Planet at the cross roads - Namibia moving ahead IUCN World Conservation Congress 2016

20 Sep 2016 | News

Press Release by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Namibia Nature Foundation and Namib Rand Nature Reserve

The 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, the largest most comprehensive Conservation Congress in the world, was held in Hawai’i, USA from 1 to 10 September 2016. The theme of the Congress, “Planet at the Crossroads,” focused on the recently agreed collective challenge of attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) during the next 15 years, which represents an ambitious agenda for improving human living conditions for all, without depleting the planet’s natural assets beyond its capacity to recover.

The IUCN World Conservation Congress meets every four years to bring together leaders from government, the public sector, non-governmental organizations, business, UN agencies and indigenous and grassroots organizations to discuss and decide on solutions to global environment and development challenges. Namibia is a State Member of IUCN and in addition has three NGOs who are also members (Namibia Nature Foundation, Namib Rand Nature Reserve and Cheetah Conservation Fund). NAPHA was also represented and took part in habitat conservation discussions with the Commission on Ecosystem services. The Namibian Delegation at the Congress was small but worked closely together as a well co-ordinated team, lead by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism Dr Malan Lindeque and very well co-ordinated by the Director of Scientific Services Ms Elly Hamunyela.

The Congress took place in two parts; the first part was a more open Forum where ideas and concepts were presented, whilst the second was the Members’ Assembly mainly to agree on IUCN business and motions.

The IUCN Forum

The Forum is a hub of public debate that brought together people from all around the world to discuss and develop solutions to the world’s most pressing conservation and sustainability challenges. It demonstrated innovative, scalable solutions from all areas and from all around the globe to address challenges at local and global levels – from small islands to entire regions, from individual to collective actions. The Forum was held from 2 to 5 September 2016 and included many types of events from high level dialogues to training workshops which explore the depths of conservation and innovation.

With the planet truly at the cross-roads Namibia can offer some solutions to the pressing problems of our times, but there are some tough choices to be made. Amongst the most pressing issues are the importance of hunting in Namibia, the financing of conservation and making our voices heard.  

Hunting is important in Namibia not only in contributing to our common conservation objectives but in helping to drive rural development and improve livelihoods. But hunting is under threat often from well meaning protectionist who do not fully appreciate the complexities of nature. To address this, the members of Namibian Delegation worked hard to ensure that our Namibian voice was heard, Dr Lindeque mainstreamed Namibia’s model of conservation and sustainable development in a number of workshops and events that he presented at including a workshop on Africa at the Cross Roads; Mr Uatirohange Tjiuoro (MET) presented a poster on Sustainable use in conservancies, Angus Middleton (NNF) presented at a packed workshop entitled Does Hunting Have a Future? and Mr Johnson Ndokosho (MET) was particularly effective at making interventions at a wide range of workshops and sessions. In all presentations the point was made that the sustainable use of Wildlife in Namibia, is not only good for conservation but good for rural development. It is also a very important part of our Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme, which helps drive rural development in some of Namibia’s poorest areas.

The second major issue is one of financing, the designation of Namibia as an upper middle income country has obliged the Namibian Government to divert scarce resources towards providing basic services, this has resulted in a decrease in spending on the environment as a percentage of total government expenditure. Namibia provides a good example to the international community, almost 45% of the country is protected, Namibia has the only viable free ranging black Rhino population, the only wild lion population expanding in growth and area and an increase in Elephant from 7,000 in the 1990’s to over 20,000 today. But this does not come without challenges, poaching pressure is on the rise, human wildlife conflict increasing and much more can (and must) be done to use our conservation successes to drive rural development and fulfil our common purpose of Harambee. At the same time international conservation financing is flowing to countries that are most certainly in need of support but largely failing in their objectives. Namibia is showing the world what can be achieved in terms of conservation and sustainable development but this needs continued investment. Namibia’s conservation success is not only a national success but is also a global gain and the Namibian delegation worked hard to have this recognised to try and get sustained investment in our conservation programmes.

Investment into communal areas, private land and state protected areas are required to drive forward our Biodiversity Economy that in turn feeds into all of our sectors, particularly, fisheries, agriculture, forestry and tourism.

Despite the difficulties, membership of IUCN is a useful catalyst to project our conservation successes, connect with a wide range of organisations and individuals, to discover new ideas and innovations in conservation and to anticipate conservation (and donor) trends. Although namibian Delegation were highly efficient with only 7 people in amongst over 9,000 it was also clear that a closer regional collaboration will be more useful in the intervening period and certainly at the next Congress. Nils Odendaal of NamibRand Nature Reserve was therefore mandated to lead our engagement with the region and attended a number of regional meetings. Namibia will now start the process of setting up a National Committee to engage with the region, provide a better leverage with IUCN and project our Namibian voice on conservation issues much more effectively.

The Forum was one of great learning with many ideas being refined and greater collaboration being initiated. In this case conversation is very important for conservation.

