This event is held every four years and was attended this year by around 9,000 people.
It is the only conservation platform where both national governments and civil society organisations can sit down together and discuss issues. They are joined by indigenous groups, businesses, academics, and others with a passion for our environment.
The IUCN has over 1,300 member organisations, with Te Ipukarea Society being the only IUCN member in the Cook Islands. Representing the society were Alanna Smith, Liam Kokaua and Kelvin Passfield, Kelvin was also there representing the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management. Te Ipukarea Society member and director for the Climate Change Division within the Office of the Prime Minister, Ana Tiraa, attended the congress in her role as an IUCN global councillor for Oceania.
Atiu conservationist George Mateariki, also known as “Birdman George”, was a special guest at the conference. As a result of his tireless work in protecting the kakerori bird on Atiu, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund presented him with one of just 15 global “Hotspot Heroes” awards for outstanding conservation efforts.
During the Members’ Forum from September 1 to 5, delegation members were busy manning information booths, participating in workshop sessions, attending presentations, or presenting information themselves.
Passfield gave a presentation on two e-posters (electronic posters) which TIS was involved with. One presentation related to the ecological impacts of seabed mining and the other was on saving Suwarrow’s seabirds. Some members of the Cook Islands delegation listened to prime minister Henry Puna’s speech during the Big Ocean Summit on September 1. Also inspiring were the talks by Tua Pittman about Cook Islands traditional voyaging, and its importance in not only promoting revival of crucial traditional knowledge but also in promoting ocean conservation.
Two young TIS project officers were also given opportunity to present to distinguished audiences at the Congress, which was their first time attending such an event. On September 4 Smith presented to a gathering of bird conservationists from BirdLife International, discussing the important bird areas and key biodiversity areas found in the Cook Islands. Two days later, Kokaua also presented to a BirdLife audience, this time talking about the support Te Ipukarea Society received from BirdLife for invasive species work in the Cook Islands, most of which has gone to rat eradication on Suwarrow.
The IUCN Members Assembly from September 6 to 10 was seen as the ‘business end’ of the Congress. The Members’ Assembly is the highest decision-making body of IUCN. It brings together IUCN Members to debate and establish environmental policy, to approve the IUCN Programme and to elect the IUCN Council and president.
On the final day, IUCN Members elected new leaders for the next four-year period, with Zhang Xinsheng being re-elected as president of the IUCN. Twenty-eight regional councillors were also elected and Ana Tiraa was re-elected as one of three regional councillors for the Oceania Region.