Hawai‘i Selected for 2016 World Conservation Congress
At a recent press conference, Hawai‘i’s Governor Neil Abercrombie announced that Hawai‘i has been chosen as the site of the next World Conservation Congress, which is held every four years by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). By Abercrombie’s side at the podium were Chipper Wichman, Director and CEO of the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG), and William Aila, head of the State’s Department of Land and Natural Resources. Wichman has served as co-chair of the steering committee working for nearly six years to bring the event to the Islands. This will be the first time the Congress has been held in the United States in IUCN’s 66-year history.
Thanking the multi-organization and individuals grassroots movement that sought to secure the multi-day event, the Governor recognized NTBG for its commitment to “Hawai‘i’s legacy of conservation.” He explained that members of the IUCN site selection team had visited O‘ahu and neighbor islands this past February and remarked that “when they ended in Kaua‘i at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, I think that was the clincher.”
Wichman also addressed the press, stating that “Hawai‘i has all the attributes the ICUN is looking for” and describing Hawai‘i as a proven leader in “biocultural conservation, not just science-based conservation, but conservation that embodies the spirit and knowledge of indigenous people.” He continued, “The world needs to bridge the indigenous knowledge and western science to bring them together. Their synergy will unlock our future conservation of our planet.”
Often described as the “Olympics of Conservation,” the Congress draws people from 160 countries and includes a broad spectrum of movements and organizations including conservation, science, education, government, and business, as well as indigenous groups, private individuals, non-governmental organizations, and grassroots movements. Like the mega-sports gathering, countries vie for selection through a bid process; IUCN received bids for the 2016 Congress from eight countries. Abercrombie noted that receiving a bid from Hawai‘i, a state rather than a country, was unusual. Cooperation and endorsement at the federal level was necessary, which included support of Hawai‘i’s bid from the U.S. State Department.
In a letter from President Barack Obama to IUCN’s Director General at its headquarters in Switzerland, the President said “The diversity and vulnerability of Hawai‘i’s natural resources, as well as their importance to the islands’ economy, make Hawai‘i the perfect place to discuss these challenges.”
Wichman reported that the council voted unanimously to select Hawai‘i. The Congress is anticipated to attract between 8,000-10,000 delegates from those countries to the Hawai‘i Convention Center in Honolulu. In addition to the 10 days of meetings, discussions, and debates, many attendees are expected to visit neighbor islands before and after the Congress.
“Hawaii’s message of mālama honua (“to care for the earth”) and its centuries-old values embodied in modern conservation practices would,” Wichman said, “ensure that Hawai‘i would “take its rightful place as a global leader to share with the world the urgency of the message of conservation.”
Video of the full press conference on YouTube as:
2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress Host City Announcement
Distributed photo by the Office of the Governor, State of Hawai‘i
NTBG Director and CEO Chipper Wichman, Hawai‘i Governor Neil Abercrombie, and Director of Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources William Aila held a press conference in Honolulu to announce the IUCN decision.
National Tropical Botanical Garden (www.ntbg.org) is a not-for-profit, non-governmental institution with nearly 2,000 acres of gardens and preserves in Hawai‘i and Florida. Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, the institution’s mission is to enrich life through discovery, scientific research, conservation, and education by perpetuating the survival of plants, ecosystems, and cultural knowledge of tropical regions. NTBG is supported primarily through donations and grants.