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Creating new opportunities for the protection of wilderness

© Geran de Klerk

The Opportunity

Hundreds of millions of people around the world have never heard of wilderness or its role in human survival. Many languages don’t even have a word for “wilderness.”


The longest-running, public environmental forum to build awareness and support for wilderness, and strengthen wilderness policy from grassroots decision-making to national policy.

How can you protect what doesn’t even have a name?

In many countries around the world, wilderness lacks institutional status. Sometimes it even lacks a formally recognized word. In such a context, how can a society truly appreciate the wild nature upon which all life depends?

The World Wilderness Congress (WWC) launched over forty years ago, sparked by Magqubu Nthombela – a Zulu elder and one of WILD’s two founders – and his sense of urgency that “more needs to be done.”

Since then, the WWC has given rise to an international community that places the protection of wild nature front and center before world leaders. Occurring ten times in four decades, it has produced hundreds of practical outcomes, including:

  • Initiating the process that would lead to the World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility.
  • Dozens of new public and private protected areas covering millions of acres of land.
  • Multi-lateral efforts to restore and protect wilderness across national boundaries.

The story of using WILD9 to help create a 3 million acre transboundary protected area. The World Wilderness Congress achieves many inspiring and practical solutions for wild nature and people. In this brief video, two former Ministers– Juan Elvira (Mexico) and Kenneth Salazar (USA) – share their story of working with WILD’s team planning WILD9 (9th WWC, Mexico, 2009) to create a transboundary, bi-national protected area of 3 million acres (1.2 million hectares).

Some of the Leaders Involved:

Felipe Calderon

56th President of Mexico

Gro Harlem Brundtland

22nd Prime Minister of Norway

Cyril Ramaphosa

President of South Africa

Jane Goodall

Primatologist & UN Messenger of Peace

Sylvia Earle

Marine Biologist & National Geographic Explorer In-Residence

Tashka Yawanawa

Chief of the Yawanawa People

Previous hosts of the WWC



For the first time in decades, wilderness is on the global policy agenda at major institutions, such as the United Nations, and at a national level in many countries. This is unlikely to have occurred without the help of the World Wilderness Congress.


New conservation solutions and protected areas have emerged as a part of the lead to each and every Congress. These solutions support dozens of species throughout the world and protect millions of acres of land.


The Congress is public, bringing together leaders from all sectors of society, including Indigenous Peoples, entrepreneurs, finance executives, politicians, scientists, and artists. This strengthens problem-solving at each Congress.


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