Held once every four years, the IUCN World Conservation Congress this year brings together around 8,000 leaders, decision-makers, and conservationists from government, civil society, indigenous peoples, business, and academia, with the goal of conserving the environment and harnessing the solutions nature offers to global challenges.
The Congress aims to improve how we manage our natural environment for human, social and economic development, but this cannot be achieved by conservationists alone. The IUCN Congress is the place to put aside differences and work together to create good environmental governance, engaging all parts of society to share both the responsibilities and the benefits of conservation.
The Congress is where IUCN’s more than 1,300 member organisations, including Te Ipukarea Society, can influence the global conservation agenda and guide IUCN’s work plan for the next four years.
The Congress Forum and Members Assembly will run for 10 days, from September 1 to 10, with the theme Planet at the Crossroads. There is a reasonably large delegation from the Cook Islands at this meeting.
Te Ipukarea Society is the only IUCN member in the Cook Islands, and Alanna Smith is the official representative of the Society at the WCC. We also managed to secure external support for project officer Liam Kokaua to attend. This is a great opportunity for these young environmentalists to see what is happening around the world in the conservation field and to establish networks that they can use in their future work at home.
TIS member Ana Tiraa is also attending in her role as an IUCN global councillor and Kelvin Passfield is representing the IUCN Commission on ecosystem management.
Other Cook Islanders in Hawaii for the meeting include Jacqui Evans for Marae Moana, Tua Pittman and Cecile Marten as a part of the Cook Islands Voyaging Society and Peia Patai representing Okeanos Foundation, the organisation that funded the building of Marumaru Atua.
Prime Minister Hentry Puna and his wife Akaiti are also in attendance for the first few days and are accompanied by Melody Jonassen from Foreign Affairs.
The entire Cook Islands delegation attended the Pacific Ocean Summit on Thursday September 1, hosted by the Governor of Hawaii , IUCN, and the Pacific Oceans Commissioner and Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Dame Meg Taylor.
The Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna spoke alongside other Pacific Island Leaders about the Cook Islands commitment to conservation efforts in the Pacific Ocean. He compared the Cook Islands Marae Moana marine park, for which legislation is currently being drafted, with the recent announcement by President Obama of an increase in the size of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine Monument in Hawaii to 1.5 million sq.km., making it the largest protected marine park in the world.
The main difference between the two protected areas is that the Papahanaumokuakea Marine monument does not permit any commercial fishing, whereas the Marae Moana will allow commercial fishing, including longlining and purse seining by foreign vessels, as well as seabed mining.
There will however be exclusion zones around islands of 50nm radius, which the Cook Islands prime minister committed to in a speech to the Our Oceans Conference in June 2014 in Washington DC.
The French Polynesian president Édouard Fritch also told the summit that his government does not allow any foreign fishing in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which drew loud applause from the audience.
They also aim to set aside 30 per cent of their EEZ as fully protected areas. Palau president Tommy Remengesau has committed 80 per cent of their waters to be fully protected.
We will report further on our activities at World Conservation Congress next week.