World Conservation Congress, organised every 4 years by IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is the biggest event in the field of nature conservation. This year’s congress, which had already been postponed multiple times last year, took place from 3rd to 11th September in Marseille, France. After successfully applying for a communication workshop for students and young forestry professionals, I got the opportunity to attend the workshop, as well as visit the congress itself.
The Congress is made up of three parts, taking place simultaneously. The main part is the Member’s Assembly, where more than 1600 member organisations vote on more than 100 motions, through which future global conservation guidelines and priorities are defined. The IUCN Congress is unique in the sense that alongside governmental agencies, representatives of local communities and non-governmental organisations have the opportunity to participate and vote, with all their votes carrying the same weight.
The second part of the Congress is the Forum, where diverse lectures, discussion and interviews with experts and decision-makers take place. It is a place of knowledge exchange, where challenges and solutions for conservation issues are discussed. The third part of the Congress is the Exhibition, where dozens of governmental and non-governmental organisations present theur conservation work. The exhibition is the only part of the Congress that is open to the general public. As such, a big focus of the different exhibits is education, but they also offer a great opportunity for informal networking between organisations and individuals.
The communication workshop was organised by IUCN and FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, and took place parallel to the Congress. The three-day workshop was attended by 12 participants from all over the globe. The participants were instructed on the main methods of modern communication. We were taught how to transform complex conservation themes into simple and effective messages, that have the potential to reach a diverse audience and connect with them on an emotional level. We also learned how to present our message and how to visually design presentations that grab the attention and interest of our audience. We also practiced how to behave in interviews with traditional media, such as newspapers, radio, and TV.
The workshop was led by a communications expert from the global advertising firm M&C Saatchi, with support from experts of the IUCN, FAO and the Finnish Forest Association. Alongside the attained knowledge, participants also became members of the relevant Regional Forest Communicators Network, maintained by FAO. Through this membership, we will be able to further use the knowledge gained and talk about themes that concern us as forestry experts. Participants also formed an informal support group, where we exchange ideas and advice. A big takeaway of the workshop was meeting peers from around the world, the inspiration gained, and the friendships that have been formed.
Author: Domen Kocjan, Slovenia Forest Service, BEECH POWER project