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Bringing Solutions to the IUCN World Conservation Congress

The World Resources Institute made important contributions on a variety of issues at the IUCN World Conservation Congress discussions. Topics included ecosystems, access to information, deforestation, governance and tools for sustainability metrics.

Over 8,000 conservation professionals gathered in Barcelona to chart pathways for sustaining environmental systems and species diversity. With the unraveling of the world financial system and the accelerating collapse of ecosystems starkly apparent, there is greater urgency to address both simultaneously.

At IUCN, WRI launched World Resources Report 2008, Roots of Resilience: Growing the Wealth of the Poor. This volume details how ecosystems can become a powerful model for nature-based enterprise that delivers continuing economic and social benefits to the poor, even as it sustains the natural resource base.

Frances Seymour, Director General of CIFOR (Center for International Forestry Research), moderated a panel that included: Marion Cheatle, Deputy Director, Early Warning and Assessment, UNEP; Warren Evans, Environment Director, The World Bank; Benson Venegas, Executive Director, Asociación ANAI Talamanca; Veerle Vandeweerd, Director, Environment and Energy Group, UNDP.

Benson Venegas emphasized how communities must be brought into national and international decision-making. “These places are our homes, our pharmacies, our cultures, and have deep meaning,” he said. “We can bring the solutions to the table.”

Warren Evans recommended that readers take note of the previous World Resources Report, Wealth of the Poor, to fully appreciate the findings and recommendations in the current volume.

Manish Bapna, WRI Executive Vice President, noted how many projects are brought to scale and sustained in a disabling environment. Illustrating his points with an example in Bangladesh, he urged pursuit of more “pro-rural and pro-poor” approaches to development based on ecosystem services and benefits. He closed by saying, “Ultimately, this book is about hope.”

Please view his presentation on the World Resources Report 2008 here:

In cooperation with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, WRI also launched the Japanese-language edition of the Corporate Ecosystem Service Review. Ms. Ayako Kohno, of Hitachi Chemical’s Corporate Social Responsibility office, said “we knew right away what a powerful tool this is.” Japanese represents the fourth language translation for the Review.

Janet Ranganathan, vice president for science and research at WRI, hosted a panel of prominent experts whom she asked to reconcile two challenges: the degradation of ecosystems for short-term choices that create larger costs with development aspirations. She asked how we can better understand the impact on ecosystems affected by development. In other words, how can decisions be made with relevant data and with a more complete picture of implications and consequences?

Janet was the lead author of Ecosystem Services: A Guide for Decision Makers, which WRI released at the opening of IUCN. The book demonstrates to decision makers how development and the environment can be managed together to increase prosperity, while also protecting the planet.

Peter Carter, Associate Director of the Services Development Unit of the Environmental Investment Bank noted that we cannot manage what we cannot accurately measure, and that what is needed are sufficiently reliable indicators of the health of ecosystems and a corresponding price. Jim Salzman, Professor of Law and Environmental Policy at Duke University said that protected areas for ecosystems services may be preferable to those based on biodiversity.

Carlos Rodriguez, former Environment Minister for Costa Rica, observed that the real estate boom in Costa Rica has presented stark choices-- such as those between “sex and casinos or sustainable eco-tourism?” Major tourism operators want to be profitable in the short-term, but Mr. Rodriguez wondered, What kind of tourism provides the greatest benefits? Gerben de Jong, Director of Water & Environment in the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs made the point that each decision has failures and is never perfect, but we learn from each and take one more step toward improvement.

Lalanath de Silva and Joe Foti led a workshop on Points of Entry: Reforming Environmental Governance and Improving Livelihoods through Increased Public Access to Decision-Making. The group--comprised of representatives from local, national an international groups--addressed how to more effectively open access to information for environmental decision-making. Representing the worldwide network of The Access Initiative, Lalanath and Joe provided a view of how non-government organizations are building capacity for influence, communications and advocacy.

Craig Hanson appeared on a panel with WBCSD, Syngenta, and Mondi to address Developing Corporate Strategies to Manage Risks and Opportunities Related to Ecosystem Services. The panel discussed how business managers can proactively develop strategies to manage business risks and opportunities arising from their company’s dependence and impact on ecosystems.

And Fred Stolle provided a dynamic presentation entitled Keeping Up: Using the Latest Technology to Curb Deforestation. Fred has worked for many years on developing improved mapping techniques and satellite observations to produce reliable, cost-effective measurements of forest cover change. These methods are meant to improve management of the world's forests, particularly in the world’s deforestation “hotspots.”

In the end, the WRI had a major presence at IUCN and our experts were able to share their ideas and innovations with thousands of global leaders in sustainable development.

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