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The Hawaiʻi Commitments from the 2016 IUCN Congress

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) holds a congress every four years and this year it was in the island archipelago of Hawai‘i. Concluding today the congress adopted ‘The Hawaiʻi Commitments’. The IUCN was established in 1948 and is probably most famous for its Red List which since 1964 has published the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the status of threatened species. Reversing (down-listing) the threat-status of species in the red-list is perhaps one of the most important benchmarks for a successful species conservation campaign (e.g. mammal eradications on islands in the Western Indian Ocean have down-listed eight species).

2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress, Hawaiʻi
2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress, Hawaiʻi

The IUCN also oversees a Species Survival Commission which is a network of more than 10,000 volunteer scientific experts from around the world, organised into specialist groups orientated around particular taxa (e.g. marine turtles), or threats (e.g. invasive species). The IUCN is also tri-lingual (English, French and Spanish) in all its documents, although much more work is published in many other languages. Among its many resource-rich publications, have been the proceedings of the two conferences on island invasives held at the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Cloud forest on Kauaʻi
Cloud forest on Kauaʻi at risk from climate change and avian malaria (Photo by James Russell)

The Hawaiʻi Commitments voted on today at the congress were shaped by the discussions held over the previous 10 days by more than 8,500 delegates. The document addresses issues such as sustaining world food supplies, maintaining the health of the oceans, addressing wildlife trafficking, addressing the challenge of engaging with the private sector, and building resilience to climate change. With a particular focus on the setting of the conference, was also ‘The Honolulu Challenge on Invasive Alien Species’ which called for greater action on addressing invasive alien species in order to protect biodiversity and human wellbeing from their impacts. A jarring example being the impending extinction of even more bird species from Hawaiʻi, published in Science Advances last week during the congress.

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