The Members Assembly

The IUCN 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.

IUCN’s membership currently stands at over 1,300 and includes some of the most influential government and civil society organisations from more than 160 countries, giving the decisions taken at the IUCN Congress a powerful mandate. Through motions (often brought forward by the IUCN Membership), Resolutions and Recommendations on important conservation issues are adopted by this unique global environmental caucus of governments and NGOs, guiding IUCN’s policy and work programme and as well as influencing many other organisations around the world.

In addition to governance motions, there were over 105 Motions presented for adoption, all of which were approved. The most controversial one being the motion to close domestic ivory markets, which was not supported by the Namibian delegation and for which the Minister of Environment and Tourism has issued a statement. Ironically the motion on the Affirmation of the role of indigenous cultures in global conservation efforts, which calls for IUCN bodies and members to;  work with indigenous knowledge holders appropriately to integrate their values and approaches into modern conservation efforts can greatly enhance the long-term success of conservation; and acknowledge and respect indigenous values that build appreciation and responsibility for care of natural resources through learning the regional history of indigenous peoples' and local communities' relationships with lands and waters of conservation value. An aspect already undermined by the process and outcome of the motion on the closure of domestic ivory markets. There was an important governance motion that was passed to facilitate the possibility of a stronger voice for Indigenous Peoples Organisations which should hopefully strengthen this in the future.

However there were numerous other motions that are of importance to Namibia either directly or indirectly.

For species conservation, the motion on preventing electrocution and collision impacts of power infrastructure on birds supports the important work being done under the longstanding NamPower/Nambia Nature Foundation Partnership in dealing with these issues, there were also resolutions on poisoning and conservation measures for vultures that supports the work of the Ministry of Environment and the Namibia Vultures project hosted by the NNF. There was also a motion on pangolins, which amongst other actors supports the work done by the Rare and Endangered Species Trust, hosted by the NNF. The motion on Giraffids: reversing the decline of Africa’s iconic megafauna supports the work of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation based here in Namibia.

There were numerous motions on marine issues, with one contentious motion on establishing 30% of the oceans as (strict) marine protected areas, which Namibia is already some way to addressing anyway with the Namibian Islands Marine Protected Area, Africa’s largest. Other important motions included calling for the establishment of South Atlantic Wale Sanctuary, as well as motions related to marine litter, biofouling and sustainable fisheries. There was also an important motion on Protecting coastal and marine environments from mining waste which is particularly relevant to the phosphate mining debate.

There were numerous motions on protected areas including providing greater recognition for private protected areas, such as the Namib Rand Nature Reserve. But also strengthening trans-boundary protected areas of which Namibia is part of several, including KAZA, /Ais/Ais-Richtersveld and more recently the Skeleton Coast-Iona transboundary conservation areas. The motion on Protected areas and other areas important for biodiversity in relation to environmentally damaging industrial activities and infrastructure development should help guide the government on these issues in national Parks, Private Protected Areas and Conservancies.

In relation to hunting the motions calling for a closure on ‘hunting” of captive-bred lions, thankfully not practiced in Namibia is most welcomed as was the motion on the Management and regulation of selective intensive breeding of large wild mammals for commercial purposes, which explicitly calls for Governments to adopt a risk adverse strategy. Hunting in Namibia is regarded as a premium product because of its natural setting, wild animals and most Namibian hunters’ adherence to the principles of Fair Chase, something that should be maintained at all costs. At the same time there was a motion recognising that the often quoted panacea to livelihood and environmental issues, Tourism, comes with its own impacts which will further guide the work of our own domestic standard EcoAwards, hosted by the NNF.

The motion on Recognising, understanding and enhancing the role of indigenous peoples and local communities in tackling the illegal wildlife trade crisis speaks directly to Namibia’s world class Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme, whilst the motions on Crimes against the environment, Environmental Courts and Tribunals and Improving means to fight environmental crime should help Namibia and our partners in our efforts to combat illegal killing and trade of wildlife.

The heavily debated motion on Natural Capital underpins the important work being done by MET and GIZ under the ResMob project, which seeks to help us better value the natural capital and ecosystem services upon which we rely. This was further supported by other motions looking to guide sustainable development and financial investments. There were many others covering important topics such as conservation research, urbanization, renewable energy, environmental education and connecting people with nature, all of which can help guide our future conservation efforts.  

Despite the unfortunate outcome of the motion on the closure of domestic ivory markets Namibia has a lot to share and learn from other conservationists around the world and the IUCN offers a useful platform for this. The Namibian delegation of IUCN hopes to grow in size and influence to support a more inclusive conservation agenda that is progressive in also supporting champions in conservation and ultimately the nature that we the people, of Namibia and the world, rely on for our sustenance and well-being.


More information on IUCN, the World Conservation Congress and the motions mentioned above can be found at

Further press resources can be found at