Volume 1, No. 3

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) is an international alliance for action on behalf of nature and the relation between people and nature. Founded in 1948, this union brings together sovereign states, government agencies and a wide range of nongovernmental organizations in some 133 countries. IUCN's work focuses on two main areas: conservation of biological diversity and sustainable use of its components. The union's actions strengthen the work of its members in order to enhance their capacities and support the establishment of global alliances to safeguard natural resources at the local, regional and global levels.

The IUCN structure consists of three fundamental pillars: members, commissions and secretariat. Currently the Union has some 900 members throughout the world. The commissions are networks linking more than 8,000 experts in six different fields: Protected Areas, Species Survival, Environmental Legislation, Education and Communication, Ecosystem Management and Environmental Policy, Economic and Social Dimensions. The secretariat is the Union's technical and administrative body, comprised of approximately 800 persons all over the world, with central headquarters in Switzerland. IUCN has regional offices in South Asia, East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, South Africa, Mesoamerica and South America. The members, commissions and secretariat work in coordination to carry out a triennial program, which is analyzed and approved by the World Conservation Council before each triennial period begins.

Here in Mesoamerica, a regional office was opened in 1988 when work began in Central America. Mexico was incorporated three years later, joining Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The mission IUCN/Mesoamerica is to "Contribute to the solidification of a regional alliance to Take Care of the Earth in Mesoamerica."

IUCN/Mesoamerica’s task is to identify and implement strategies that support actions by members, allies and natural resource users. IUCN/Mesoamerica coordinates a series of activities with government institutions and nongovernmental members as a means of putting the concept of sustainable development into practice, as the best response to long-term needs in the Mesoamerican region. IUCN/Mesoamerica works in four major fields of actions to achieve its objectives:

  • Community wildlife management
  • Conservation of forests and protected area
  • Social area, with solid gender focus
  • Wetlands and coastal zones management

IUCN/Mesoamerica is comprised of members (57 at this time), the Mesoamerican Committee (formed by presidents of national member committees and regional commission vice-presidents), the secretariat (Regional Director and technical programs), the commissions and the networks.

Many of the members and commissions with representatives in the Mesoamerican region are carrying out actions in conservation and sustainable use of wetlands and coastal zones. Examples include the following:

The Belize Audubon Society is co-manager of a wetlands with international importance, the Crooked Tree National Sanctuary Programme for Belize administers the Río Bravo Conservation Area, which has great archeological importance.

Costa Rica
The Ministerio del Ambiente y Energía (MINAE), working with IUCN to spearhead an important process for a National Wetlands Strategy; the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), an intenational member, working in important actions on behalf of mangroves in Nicaragua and Costa Rica through the "DANIDA-Mangroves" and "OLAFO" projects; Centro de Derecho Ambiental y Recursos Naturales (CEDARENA); Asociación ANAI, working intensively in a wetlands and marine coastal program for the Gandoca-Manzanillo zone on the Caribbean coast; and Asociación Preservacionista de Flora and Fauna Silvestre (APREFLOFAS.)

El Salvador
Asociación Amigos del Arbol (AMAR), working in a mangrove zone in Barra de Santiago; El Centro de Protección para Desastres (CEPRODE) and Asociación Iniciativa para el Desarrollo Alternativo (IDEA), heading a comprehensive process of training, extension and sustainable development in Laguna El Jocotal, a wetland of international importance

The National Environmental Commission (CONAMA); Fundación Solar, which is co-administrator with the National Forests Institute for the Laguna Lachuá National Park; Defensores de la Naturaleza, with several wetlands initiatives; Fundación para la Conservación del Medio Ambiente y los Recursos Naturales (FUNDARY), now working with IUCN to have Punta Manabique declared a wetland of international importance.

Fundación para la Protección de Lancetilla, Punta Sal y Texiguat (PROLANSATE), carrying out interesting processes on behalf of wetlands such as Punta Izopo, a Ramsar site; and Fundación Vida

The Ministerio del Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (MARENA) and Asociación para el Desarrollo Sostenible para el Archipélago de Solentiname (APDS), whose field of action is centered within the great wetlands area of Lake Nicaragua.

The Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente (ANAM), which is currently promoting the establishment of a Ramsar training center; Asociación Nacional para la Conservación del Medio Ambiente (ANCON), which works in several wetlands of international importance in Panama, such as Punta Patiño and the zone of influence of San San-Pond Sak, and Fundación PROMAR, working for community participation in the sustainable development of Bocas del Toro.

At least 35% of IUCN member organizations in Mesoamerica work with wetlands and this issue of the Wetlands and Coastal Zones Bulletin is dedicated to them.