Bangkok, Thailand from 3-5 September.

A Motion on the conservation of the Yellow Sea is expected to come out of September’s RCF in Bangkok

The secretariat will present a report on proposed Motions for next year’s Congress, which is likely once again to include a Motion on the conservation and management of the Yellow Sea.

This vital ecosystem is still an area of great concern, but satellite analyses suggest that the rate of loss of tidal wetlands here has slowed since 2013 because of the efforts of conservationists. As well as preparing for Congress, RCFs are a great opportunity to share ideas, as Garn explains: “At the last Europe, North and Central Asia RCF, we in the specialist group that deals with conservation planning (CPSG) had a slot to talk about tools you can work with in conservation planning. This included a multispecies planning tool that was very new at the time.

The session was attended by someone from the IUCN regional office in Brussels, who was working on an EU project on pollinators for which they wanted to do multi-species planning for hoverflies in Europe. So, a connection was forged between the specialist group, the IUCN office and the European Commission.

At a Regional Conservation Forum you feel part of something big, important and valuable. I advocate it all the time to budding conservationists.

That connection was to have an impact across multiple species and countries. “As well as launching the hoverfly project, we’ve just finished the dragonfly project for Europe, and there’s also been one focused on bivalves. I’ve since run a hoverflies project in Denmark too – so, we went from a regional level project to doing the same thing in a national setting. We’re now in discussion with Belgium and Armenia too.”

For Garn, the key to getting the most out of your Regional Conservation Forum is to get involved. “It’s really important that Members understand they’re not just coming to be lectured at, they can actually participate themselves in the programme.” Mahon agrees. “Every Regional Conservation Forum for me is the biggest buzz, because it gives you that sense of solidarity in what you’re trying to achieve,” he says. “IUCN can feel like a big global organisation with a big global plan – and you’re in your own country thinking, ‘How can I interpret this and make it happen where I am?’

“But at a Regional Conservation Forum you feel part of something big, important and valuable. I advocate it all the time to budding conservationists – if you want to enter the world of nature conservation, where better to go than a roomful of experts who will welcome you? “It is unique in the world and something we should treasure.”

Learn more and attend an RCF near you!