Posted 3:27 PM by Luigi
IUCN in the PacificIUCN Press Release: Suva, Fiji, 18 October 2005
The World Conservation Union (IUCN), the world’s largest environmental organization, is opening a new chapter in its long history of collaboration with environmental institutions in the South Pacific with the establishment of its Oceania Programme, to be announced in Suva, Fiji today.
Achim Steiner, IUCN Director General, will officially launch the Oceania Programme during his two-week visit to Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. An IUCN Regional Office for Oceania will be opened in Suva, Fiji in 2006, representing a major commitment on the part of IUCN to conservation knowledge and action in the region. The new Oceania office completes the global network of ten regional offices of IUCN, which counts among its members 82 States, including Australia and New Zealand; 112 government agencies; and more than 850 non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
“Oceania is a region of extraordinary biological and cultural richness. It is also confronting some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges, first and foremost the impacts of climate change and invasive alien species. By establishing a regional office in Oceania, IUCN seeks to recognize the region’s global importance for biodiversity conservation. It will also enable IUCN to forge partnerships to halt its loss and draw on the cutting-edge conservation knowledge of experts and institutions in the region for the benefit of the global conservation community,” Steiner said.
The Oceania region covers 15 percent of the planet’s surface and incorporates Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands region – thousands of islands totalling approximately 550,000 sq km of land, roughly the size of France, in a vast 30 million sq km of the Pacific Ocean.
“IUCN will initially invest in the Pacific islands region, where its members have identified the greatest priority for conservation action,” said Steiner.
“Pacific species, ecosystems and cultures are truly unique and disappearing fast. Fifty percent of the Melanesian and Polynesian plant species are found nowhere else in the world. More than half of the world’s seamounts, which are the underwater strongholds of biodiversity, are located in the Pacific. Many of an estimated 1200 indigenous Pacific languages may be lost within just a couple of generations. If conservation of biodiversity is to succeed it must also focus on the people and communities whose livelihoods are inextricably linked,” he added.
Over-harvesting of natural resources, rapid population growth, invasive species and climate change are posing huge environmental challenges to Pacific island countries, hampered by lack of funding and resources, gaps in legislation and limited access to knowledge and information.
Through its 2005-2008 Oceania Programme, IUCN will focus on:
- Saving threatened species by improving knowledge and management of species and ecosystems;
- Fighting invasive alien species by improving understanding of their impacts on livelihoods and economies, and developing tools and approaches for their management;
- Promoting effective participation of Pacific Island Countries in international agreements on climate change and biodiversity;
- Improving governance systems and lifestyles by supporting the use of traditional knowledge and learning for mainstreaming conservation; and
- Applying economic incentives for conservation and sustainable development.
The World Conservation Union is recognized as the global leader in the fields of conservation and sustainable development. It is the only environmental organization that has been accorded the official status of Observer by the United Nations General Assembly.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the world’s most authoritative source of information on species extinction; IUCN’s scientific evaluations guide the establishment of new UNESCO World Heritage sites; and its technical publications offer innovative approaches to ecosystem management.
The World Conservation Union has been active in the Oceania region for many years, through the work of the volunteers from its six scientific commissions, its members and national committees.
For example, IUCN’s Invasive Species Specialist Group operates from its headquarters in Auckland, New Zealand and compiles the best available information on and responses to alien species invasions. After habitat loss and degradation, biological invasion is considered among the greatest threats to biodiversity and has devastating consequences for nature and the economies worldwide.
“What IUCN brings to Oceania is its global expertise, scientific know-how and policy advice to benefit the nature and people of the region. It also provides an opportunity for the people and nations of the Oceania region to contribute and participate in key international policy processes and scientific networks which the World Conservation Union provides,” said IUCN Regional Councillor for Oceania Lionel Gibson.
“The envisaged opening of the IUCN Regional Office for Oceania marks a new level of cooperation in the Pacific, and a commitment to developing our communities and managing our shared resources sustainably,” Gibson added.
During his visit to Australia on 21-24 October, IUCN Director General Achim Steiner will make a keynote address at the First International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Geelong. Steiner will also present the findings of a new IUCN report on marine biodiversity.
For more information and to arrange interviews contact:
In Australia: Ms Xenya Cherny Scanlon, Media Consultant; Mobile: +61 400 311 430; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.iucn.org;
In Fiji: Mr Lionel Gibson; IUCN Regional Councillor for Oceania; Tel: +679 331 22 50; Fax: +679 331 12298; Email: email@example.com; www.iucn.org;
In Switzerland: Ms Carolin Wahnbaeck, IUCN Media Relations Officer; Tel: +41 22 999 0127; Fax: +41 22 999 0020; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.iucn.org.