International Union for Conservation of Nature
|Founded||5 October 1948
(as International Union for the Protection of Nature)|
|CHF 114 million / US$ 116 million (2013)|
|Over 1,000 (worldwide)|
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; officially International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
) is an
Over the past decades, IUCN has widened its focus beyond conservation ecology and now incorporates issues related to
IUCN has a membership of over 1400 governmental and non-governmental organizations. Some 16,000 scientists and experts participate in the work of IUCN commissions on a voluntary basis. It employs approximately 1000 full-time staff in more than 50 countries. Its headquarters are in
IUCN was established in 1948. It was previously called the International Union for the Protection of Nature (1948–1956) and the World Conservation Union (1990–2008).
IUCN was established on 5 October 1948, in
The objectives of the new Union were to encourage international cooperation in the protection of nature, to promote national and international action and to compile, analyse and distribute information. At the time of its founding IUPN was the only international organisation focusing on the entire spectrum of nature conservation (an international organisation for the protection of birds, now
Early years: 1948–1956
IUPN started out with 65 members. Its secretariat was located in Brussels. Its first work program focused on saving species and habitats, increasing and applying knowledge, advancing education, promoting international agreements and promoting conservation. Providing a solid scientific base for conservation action was the heart of all activities; commissions were set up to involve experts and scientists.
IUPN and UNESCO were closely associated. They jointly organized the 1949 Conference on Protection of Nature (
IUPN was successful in engaging prominent scientists and identifying important issues such as the harmful effects of
Increased profile and recognition: 1956–1965
In the 1950s and 1960s Europe entered a period of economic growth and formal colonies became independent. Both developments had impact on the work of IUCN. Through the voluntary (i.e.
IUCN began to play a part in the development of international treaties and conventions, starting with the
Africa was the focus of many of the early IUCN conservation field projects. IUCN supported the ‘Yellowstone model’ of protected area management, which severely restricted human presence and activity in order to protect nature. IUCN and other conservation organisations were criticized for protecting nature against people rather than with people. This model was initially also applied in Africa and played a role in the decision to remove the
To establish a stable financial basis for its work, IUCN participated in setting up the World Wildlife Fund (1961) (now the
Consolidating its position in the international environmental movement: 1966–1975
Public concerns about the state of the environment in the sixties and seventies led to the establishment of new NGOs, some of which (e.g.
IUCN’s membership still grew (from 200 in 1961 to 350 in 1974) and its formal standing and influence increased. A grant from the
IUCN entered into an agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme
This period saw the beginning of a gradual change in IUCN’s approach to conservation. Ensuring the survival of habitats and species remained its key objective, but there was a growing awareness that economic and social demands had to be taken into account. IUCN started to publish guidelines on sustainable development. In 1975 the IUCN General Assembly passed a resolution to retain indigenous peoples and cater for their traditional rights in National Parks and protected areas. As a result, IUCN became more appealing to organisations and governments in the developing world.
The World Conservation Strategy 1975–1985
In the late seventies, between its General Assemblies in
In 1975 IUCN started work on the World Conservation Strategy.
The drafting process – and the discussions with the UN agencies involved – led to an evolution in thinking within IUCN and growing acceptance of the fact that conservation of nature by banning human presence no longer worked. (The debate about the balance between strict nature protection and conservation through sustainable development would, however, continue within IUCN well into the 1999
s.) The World Conservation Strategy was launched in 35 countries simultaneously on 5 March 1980. It set out fundamental principles and objectives for conservation worldwide, and identified priorities for national and international action. It is considered one of the most influential documents in 20th century nature conservation and one of the first official documents to introduce the concept of sustainable development. The Strategy was followed in 1982 by the
In 1980, IUCN and WWF moved into shared new offices in
Sustainable development and regionalisation: 1985 to present day
In 1982, IUCN set up a Conservation for Development Centre within its secretariat. The Centre undertook projects to ensure that nature conservation was integrated in development aid and in the economic policies of developing countries. Over the years, it supported the development of national conservation strategies in 30 countries. Several European countries began to channel considerable amounts of bilateral aid via IUCN’s projects. Management of these projects was primarily done by IUCN staff, often working from the new regional and country offices IUCN set up around the world. This marked a shift within the organisation. Previously the volunteer Commissions had been very influential, now the Secretariat and its staff began to play a more dominant role. Initially, the focus of power was still with the Headquarters in Gland but the regional offices and regional members’ groups gradually got a bigger say in operations.
