- The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; officially International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) is an international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It is involved in data gathering and analysis, research, field projects, advocacy, and education. IUCN’s mission is to “influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable”.
- Over the past decades, IUCN has widened its focus beyond conservation ecology and now incorporates issues related to sustainable development in its projects. Unlike many other international environmental organisations, IUCN does not itself aim to mobilize the public in support of nature conservation. It tries to influence the actions of governments, business and other stakeholders by providing information and advice, and through building partnerships.
- The organization is best known to the wider public for compiling and publishing the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, which assesses the conservation status of species worldwide.
- IUCN has observer and consultative status at the United Nations, and plays a role in the implementation of several international conventions on nature conservation and biodiversity. It was involved in establishing the World Wide Fund for Nature and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
- In the past, IUCN has been criticized for placing the interests of nature over those of indigenous peoples.
- In recent years, its closer relations with the business sector have caused controversy.
- IUCN was established in 1948. It was previously called the International Union for the Protection of Nature’ (1948–1956) and the World Conservation Union (1990–2008).
IUCN runs field projects for habitat and species conservation around the world.
It produces the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems which in a similar way measures risks to ecosystems.
The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems is a global standard to assess the conservation status of ecosystems. It is applicable at local, national, regional and global levels. It is based on a set of rules, or criteria, for performing evidence-based, scientific assessments of the risk of ecosystem collapse, as measured by reductions in geographical distribution or degradation of the key processes and components of ecosystems.
IUCN participates in efforts to restore critically endangered species. In 2012 it published a list of the world’s 100 most threatened species. It wants to expand the global network of national parks and other protected areas and promote good management of such areas, for example through the publication of the Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas.
IUCN is the governing body responsible for the development of the Protected Area Management Categories into which each protected area is divided depending on its conservation requirements and management aims.
It also developed a standard to identify Key Biodiversity Areas — places of international importance for conservation. In particular, it focuses on greater protection of the oceans and marine habitats.