Malik Amin Aslam Khan
IUCN Global Vice President
Advisor to the Prime Minister on Climate Change
Why should you be president of the IUCN?
Firstly, I possess the essentially required experience. The post-COVID19 world does not extend the luxury of “learning on the job” and the new leadership at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) will have to possess the experience of understanding IUCN right from day one. My exposure to this extremely complex union has developed over several years while serving at different tiers vertically (National Committee to twice Council Vice President) as well as horizontally (Governance, finance, Congress preparations and the DG search committees). All this ensures I remain abreast of the prevailing challenges and possess the essential skills and a clear vision for IUCN’s future progression.
Secondly, I offer an influential global outreach. Having served in national parliament, international climate/COP negotiations and the federal Cabinet twice (including the current), I bring a wealth of global influence and highest level network connections to the access and benefit of IUCN. I have also a developed skill set of not only overseeing diverse policy formulations, ranging from climate to forests to wildlife, but also the tenacity to deliver them on the ground. All this is needed currently for policy deliverance and profile enhancement of IUCN.
Finally, I can offer IUCN a practical knowledge of innovative “Green” financing. I have recently overseen the increased access to concessionary global finance for our Ministry (now reaching US$ 500 million) through the national “Eco-system Restoration Fund” (ERF) in Pakistan. This ability for “out of the box” thinking is something which, as President, I can leverage for IUCN to attract innovative avenues of financing.
What is the principal challenge facing nature conservation, and how will you lead the IUCN to address it?
Nature has given us a stark warning, amplified by the ongoing COVID crisis, of what can potentially happen when thresholds are crossed and the balance of our relationship is adversely disturbed. Nature has also shown us that an opportunity exists to build back green and have a nature based recovery. The choice for the world is clear and IUCN has to be the organization to lead this nature positive growth—which can balance the protection of nature with the provision of livelihoods and green jobs.
In this context, my vision for IUCN, based on the four elements outlined below:
- Regain and enhance global relevance by fully capitalizing its unique convening power backed by knowledge based tools
- IUCN’s strategic governance needs to be broadened to rise from the micro to the macro level and so energized to deliver global directions and solutions.
- The membership engagement of IUCN needs to be formally structured and strengthened to leverage this passionate force while also expanding across new partnerships—such as with youth, local knowledge providers, and responsible private sector.
- Clarity of vision, impact driven delivery and diversification towards innovative financial resources all have to be intertwined to sustain an enhanced role for IUCN into the future.
I believe that the world needs an engaged and re-ignited IUCN, more now than at any other time in history, and I remain committed to ensure that this happens.
Describe a direct personal experience that has shaped your view of zoos and aquariums, and how it will shape your vision for partnership between the IUCN and zoos and aquariums?
Many years ago, when I was Minister of State (2006), we found an orphan snow leopard cub in the north of Pakistan. We knew we did not have the facilities at the time to look after it to the best of its needs. I was therefore responsible, with IUCN in getting the Government of Pakistan, to work with the Bronx Zoo, and get the necessary permits from CITES to translocate the cub to the snow leopard breeding program run by WCS, in the Bronx Zoo in New York.
This cub named “Leo” by its keepers in Pakistan, became a subject of diplomacy and friendship between the U.S. and Pakistan, and both Presidents of the USA and Pakistan appreciated our work. Leo is still in the Zoo and I have visited him often, where he has spawned many generations of cubs that will help the species survive. In turn, we have also received assistance in setting up a rehabilitation center in Pakistan, and the usefulness of the partnership between a zoo and our government has been very beneficial.
I am currently engaged in many other such issues, and from both personal and political experience know well the value of zoos and aquaria in the future of species survival. The current crisis facing planet Earth is the loss of biodiversity and impact of climate change. This loss of biodiversity, impacts negatively, endangered species the most. The zoos and aquaria represent through their education and breeding programs, the great hope that we can restock and re wild the wilderness and prevent extinction of so much that we value.
With zoonotic diseases and COVID-19 taking center stage, what role do you see for IUCN in combating wildlife trade (both legal and illegal) that poses a risk to human or animal health?
IUCN needs to up its game in addressing the issues of human health and biodiversity in the COVID scenario. It is clear that the links to biodiversity loss and the wildlife trade need to be amplified and demonstrated as a critical cause of human well being and livelihoods. We need to invest in combatting the wildlife trade and ensuring that habitat loss and agricultural pressures as part of the livestock trade are also addressed. We need to learn the lessons and to practice the solutions that have emerged in terms of the huge human and wildlife loss that are inextricably linked in this pandemic.
A preponderance of evidence suggests that we are losing the struggle to save animals from extinction and to conserve the planet’s biological diversity—losing badly. Do you agree, and where do you see a reason for optimism?
Yes I agree and also believe that this “mass extinction” is one of the biggest challenges our generation faces within the larger ambit of climate change and biodiversity loss. The optimism arises out of a renewed focus, and realization of, investing in nature as a means for rebalancing our relationship with nature. This shift towards “nature-based solutions”, especially at the global policy level remains a silver lining in the otherwise catastrophic direction. IUCN has rightly stepped forwards to propose global standards for nature-based solutions which I was privileged to have been a part of during the global launch.
Also the “Red List” of species and the “Green List” of protected areas all combine to provide beacons of hope for not only saving the remaining habitats but also the declining species pool still surviving in them. The associated issue of “natural capital valuation” and financing for biodiversity also have seen an upshot in terms of global appetite, especially in the post-COVID environment. Pakistan is in the midst of this cutting edge debate on performance based “Nature Bonds”. All these developments, around nature protection, provide a beacon hope and optimism to me. IUCN remains the perfect platform to further this optimism in a structured and institutionalized manner which will be a service for humanity and the world.
Read more about the IUCN Presidential race in Dan Ashe's blog
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to explore the full slate of candidates for IUCN Council.
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