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Sharing Knowledge

Ashok Khosla

The countries in Asia and the Pacific are, and for long have been, home to more than three out of every five persons
on this planet. Yet, they occupy only one-fifth of the world’s land area. This is the most densely populated continent
of all and its density is growing. So are its living standards.
At the same time, this region continues to have a relatively good record with respect to the conservation of living
resources. On many indicators of biodiversity, such as extent of closed forest cover, range of animal and plant
species and degree of endemism, the region still has a more or less respectable record. Although considerable
destruction of species and habitats has taken place in recent decades, what remain of these also provides grounds for
hope.
It is a tribute to the cultures of many parts of this region that, despite the pressures of population and rapidly changing
lifestyle, we can still expect to conserve some of the range and variety of living resources that have survived here.
Modern science has just begun to discover what people in Asia and the Pacific Islands have known and practised for
centuries. But the reverence for life that underlies many of the religions and belief systems in this region is under
threat. It is being rapidly eroded by the loss of community values and community-based management systems as
these are increasingly controlled management structures. Such are the imperatives of modern technology and the
global market.
The survival of nature will depend on how quickly and solidly the people of this region make the transition to a new,
different kind of modernisation. The new type of modernisation needed will have to nurture cultural diversity,
traditional conservation values and community management while taking advantage of the opportunities and benefits
offered by science, technology and efficient production and distribution systems. This means that each nation must
build its endogenous capacity to identify its own social and development problems and to formulate these in a
meaningful manner. More important it must be able to design its solutions to these in the light of its own aspirations
and resources. But it can get great advantage, both in time and expense, by sharing such solutions with others who
deal with similar problems.
IUCN has an enviable record among international agencies in working with local groups and strengthening their
intellectual and infrastructural resources to deal with conservation issues. Bringing to these the scientific knowledge
of the Union’s global network of commission members and combining this sensitively with local expertise is a rare art
that needs to be carefully cultivated and further refined. IUCN, or the World Conservation Union as it is now known,
was established 45 years ago by an act of foresight unusual in the international community. The Union is unique in
bringing together NGOs, governments and the scientific community in a partnership that has produced remarkable
results in global conservation. Its products, including some of the most respected publications and data in the field of
conservation are used as the basis of major international negotiations on many issues of sustainable development.
The Commissions of IUCN are the basis of an immense voluntary network, bringing together the best expertise on
issues of natural resource management. Members of these commissions work with great professional commitment
on subjects ranging form the study of threatened species to policy issues and the ethical basis of conservation.
The members provide IUCN with its eyes and ears, bringing to its programme information of emerging issues. They
meet once in every three years in a General Assembly which has de facto become the global conservation congress.
This year it meets in Buenos Aires.
The Secretariat, based in Gland, Switzerland has a highly qualified professional staff to support the commissions, the
members and other constituencies including governments and international organisations.
NGOs in the countries of Asia and the Pacific can benefit greatly by membership in the World Conservation Union.
This issue of our newsletter describes some of the possible areas in which this relationship can lead to major
advances in the field of conservation. 