Mohammed Valli Moosa

Mohammed Valli Moosa
President, World Conservation Union (IUCN)

Valli Moosa was born in 1957 in Johannesburg, South Africa. A graduate in mathematics and Physics from the University of Durban-Westville, he was an anti-apartheid activist and was imprisoned for lengthy periods during the 1980s. He became Minister of Constitutional Affairs in President Nelson Mandela's cabinet in 1994, and was appointed Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism of the Republic of South Africa from 1999 to 2004. In November 2004, he was elected President of the World Conservation Union.


The business of conservation

We are living in an era of global economic expansion. The private sector is a major player in this period of unprecedented development. Business has a responsibility to the global environment. Business has to do more than just avoid prosecution.

Environmentalists have a duty to challenge business and maintain their well-honed vigilance. It is my view that we are at a stage when it has become necessary and possible to engage business directly in the boardrooms as well as on the streets.

It seems natural for an international environmental organization to reach out to business as well as other members of civil society to implement the principles of sustainable development. The World Conservation Union has thrived largely because of its convening power, bringing together groups that might otherwise not find a forum in which to speak. It has forged common ground, for example on dams, on the rights of indigenous peoples in mining areas, and in co-management of local resources. The best development solutions happen when all parts of society are involved in decision-making. But dialogue does not mean being afraid to confront industry and this is understood by our partners. Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, Chairman of Anglo American plc, has said:

«The challenge for the future is to see how, while defending some boundaries that absolutely should not be crossed, the World Conservation Union mission can be worked in parallel with the moral imperative of equitably meeting human needs. This will mean working in imaginative ways with the market in vital areas such as marine conservation or habitat preservation.»

The business of conservation is to find those imaginative and innovative ways to work with markets. The Union advises regional fisheries organizations, supports the Biosafety Protocol, promotes microinvestment in ecosystem services, and works with organizations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to try to «get the price right» in valuing the goods and services that come from nature.

The Union is a global organization, and we seek to make a global impact, but to do this we must work with organizations and people on the ground as well as those in easy reach.

The convenience of having partners nearby with their established links to the entire world of sustainable development offers us synergies and cost-effective approaches that would be difficult to achieve in any other way.

Now the largest international network of conservation scientists, natural resource managers and environmental lawyers, the World Conservation Union moved to the Lake Geneva region almost 40 years ago. Being based in a neutral country with a reputation for impartiality has served us well over the years. The Union's convening power - its capacity to provide a forum for contentious issues to be raised and resolved - has become increasingly respected. Just as Switzerland wants to make Geneva a world center of excellence on sustainable development, the World Conservation Union is facing the urgent task of informing and educating the next generation of environmentalists. This will be helped with our plans for a World Conservation Campus - an extension of our Gland headquarters which will provide a home to like-minded organizations. The challenges of the future may be worldwide but the Geneva region is a good place to explore the solutions.