The World Wilderness Congress is an ongoing global conservation program focused on achieving practical, inspiring and positive outcomes for wild nature and people. Initiated in 1977, it is a series of two to three year collaborative projects — towards the end of which delegates convene in an actual Congress — involving many hundreds of organizations and experts from all sectors. It is now the world’s longest-running, public, international conservation project.
The outcomes and accomplishments include new wilderness and other protected areas; new funding opportunities; new or improved law and policy; new organizations and projects to achieve specific and necessary outcomes; trainings for communities and professionals; an expanded, more informed, and enthused PUBLIC AND PROFESSIONAL movement for a wilder world; and more. Below is a very brief overview of some of the accomplishments since 1977. For details on each congress, please select from the navigation bar on the right.
The WWC Pioneers new approaches:
- WILD10 (Spain, 2013) initiated new global policies, organizations, and regional initiatives responding to the well-documented return of wild nature in Europe. Among 33 plenary resolutions, the Salamanca Forest Initiative (now a working forum of global experts called IntAct), the ground-breaking Vision for a Wilder Europe, and the Statement from Salamanca targeted critical policy areas and were developed by coalitions of key experts and organizations. They were officially presented to the European Union, Council of Europe, and government bodies at WILD10. See details on all WILD10 accomplishments in English or Spanish
- WILD10 also organized new initiatives responding to specific issues, including WILD Cities, CoalitionWILD, WILD Seas & Waters, and more. A signature of the WWC process is its inclusion of cultural elements as important parts of creating effective solutions. A very few of such projects were, the first Native American play presented in Spain (a one-woman production, written and performed by renowned Salish educator and Kellogg Foundation fellow, Julie Cajune); a preview of the upcoming, first-ever “Rap Guide to Wilderness” which reached out to new communities and interest groups; a monumental (30 meters high) urban mural gifted to the people of Salamanca from WILD10, and more.
- The WILD9 process initiated and was the venue for signing the first international agreement on wilderness (NAWPA, between Canada, Mexico and the United States); several new protected areas and policies in Mexico; and much more. Click here for details.
- The 4th WWC introduced the concept of a World Conservation Bank, eventually leading to the formation of The Global Environment Facility (GEF) of the World Bank, which has since provided over USD20 billion to conservation projects worldwide. The 4th WWC was also the first environmental Congress to be opened by a minister of finance (President Reagan’s Secretary of the Treasury, James Baker III)
- Nature Needs Half—This global vision was launched at WILD9 and was an integral part of the WILD10 process. It is both a science-based and relationship-focused — asking people to simply understand “What does Nature Need?” It is an aspiration vision to both inspire and to provide a practical framework through which to apply land-and-seascape conservation and connectivity for the good of all life on Earth.
- The 1st WWC pioneered the wilderness concept as an issue of international importance, and began the process of defining the concept in global and culturally-relevant, biological, social, and policy contexts. During its 40 year process the WWC also produced the first professional books on International Wilderness Law and Policy, and launched the Spanish and French versions at WILD9 and WILD10.
- The 4th WWC launched the first “World Wilderness Inventory” and the first inventory of “Wild Rivers of the World” (both prepared by the Sierra Club). Conservation International presented a follow-up freshwater wilderness assessment at the 8th WWC in Alaska.
- The marine wilderness concept was officially launched at the 4th WWC and then evolved through each succeeding Congress, eventually creating the Marine Wilderness Collaborative, and now with Marine Wilderness 10+10
- WWCs launched or enhanced numerous wilderness and wildlife protection organizations and networks including: the Wilderness Action Group (South Africa), the Wilderness Associazione Italiana (Italian Wilderness Association), the International League of Conservation Photographers, the International League of Conservation Writers, the Native Lands and Wilderness Council, the Society for Wilderness Stewardship, Wild Wonders of Europe, Tracks of Giants Expedition, European Wilderness Society, and others.
- Early WWCs contributed greatly to the inclusion and advancement of a wilderness protected area classification under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) protected areas classification system. Category 1b Wilderness was officially included in 1994, followed later by the establishment of a Wilderness Specialist Group (initiated and co-chaired by WILD).
The WWC creates and announces new and improved protection of wilderness:
- At the 2nd WWC, Queensland’s Premier established protections for several new areas of intact rainforest adjacent to Queensland’s Daintree National Park at the 2nd WWC; and Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser announced the expansion of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef National Park and recommends submission for World Heritage status.
- WILD9 revived and helped motivate the historic transboundary conservation area between Mexico and US/Texas formally recognized by President Obama and President Calderon in 2010; prompted new protected areas in the Yucatan; and generally launched the new concept of wilderness as tierras silvestres (wilderness) in Latin American culture, public awareness, and professional endeavor.
- At the 7th WWC a consortium of government agencies and non-governmental organizations announced an initiative to expand South Africa’s Baviaanskloof (”Baboon’s Ridge”) Nature Reserve from 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) to 500,000 hectares (1.235m acres), to which the GEF pledged a USD 1 million grant to implement the project. Angola’s Kissama National Park also received a pledge of USD 1 million from the GEF at the 7th WWC.
- Adrian Gardiner (Shamwari Game Reserve), the Wilderness Foundation (South Africa) and the WILD Foundation announced the first wilderness designation on private property in Africa at the 7th WWC. The area was approximately 3,000 hectares (7,500 acres). The same organizations announce a second 15,000 hectare (45,000 acre) area on the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve at the 8th WWC.
- The CEMEX Corporation launched the El Carmen Wilderness Area (30,365 hectares/75,000 acres) on critically important habitat it owns in Northern Mexico, at the 8th WWC…the first declared wilderness in Latin America, and the first in the world on corporately owned land
- A consortium of non-governmental organizations announced the designation of The Bonobo Peace Forest Initiative in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the 8th WWC.
- The WWC process continually promotes collaboration between government agencies, the private sector, NGOs and indigenous partners to strengthen peer-to-peer networks, share best-management practices and stimulate further synergies.
The WWC is both Personal and Professional – It Brings People and Cultures Together:
- Indigenous Peoples and Communities — The 1st WWC was the first global conservation process and gathering to both integrate and also promote the values and perspectives of Indigenous and Community People, which has been continually expanded as the WWC process has grown globally over the years.
- Intergenerational Decision-Making, Young Professionals – The WWC has always had a focus on involving and promoting youth leadership, most recently leading to launching CoalitionWILD at WILD10
- The personal and spiritual — At the 3rd WWC Professor C.A. Meier (Switzerland), colleague and friend of the late Professor Carl Gustav Jung, made the first address to an international conservation conference by a leading psychologist, explaining the deep and real connection between environmental destruction and the denial by humans of their natural identity and origins.
- The Importance of Culture cannot be overstated! — Since its founding, the WWC process has continually emphasized the importance of culture – the arts, humanities, languages, communications, communities – as important elements of nature conservation solutions, as much so as are science and policy. At WILD9, we worked with local charities to create 20 life-size jaguar sculptures which decorated the city of Merida, Yucatan; and launched a process called “Body Painting – Applying The Most Ancient Art to Endangered Species and Spaces,” a stunning evening exhibition by 20 artists and models documented by five of the world’s top conservation photographers.
- The 8th WWC created a public sculpture contest that resulted in a major work being commissioned and then donated to the Anchorage (Alaska) Museum of Art and History. WILD10 commissioned and donated to the City of Salamanca a 27 meter high (90 feet) wall mural by Boa Mistura, on the theme “Hacia lo Salvaje” (Into the Wild).