IUCN WCC 2020 Motion 081

Strengthening the IUCN Urban Alliance

InterEnvironment Institute comments

4 March 2020

Following are excerpts from comments posted on the IUCN website in a section devoted to discussion of motions to be acted upon at the 2020 World Conservation Congress to be held in June in Marseille, France. This version is posted here for the convenience of those participating in the WCC Members' Assembly.

This motion deserves careful consideration because it is one of eleven motions submitted by Council “deemed to be of strategic importance for the Union.” In its initial form, it was essentially a follow-up to WCC Hawai’i 2016 Resolution 6.029, Incorporating urban dimensions of conservation into the work of IUCN, which is cited in its preamble.  


The IUCN Urban Alliance was created by Resolution 6.029 to assist all elements of the Union “in carrying out the purposes of this Resolution.” The purposes of 6.029 are broad, as indicated by the phrase urban dimensions; they encompass not only urban places and urbanization, but urban people and urban institutions and how they relate to conservation globally.

InterEnvironment Institute was the lead sponsor of the 2016 resolution. It was written by the IUCN WCPA Urban Conservation Strategies Specialist Group (UCSSG), for which InterEnvironment Institute provides the chair and secretariat, and resulted from a decade-long effort described on the Specialist Group’s website.  This effort was led by former Chairs of three IUCN Commissions and former IUCN senior staff who were concerned about the neglect of urban matters on the global conservation agenda. 

InterEnvironment Institute, an IUCN Member since 1980, has a strong track record of conducting IUCN projects. As the lead sponsor of the 2016 resolution, we convened a meeting in London in January 2017 to discuss its implementation. Several of the IUCN Members represented offered their help in setting up the IUCN Urban Alliance, suggested organizations and individuals who could contribute, and proposed that the Specialist Group’s existing network of individuals in fifteen metropolitan areas in a dozen countries would be one good place to start. Unfortunately, these offers and suggestions were not taken up, and the process that ensued lacked transparency. Notably absent from the list of members of the IUCN Urban Alliance provided to us in February 2020 are some of the most innovative conservation organizations working on urban matters, for example, in Australia, Hong Kong, South Africa, and the UK – as well as our own organization, InterEnvironment Institute, the originator of the 2016 resolution. (The UCSSG accepted an invitation to join the Alliance in mid-2019, but so far has not received any communications about it.)

Meanwhile, the UCSSG has been making progress on its themes of urban protected areas, controlling light pollution, cooperation among conservation actors within metropolitan areas, and long-distance trails as connectors between urban and wild. These are described in detail on its website, https://TheUrbanImperative.org.      


InterEnvironment Institute agrees with the overall purpose of Motion 081. However, a new resolution is needed only to the extent that it breaks new ground. The preamble to 6.029 was carefully crafted to take into account comments representing various perspectives and interests. The points made in 6.029 do not need repeating, and where individual preambular sections of Motion 081 do so, we have flagged them.   

More than another resolution, what is really needed here is action: implementation of 6.029 in a fair, balanced, and transparent manner. It would be helpful to have a brief report to the WCC on the status of implementation to date.

In our work in this field, we have come to realize that urban dimensions of conservation are numerous and complex and can be seen from many different perspectives. This should be reflected in Motion 081.

One more point: We have found the word “cities” leads to confusion, since it can refer to a type of local government as well as a place, so unless it is meant to refer to governments, we recommend using “urban.” 


These comments have been inserted in the appropriate spaces in the online motion.