CLP at the IUCN World Conservation Congress

September 30, 2021

Earlier this month, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France, marked an event that brought us a step closer to safeguarding nature. Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) staff were involved in the congress (both online and in person), along with representatives from all three organisations within our partnership (BirdLife International, Fauna & Flora international (FFI) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)). Below we summarise our key activities at the event and share some of the highlights and insights that emerged.

Members of the CLP Management Team attended the IUCN World Conservation Congress online and in Marseille, France, in September 2021 © Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP)

Building resilient and innovative conservation leaders

CLP’s Executive Manager, Stuart Paterson, coordinated an online campus session at the World Conservation Congress (WCC) about building resilient and innovative conservation leaders for the future. The aim was to encourage and support an emerging generation of leaders as they strive to deliver solutions to critical conservation issues.

Commenting on the campus session, Stuart said: “To address the many threats to biodiversity, we need conservation leaders of all ages and backgrounds who can face up to enormous challenges and uncertainty. Today’s leaders need to be resilient, adaptive, innovative and curious; and they need to collaborate within and across sectors.”

The implementation team for the campus session at the WCC. Stuart Paterson (CLP/FFI); Nelly Kadagi (WWF Education for Nature); Elizabeth Stephenson (Marine Conservation Action Fund at the New England Aquarium); Nina Paige Hadley (Re:Wild); Laura Owens (FFI); Martha Kimmel (FFI); Nessie Reid (Global Environments Network); Evelyn Britez Navarro (University of Cambridge). (Another implementation team member, Chris Sandbrook, University of Cambridge, is not pictured) © Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP)

The online campus session invited participants to share the challenges they face as leaders and to suggest ways that conservationists could be helped to become better leaders. In mini-workshop settings (‘breakout rooms’), subject experts invited participants to sample techniques and converse with others on resilience (individual and organizational), conservation values, mindfulness, individual leadership styles, and fostering effective partnerships. A summary was also provided on a landscape report on conservation leadership capacity building.

As a programme primarily focused on capacity building, CLP will use the feedback collected from the session’s participants to continue developing our work.

Empowered youth

Two CLP staff, Sherilyn Bos (CLP Programme Officer, BirdLife) and Kate Tointon (CLP Communications Executive, FFI) joined the nearly 6,000 registered in-person participants at the impressive Parc Chanot venue in Marseille.

Sherilyn and Kate led two workshops at the WCC. One of the workshops, called “What type of leader are you?” took place at the IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) Youth Oasis pavilion. During the workshop, around 20 participants took part in an interactive exercise to help them learn about their personal leadership style. Following this, in small groups, participants discussed how to adapt their leadership style to different contexts in order to benefit their conservation projects.

CLP running a workshop on leadership styles at the CEC’s Youth Oasis pavilion during the IUCN World Conservation Congress © Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP)

The Youth Oasis pavilion was a hub of activity throughout the congress. The presence of aspiring young conservationists, many involved in various projects in the developing world – Guyana, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Senegal, Kenya, India, among many others – indicated a resilient and diverse younger generation unfazed by the challenges of COVID and its after-effects. Even more encouraging was the passion that these young people talked about their work and the dedicated mentors supporting them in their endeavours.

Sherilyn and Kate were also delighted to be able to catch up with some CLP alumni at the WCC, including Diogo Veríssimo (Head of Impact at On the Edge Conservation), Cristina Lopéz-Gallego (Professor/Researcher at the University of Antioquia in Colombia) and Jan van der Ploeg (Director of Stichting Nationale Parken [STINAPA] Bonaire). It was fantastic to hear that Diogo and Cristina met up at the event to discuss a potential future collaboration together.

CLP staff Sherilyn Bos and Kate Tointon meeting CLP alumn, Diogo Veríssimo, at the IUCN World Conservation Congress © Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP)

One step closer to safeguarding nature

At the WCC, various commitments were made focused on benefiting nature, and there was a strong emphasis on key issues such as the post-2020 biodiversity conservation framework; post-COVID recovery; and directing global investments into projects that protect nature.

As IUCN Members, our partners played a key role in many of these activities. One motion put forward and co-sponsored by FFI called on member states to support a global moratorium on deep-sea mining – a long-running campaign led by FFI and many other conservation organisations. At the congress, governments and civil societies voted overwhelmingly in favour of this motion, marking a critical step closer towards convincing governments to think twice before mining the ocean depths.

At Parc Chanot in Marseille, the venue for the IUCN World Conservation Congress held in September 2021 © Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP)

BirdLife led a policy delegation to the congress and saw two important motions passed that it had supported. One of these commits to a site-based conservation network representing all areas of importance for biodiversity (including Key Bird & Biodiversity Areas) while recognising the roles and custodianship of indigenous peoples and local communities.

During the event, IUCN Members elected a new Council for 2021-25, including the new President, Razan Al Mubarak, the first woman from the Arab world to head the IUCN. Two WCS staff members were elected to the IUCN Council: Dr Madhu Rao, Senior Advisor for WCS Asia, will chair the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and Dr Susan Lieberman, WCS Vice President for International Policy, will serve as a Regional Councillor for North America and the Caribbean.


We are grateful for the knowledge and expertise of the participants and panel who took part in the WCC campus session. The panel were:  Nelly Kadagi (WWF Education for Nature), Elizabeth Stephenson (Marine Conservation Action Fund at the New England Aquarium), Nina Paige Hadley (Re:Wild), Laura Owens (FFI), Martha Kimmel (FFI),  Nessie Reid (Global Environments Network), Evelyn Britez Navarro and Chris Sandbrook (University of Cambridge).

We also extend our thanks to the organiser of the Youth Oasis Pavilion, Zsuzsanna Kray, and the organiser of Papaco’s Capacity Development stand, Marion Langrand.

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