Speech by the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, Jan-Kees Goet, at the International Union of Conservation of Nature, 6 December 2018
Today is a festive occasion. We are celebrating IUCN’s 70th anniversary. And the 40th anniversary of the Dutch National IUCN Committee.
It’s a celebration of the world’s oldest and biggest union of environmental organisations. It was established on the 5th of October 1948, in the French town of Fontainebleau. The initiators faced ‘serious technical and fundamental obstacles,’ as the first president, Dr Charles Bernard, wrote in 1948. All pioneering organisations meet with resistance from the status quo. But IUCN persevered. After that first conference in 1948, Dr Bernard added: ‘Our efforts can only be crowned with success when scattered forces unite to defend a great ideal.
As we can affirm, IUCN has succeeded in doing just that. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources has expanded from 65 members to 1,400. It includes many countries and a range of organisations, diverse in both subject and size. From organisations for indigenous people to scientific institutions. From business associations to government bodies like ‘my’ ministry. It has a strong network of around 11,000 experts, who form the scientific backbone of IUCN. It also engages in dialogue with businesses to tackle environmental issues together.
In other words, the Union has achieved its founding ambition: IUCN has excelled at ‘uniting scattered forces’.
This organisation has changed the world profoundly, using multiple instruments.
Take its ‘Red List’ of endangered species and ecosystems, and its ‘Green List’ of protected areas. Without IUCN, the world map would look a lot less green today.
As my minister once said, we should see nature ‘as the beating heart, the lungs and the backbone’ of us all. It is ‘the source of clean air, clean drinking water and nourishing food. It is the source of all life.
Gradually, people are embracing this reality. As IUCN comments on its website, there is a ‘growing momentum to meet ambitious global goals, the wind toward sustainable development is finally at our backs. While the Paris Agreement was concluded in 2015, IUCN was founded 67 years earlier. IUCN has always been a visionary organisation. It helps people to see the value of nature and encourages them to preserve and protect it. This might be less of an uphill battle than 70 years ago, but it remains a challenge to merge an ever-growing economy with our fragile ecology. We are see it as well at the conference in Katowice this week.
Fortunately, we have the unifying power of IUCN on our side. At the start of this century, the Netherlands’ National IUCN Committee established an effective network of Dutch ‘Leaders for Nature’. This led to a five-year partnership between IUCN and the biggest employers’ organisation in the Netherlands – a partnership focused on companies and biodiversity. And two years ago, these two organisations launched ‘Natural Capital’, to help make biodiversity and ecosystems an integral part of company policies.
The Netherlands has benefited from IUCN’s efforts. So I’m hoping that you’ll join us in our mission towards producing sustainable food, valuing nature and ensuring a vibrant countryside. For the first time in years, the Dutch government has presented a new vision on the future of farming, food and nature. We want to connect these areas more strongly, so that agriculture and nature can go hand in hand. Circular agriculture is one way to achieve it. This means taking and giving back the earth’s resources – such as soil and water – in equal measure. This can help relieve the pressure of farming on biodiversity.
In short, my ministry’s mission is to bring nature and agriculture closer together, and I truly hope IUCN will join us.
I also hope that IUCN can help my ministry organise a dialogue with the private sector and conservation organisations. Focusing on future biodiversity commitments that the Netherlands can present at the CBD’s Conference of the Parties in 2020 in China. Together, we can continue unifying the world’s ‘scattered forces’ and challenge the status quo.