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The International Union for Conservation of Nature

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What is IUCN?

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges.

IUCN’s work focuses on valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development. IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.

IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200 government and NGO Members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.

The History of IUCN

IUCN was founded in October 1948 as the International Union for the Protection of Nature (or IUPN) following an international conference in Fontainebleau, France. The organization changed its name to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in 1956 with the acronym IUCN (or UICN in French and Spanish). This remains our full legal name to this day. Use of the name “World Conservation Union”, in conjunction with IUCN, began in 1990. From March 2008 this name is no longer used.


The One Union Approach

The global IUCN Union is made up the IUCN Secretariat, the Council (including regional councilors), IUCN Member bodies and the six IUCN Commissions of volunteer experts. More information on the Union and its reach in Australia is outlined below.

The IUCN Council

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The 2017-2020 IUCN Council at its first meeting in Gland, February 2017 (c) IUCN

The IUCN Council is the principal governing body of IUCN in between sessions of the World Conservation Congress - the general assembly of the Union's members.

Subject to the authority, direction and policy of the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the role of the IUCN Council is to set strategic direction and policy guidance for the work of the Union; provide oversight and guidance on the performance of the components of the Union as a whole and of the Director General in particular; fulfill its fiduciary responsibilities to the Members of the Union and render account to them; and support the Director General in communicating IUCN’s objectives, policy and Programme to the world community.

The 2016-2020 Council is composed of:

  • The President;
  • Four Vice Presidents (elected by Council from among its members)
  • The Treasurer;
  • The Chairs of IUCN's six Commissions;
  • Twenty-eight Regional Councillors: four (4) for Africa; four (4) for Meso and South America; three (3) for North America and the Caribbean; five (5) for South and East Asia; three (3) for West Asia; three (3) for Oceania; three (3) for East Europe, North and Central Asia; and three (3) West Europe;
  • A Councillor from the State in which IUCN has its seat (Switzerland).

The IUCN Oceania Regional Councillors

There are three IUCN Regional Councillors in the Oceania Region. The current Councillors are based in Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands.

The newly elected IUCN Regional Councillors for Oceania at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawai'i: Peter Cochrane (Australia), Anna Tiraa (Cook Islands) and Andrew Bignell (New Zealand) (c) K. Zischka
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Andrew Bignell

New Zealand


Peter Cochrane



Anna Elizabeth Tiraa

Cook Islands


The Regional Secretariat: The Oceania Regional Office

The Oceania Regional Office of IUCN was established in 2007 to mobilize the Union's resources, build on its strengths and deliver on its vision 'for a just world that values and conserves nature'. The Regional Office is based in Suva, Fiji and aims to address key environmental concerns of the region particularly for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Find out more about the work of the Oceania Regional Office

The six IUCN Commissions

The great volunteer expert Commissions of IUCN are a powerhouse of global collaboration and knowledge exchange. They generate a large percentage of IUCN’s large publication output and take IUCN messages and work into all corners of the earth.

The six Commissions are the Species Survival Commission (SSC), World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), Commission on Environmental Law (CEL), Commission on Ecosystem Management (CEM), Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) and Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy (CEESP).

Find out more about the IUCN Commissions


The World Conservation Congress

The Congress is held every four years and has two components: the World Conservation Forum and the IUCN Members Assembly. As such it is both an important international conservation event and also the main governing body of the IUCN. The 2012 World Conservation Congress was held from 6 to 15 September 2012 at the International Convention Center (ICC) in Jeju, Republic of Korea. For more information, click the logo.

Find out more about the 2016 World Conservation Congress


IUCN Membership - How to join

As a government agency or organisation

The opportunity to join the largest global environmental conservation network is open to:

  • States
  • Government agencies
  • Political/economic integration organizations
  • National and international non-governmental organizations
As an individual

It is important to note that individuals are able to become members of the six IUCN Commissions (see info below). In Australia, individuals are also able to join the ACIUCN network as Associates.

For more information on IUCN Membership, go to the MEMBERSHIP PAGE


Visit the IUCN website to find out more