With a mammoth conservation event heading to Honolulu in less than a year, organizers are ramping up to be ready to host up to 10,000 delegates from around the world.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s World Conservation Congress is set to meet Sept. 1-10, 2016, marking the first time the United States will host the quadrennial event.
Leaders in business, government and private organizations gather to discuss, debate and decide solutions for the most pressing environmental and developmental issues and policies, according to the IUCN.
Key organizers were in Honolulu this week to talk about the process of bringing the IUCN to Hawaii.
“Hawaii is indeed a microcosm of what’s happening worldwide,” Enrique Lahmann, IUCN global director, told reporters Wednesday at the Hawaii Convention Center.
Randall Tanaka, WCN executive director, said it’s appropriate that Hawaii is the host with the 2016 theme being, “Planet at the Crossroads,” not just because of where the islands are located geographically but because of the universal nature of so many issues that the state struggles with and has found solutions for.
The IUCN plans to emphasize that nature conservation and human progress are not a “zero-sum game,” as Ricardo Tejada, IUCN director of global communications, put it.
“We can have economic growth in the short term at the expense of nature, but it will always come back to bite us,” he said.
HMSA Chief Consumer Officer Tim Johns, who chairs the WCC National Host Committee, has been working to raise money for the event while serving as liaison between the IUCN and the local hosting community.
The fundraising goal is $13 million, and $6 million has already been raised. The money comes from state and federal government, private donors and participants in the event.
Johns also worked on the last major international event Hawaii hosted, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Meeting in 2011.
He said bringing these types of events to the islands is important for the economy and offers a chance for Hawaii to highlight its successes. On the conservation front, this includes work protecting watersheds, fighting invasive species and helping endangered animals like the green sea turtle.
“This is not about saving an owl or a tree, but a legacy for the next generations,” Tanaka said. “It’s conservation, it’s preservation, it’s restoration.”
The IUCN, which was created in 1948, is focused on “valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development,” according to the group’s website.
The IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, non-governmental organizations, the United Nations and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practices, the site says.
Lahmann compared the IUCN World Conservation Congress to the Olympics in that it’s held every four years, there are participants from well over 100 countries and there is a wide variety of events.
The World Conservation Congress is expected to vote next September on new IUCN policies, something it does every four years. The event will also be a forum for the public to participate and showcase their environmental interests.
The call for contributions to the 2016 Congress opened in June. The deadline is Oct. 15 to apply for one of 560 slots at the forum.
“Anyone is invited to participate, to put on the table their concerns, their knowledge,” Lahmann said.
Hawaii was selected in May 2014 to host the 2016 Congress. Then-Gov. Neil Abercrombie and other top officials heralded the decision.
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