The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
) is an international organization
dedicated to natural resource conservation
. Previous names include World Conservation Union or International Union for the Preservation of Nature (IUPN).
Founded in 1948, its headquarters is located in the Lake Geneva area in Gland, Switzerland. The IUCN brings together 83 states, 108 government agencies, 766 NGOs and 81 international organizations and about 10,000 experts and scientists from countries around the world.
IUCN's mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.
The first Director General of UNESCO, (Sir Julian Huxley), wishing to give UNESCO a more scientific base, sponsored a congress to establish a new environmental institution to help serve this purpose. At that first congress (held at Fontainebleau, France), on 5 October 1948, 18 governments, 7 international organizations, and 107 national nature conservation organizations all agreed to form the institution and signed a "constitutive act" creating an International Union for the Protection of Nature. From this beginning, the overriding strategy and policy of the institution has been to explore and promote mutually beneficial conservation arrangements that suit those promoting development as well as assisting people and nations to better preserve their flora and fauna.
At all times, the institution (in all its forms) has heavily emphasised as a key operating principle the strong need to cater for and address the needs of local nations, communities and peoples, so that those nations, communities and peoples can take ownership of future, long term conservation goals and objects in their local areas:
Protected areas and threatened species could most effectively be safeguarded if local people considered it in their own interest to do so. Working with rather than against local people became a major working principle for IUCN.
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The IUCN's World Conservation Strategy (1980) was founded upon this kind of principle, and clearly announced the IUCN's ambitions to more effectively enter into dialogue with the promoters of human development. The strategy was internationally applauded by many and served to secure the IUCN funds from several donors who didn't themselves feel they could open up effective dialogue in the world's developing countries, nor that United Nations organizations and international banks would effectively engage in such dialogue.
The IUCN has now expanded into many of the nations around the world, making available the services of a large pool of mainly voluntary specialists, providing local level advice and conservation services, and expanding its networks of Committees and regional advisory bodies into increasing numbers of countries.
The Union has three components: its member organizations, its 6 scientific commissions and its professional secretariat.