In spite of the increased attention for sustainable development, the protection of habitats and species remained a core activity of IUCN. Special programs were developed for Antarctica, tropical forests and wetlands, and IUCN expanded its operations in Latin America.
In 1991, IUCN (together with UNEP and WWF) published Caring for the Earth, a successor to the World Conservation Strategy. It was published in the run-up to the
Social aspects of conservation were now integrated in IUCN’s work; projects began to take account of the role of women in natural resource management and to value the knowledge indigenous peoples have about their natural environment. At the General Assembly in 1994 the IUCN mission was redrafted to its current wording to include the equitable and ecologically use of natural resources.
IUCN’s current work makes direct contributions towards achieving the
Closer to business: 2000 to present day
Since the creation of IUCN in 1948, IUCN Members have passed more than 300 resolutions that include or focus on business related activities. The range of topics covers in these resolutions varies greatly, including a focus on fisheries, tourism, agriculture, the extractive industries and the business sector in general.
The increased attention on sustainable development as a means to protect nature brought IUCN closer to the corporate sector. A discussion started about cooperation with business, including the question if commercial companies could become IUCN members. The members decided against this, but IUCN did forge a partnership with the
In 1996, after decades of seeking to address specific business issues, IUCN’s Members asked for a comprehensive approach to engaging the business sector. Resolution 1.81 of the IUCN World Conservation Congress held that year “urged IUCN Members and the Director General, based on the need to influence private sector policies in support of the Mission of IUCN, to expand dialogue and productive relationships with the private sector and find new ways to interact with members of the business community”.
The IUCN Global Business and Biodiversity Program (BBP) was established in 2003 to influence and support private partners in addressing environmental and social issues. The Program wants to engage with business sectors that have a significant impact on natural resources and livelihoods to promote sustainable use of natural resources.
 In 2004, the first IUCN Private Sector Engagement Strategy was developed (in response to Council Decision C/58/41). Most prominent in the Business and Biodiversity Program is the five-year collaboration IUCN started with the energy company
In 2012, at the World Conservation Congress held in the Republic of South Korea, the Union adopted a more focused approach to enable IUCN to deliver both on‐the‐ground results and fit‐for‐purpose knowledge products, working with many agencies, including business. The Business Engagement Strategy (2012) calls on IUCN to prioritise engagement with business sectors that have a significant impact on natural resources and livelihoods. These include: large 'footprint' industries, such as: mining and oil and gas; biodiversity-dependent industries including fishing, agriculture and forestry; and, financial services and “green” enterprises such as organic farming, renewable energy and nature-based tourism.
Furthermore, the IUCN Operational Guidelines for Business Engagement offer critical support to the implementation of the IUCN Business Engagement Strategy. First developed in 2006, and then revised in 2009 and again in 2015, they provide a consistent approach to the management of risks associated with engaging business, as well as outline the opportunities between the different types of engagement.
Today, the Business and Biodiversity Programme continues to set the strategic direction, coordinate IUCN’s overall approach and provide institutional quality assurance in all business engagements. The Programme ensures that the Business Engagement Strategy is implemented through IUCN’s global thematic and regional programmes as well as helps guide the work of IUCN’s six Commissions.
Championing Nature-based Solutions: 2009 to present day
The emergence of the NbS concept in environmental sciences and nature conservation contexts came as international organisations, such as IUCN and the World Bank, searched for solutions to work with ecosystems rather than relying on conventional engineering interventions (such as seawalls), to adapt to and mitigate climate change effects, while improving sustainable livelihoods and protecting natural ecosystems and biodiversity.
IUCN actively promoted the NbS concept in its 2009 position paper on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 15, and in 2012 IUCN formally adopted NbS as one of the three areas of work within its 2013–2016 Programme. 
At the IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016, IUCN Members agreed on a definition of nature-based solutions.  Nature-based Solutions are defined as “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”. Members also called for governments to include nature-based solutions in strategies to combat climate change . A report, Nature-based solutions to address global societal challenges, was launched at the Congress, and includes a set of general principles for any NbS intervention. 
Implementing NbS at scale can help countries achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goals. It can also help them achieve the land degradation neutrality goal of the UNCCD, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets of the CBD, and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
This section does not
Some key dates in the growth and development of IUCN: