Report on the IUCN World Conservation Congress, Jeju South Korea 9/4-15/2012, and Pace & CEL Contributions

IUCN Description of the World Conservation Congress

Green gets gold at Nature’s Olympics

15 September 2012 | IUCN statement

Jeju Island, Republic of Korea, 15 September 2012 (IUCN) – As economic difficulties continue to dominate international debate, IUCN’s World Conservation Congress has put nature back centre stage in the quest to recover our natural assets and use nature to solve a growing list of economic and social issues.

“The Congress, which has become known in Korea as “Nature’s Olympics”, has brought home gold for conservation,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “It has demonstrated how nature-based solutions, as expressed in the Congress slogan “Nature+”, help us address many of our most pressing challenges.”

More than 10,000 people participated in the 2012 Congress on Jeju Island, including over 5,000 conservation experts from 153 countries and more than 550 events.

The crisis facing the natural world was underlined with new statistics on the decline of Caribbean corals and the publication of the top 100 most endangered species. Other highlights include updates on the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems, the IUCN Green List of Protected Areas, the Protected Planet Report and new findings on locally managed forests.

A strong emphasis was put on business responsibility. Major corporations, such as Nespresso and Rio Tinto, set new standards in sustainable practice, while Microsoft and Google signed up to support innovative conservation technologies. A €20m investment in biodiversity and protected areas management was announced by IUCN and the European Union.

More than 180 motions were proposed to the Members’ Assembly, IUCN’s unique global environmental parliament bringing together governments and non-governmental organizations to debate [revise, adopt] and vote.

The Assembly approved resolutions on a wide range of issues including action to recover Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks and avert extinctions of rare dolphin species; shutting down illegal bear farms; scaling back offshore drilling in French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana; and providing better payment channels for ecosystem services in poor countries.

Action on stopping the escalating poaching of elephants and rhinos was approved, and the push for a globally binding treaty on protecting wildlife from mercury contamination was endorsed, as was greater enforcement of laws on wildlife crime and reducing the impact of recreational divers on marine environments. [IUCN became the first international organization to call for the legal protection of marine phytoplankton, which sustains oceanic food chains].

IUCN’s work Programme for the coming four years was also approved, recognizing that global production and consumption patterns are destroying nature, and at the same time, people, communities, governments and business are underutilizing the potential of nature and the solutions it provides. The new Programme builds upon IUCN’s niche as the world’s leading authority on biodiversity conservation. [IUCN also adopted its Fiscal Plan for the period through 2016. Despite the global economic woes, IUCN is solvent and implementing its Programme through efficient and effective projects].

As the Congress drew to a close, Zhang Xinsheng of China was elected as the new President of IUCN for the coming four years. Zhang is co-founder and Executive Chairman of Eco-Forum Global, and a devoted advocate for environmental protection and sustainable development. (A new Council also was elected to represent the organization until the next Congress in 2016).” [The Congress also elected Dr. John Robinson, of the Wildlife Conservation Society headquarters in New York, representing the USA].

IUCN uniquely has governments, businesses and NGOs as members.  Official delegations attended from more than 85 sovereign nations, 100 ministries and 850 businesses and other non-governmental organizations.  They deliberated all together.

Pace Law School Delegation

Lin Harmon,  Professor, Assistant Dean and Director of Environmental Law, headed the Pace Delegation that included Professor Nicholas Robinson, Professor David Cassuto, and students/alumni Elaine Hsiao; Omer Aijazi, Faisal Alturk, and Professor So Byungchun. Also participating was alumna Amy Mehta, now assistant to IUCN’s UN Delegate Narinder Kakar.


Dr. Wolfgang Burhenne, the Executive Governor of the International Council on Environmental Law,  recipient of an honorary degree from Pace, was given the top IUCN award, the Harold Jefferson Coolidge Memorial Medal for outstanding contributions to conservation of nature and natural resources, recognizing his global leadership in environmental law and his very significant contributions to international environmental treaties and specifically to IUCN as Chair and Deputy Chair of IUCN’s Commission on Environmental Law (1960-1990), Legal Adviser to the Union (1990-1994), long standing membership of the IUCN Council,  and his  constant source of support to the Secretariat at every General Assembly and Congress since 1950.

Professor Nicholas Robinson received one of the IUCN’s highest honors, Honorary Lifetime Membership status in IUCN, presented to him by His Royal Highness Prince Carl Philip of Sweden for his service as Deputy Commissioner and General Counsel of the Department of Environmental Conservation of the State of New York, his nearly 20 years’ service on US delegations to Environmental Law bilateral negotiations with the USSR (1974-1992), his membership on the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law (CEL) since 1972 and Chair from 1996 to 2004, his service as Chair of the Legal Drafting Group for the IUCN Statutes Review Committee, and led the drafting of the revised IUCN Statutes and Regulations, his founding of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law of which he was its Chair from 2004 to 2007, and his  successful campaign to secure official Observer status for IUCN at the UN General Assembly, making it the first and only environmental organization to send an Observer delegation to the UN.

Pace Motions Adopted

The Pace delegation made a clean sweep of adoption of motions sponsored by its members that will now be included among the Resolutions guiding IUCN’s work in the next four years.

Professor Nick Robinson successfully got adopted resolutions on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Courts and Access to Justice and Marine Phytoplankton.

Professor David Cassuto obtained adoption of his motion on Industrial-scale Agriculture. The motion requests the IUCN Director General, Commissions, and members, to promote a worldwide shift to sustainable agriculture; directs IUCN, in collaboration with members, to advocate for the reduction and regulation of environmentally unsustainable agricultural enterprises and to provide technical assistance and incentives for conversion to practices of sustainable agriculture which will build resilience to the impacts of climate, restore the productivity of soils, and improve food security for the people of the world; requests that IUCN provide leadership in advising governments on the regulation of environmentally unsustainable enterprises; and requests the Director General to requests that IUCN sponsor a series of regional conferences addressing the impacts of environmentally unsustainable agricultural enterprises on climate change, biodiversity, sustainability, food security environmental degradation, indigenous populations, and human and animal health.

I obtained passage on a motion to restore energy to the IUCN program 2012-2016 as an amendment to a motion presented by the IUCN Council, and a motion presented with the International Council on Environmental Law setting forth strong requirements for protection of the environment in hydraulic fracturing.

Elaine Hsiao succeeded in adoption of a motion Establishing a Forum for Transboundary Protected Areas’ Managers and Prioritizing Community-Based Natural Resource Management for Social and Ecological Resilience.

Forums and Events

Along with our colleagues Justice Antonio Benjamin from Brazil, Pace Judicial Scholar Merideth Wright, Environmental Law Institute Jay Pendergrass, and inspiring Filipino environmental attorney Tony Oposa, Professor Nick Robinson and Dean Lin Harmon presented a four-hour workshop on “Giving Force to Conservation Laws: Environmental Adjudication.”

Professor Nick Robinson gave the keynote address at the Korean Environmental Law Association’s workshop on “IUCN and Environmental Law” and “Proposal for Management of Secondary Environmental Damages by Natural Disasters.”  Professor David Cassuto and I provided commentary. The Korean Environmental Law Association” (KELA), attending its first Congress, won adoption of a resolution on preparedness for environmental disasters.

Dean Harmon spoke on an “Ecosystem Services” panel which was part of an all-day training on the implementation of rights-based approaches to conservation organized by IUCN’s Environmental Law Centre.

Alumna Elaine Hsiao helped organize events featuring youth participation in IUCN and environmental protection as a member of the Intergenerational Partnership for Sustainability and the Commission on Environment, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP) Youth Leadership Team (YLT). Elaine Hsiao presented the CEESP YLT updates to the CEESP Steering Committee and at its Members’ meeting, and spoke about her research on peace parks and communities at the youth workshop “Strengthening Community Voices Toward a ‘Just World'”.  As part of that workshop, she was a leader in promoting action to protect a native community on Jeju Island from environmental harms proposed by establishing a U.S. naval station that involves endangerment of the community and a coral reef on which the community was dependent for sustenance. She also spoke on social aspects of connectivity conservation in a WCPA/CEL panel on Connectivity Conservation, Law and Beyond.

Elaine also, with Omer Aijazi, conducted expert interviews for a research project on “Prioritizing Community Based Natural Resources Management for Social and Ecological Resilience,” particularly in the context of disasters and conflict.  This research is supported by the Liu Institute for Global Issues and accompanies the motion of the same title.


IUCN’s six expert commissions composed of more than 10,000 voluntary experts, each held two days of meetings, and submitted their Mandates for work through 2016 to the WCC for adoption. The WCC elected new chairs for each commission, with Justice Antonio Herman Benjamin of Brazil’s High Court winning election to the renamed “World Commission on Environmental Law,” now WCEL, dedicating himself to building on the fine work of Sheila Abed who chaired the Commission with great ability for the past four years. Justice Benjamin pledged to work closely with the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, whose next Colloquium will be held in New Zealand in June of 2013. He announced plans to work on inter-commission projects with the Protected Areas, Species, Ecosystems, and other Commissions. He tapped me to continue chairing the WCEL Energy Law and Climate Change Specialist Group, and named Nick Robinson to chair the Arctic Specialist Group, succeeding Wolfgang Burhenne in that position.

Professor Robinson gave a report to the Commission on Environmental Law (CEL) on the international environmental adjudication initiative.  I gave a report to CEL on the year’s activities of its Energy Law and Climate Change Specialty Group that I chair.

South Korea & Jeju Island

South Korea was a splendid host for this conference.  IUCN received a very warm welcome from all South Koreans involved and the public, including President Lee who advised that South Korea was making the centerpiece of the country’s economic development program investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy. Indeed, as we traveled around the country, we saw a good many wind farms and solar photovoltaic panels.  It is an extraordinarily beautiful country, with magnificent mountains and lakes.

Jeju Island is their ecological and recreational gem, much like Hawaii is to the United States.  It is home to a number of UNESCO historic sites, several of which we saw on an ecotour arranged by the Government, including a unique lava tunnel naturally formed when its volcanoes were active and a crater lake atop one of the island’s mountains that we climbed. The Island does have a current environmental problem, however, involving plans to build a naval base in a particularly environmentally sensitive area that will severely affect an indigenous community’s life and livelihood, including destruction of a coral reef spawning a fish population on which the community is heavily dependent. There were daily demonstrations by members and supporters of the community, in which a number of the IUCN delegates participated.  The conference itself narrowly rejected a motion to get involved in this dispute, heeding the Government resistance to have a foreign agency interfere in what it viewed as a local situation, particularly sensitive since the Government was our host.

Respectfully Submitted.

Richard Ottinger