World Commission on Protected Areas

Young Professionals

Former South African President Nelson Mandela, while addressing the 5th IUCN World Parks Congress (WPC) in Durban, 2003, challenged conservationists to engage more meaningfully with young people, to build their capacities, channel their enthusiasm and inspiration into the global challenges of sustaining life on earth and by doing so, safeguarding its most beautiful and inspiring places while respecting and building social equity.
IUCN Young Professionals gathering in the Blue Mountains prior to WPC 2014


WCPA Young Professionals Vice Chair: 
Mariasole BIANCO


Mariasole Blanco

IUCN WCPA Young Professionals

The Young Professionals (YP) Network of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) was launched as a response to Mandela's call in 2005.

The network became a cross-cutting group within WCPA representing a collective forum of like-minded young professionals (35 years old or younger) with passion, interest and expertise in protected areas that provides the different specialist group and task forces of WCPA with the energy and freshness of thinking of new generations, so crucial to modern conservation.

What are the main objectives of the WCPA Young Professionals network?

WCPA deeply acknowledges and values the dynamic synergies that occur when a group of inspired young professionals work together, with each other and in intergenerational partnership to contribute in effective and innovative ways to the work of WCPA and the broader IUCN in valuing and conserving biodiversity, governing nature’s use and sharing its benefits equitably, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges.

The main objectives of the WCPA YP network are to:

  • Facilitate the effective involvement, engagement and empowerment of passionate young professionals within WCPA
  • Foster intra-generational and intergenerational knowledge exchange and collaboration

The YP network will serve as a driving force to facilitate capacity development and leadership training for young conservationist and further support their engagement and participation in the design, establishment, management and governance processes of Protected Areas, as well as in the communication of the importance of nature conservation.

The network will also promote and support the incredible work that young conservation leaders are doing worldwide and the outstanding legacy and leadership that they are providing as a new generation of conservation leaders. Critically, this group will ensure that young PA professionals are active participants and voices heard at global conservation and protected area congresses, in conferences and through various media platforms as ambassadors of the WCPA work for nature conservation.

Our Goal for 2016 – 2020

Our Goal for 2016 – 2020 is to increase proactive and meaningful participation of emerging young PA leaders and professionals in the priority areas of WCPA in conserving nature, developing capacity, achieving quality, respecting people and offering solutions.

Our Objectives:

  1. Increase membership of Young Professionals (YPs) in the WCPA with greater diversity of membership across regions, indigenous and local communities, and expertise;
  2. Increase and improve involvement of WCPA YP members in the Task Forces, Specialist Groups, Projects, Programs, etc. of the WCPA and IUCN, in collaboration with established Commission Chair, Vice-Chairs, leaders and members;
  3. Contribute towards professional and capacity development and leadership training for young WCPA members;
  4. Ensure YPs are active participants and voices heard at global conservation and protected area events;
  5. Raise awareness and help improving communication about WCPA and IUCN work on protected areas and promote the work of young protected area leaders among youth-oriented environmental/conservation organizations, networks, universities, and initiatives;

​Our Pact: Commitments to Action

At the 2014 World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia 30 young people from around the world gathered at the Blue Mountains World Heritage Site to draft “Our Pact for Parks, People and the Planet.”  This Pact serves as our commitment to an action plan to create the better more beautiful future we want for and through protected areas.  Watch a video of Our Pact:


How to Become a WCPA YP Network Member?

All members of WCPA YP Network have to be under 35 during the IUCN Quadrennial

  • Fulfil the description of ‘an exceptional younger person who has personal and/or professional characteristics which identify them as a current or potential conservation leader’.
  • Have a background of studies or learning in conservation and be engaged in or pursuing roles or careers closely related to the WCPA's vision and mission.
  • Have developed a body of expertise relevant to WCPA and have a long term commitment to sharing that expertise with others around the world for conservation outcomes.
  • Demonstrate a specific commitment to the concept and role of protected areas as set out in the IUCN Protected Area definition and key principles (Dudley, 2008).
  • Be committed to the Mission and Vision of WCPA.
  • Identify and contribute to the WCPA Specialist Groups (SGs) and Task Forces (TFs) according to their areas of interest and expertise, as YP activities will be integrated within the broader WCPA work programme.
  • Understand that all members work is undertaken in a voluntary capacity and be willing and able to contribute time and effort to the work of the WCPA.
  • On approval, the member is added to the WCPA (via IUCN Portal) and a confirmation email is sent with a request to join the WCPA YP GoogleGroup Listserv. Please be sure to check that this email does not go to your Junk Folder, as all of our communications are sent through this Listserv.

To apply for WCPA Membership fill in the online application. Membership of any IUCN Commission is for the IUCN Quadrennial following the IUCN World Conservation Congresses. It needs to be renewed every four years following the Congress.   

All new YP Network members should familiarise themselves with the WCPA Governance Document and other IUCN governance documents.

Other Ways to Connect with the WCPA YP Network


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