The World Wilderness Congress (WWC) is an ongoing public conservation project, focused on practical & positive outcomes in policy, new protected areas, new funding mechanisms, trainings for communities and professionals, and more. It also emphasizes the importance of hope and inspiration! Each Congress results in numerous accomplishments for wilderness, wildlife and people worldwide. Below is a brief overview of historic accomplishments. For the most recent accomplishments, read the outcomes from WILD9, the 9th World Wilderness Congress, which convened in November 2009 in Merida, Mexico with 1800 delegates from 50 nations.
The WWC Pioneers new approaches:
- The 1st WWC introduced the wilderness concept as an issue of international importance, and began the process of defining the term in biological and policy contexts.
- 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 4th WWC introduced the concept of a World Conservation Bank, leading to the formation of the The Global Environment Facility (GEF) of the World Bank.
- Early WWCs contributed to the inclusion and advance of a wilderness protected area classification under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) protected areas classification system. Category 1b Wilderness is officially included in 1994.
- WWCs launched numerous wilderness and wildlife protection organizations and networks including: the Wilderness Action Group (South Africa), The Cheetah Conservation Fund (Namibia), the Wilderness Associazione Italiana (Italian Wilderness Association), the Kissama Foundation (Angola), the International League of Conservation Photographers, the Native Lands and Wilderness Council, the Government Network of Wilderness Professionals.
- WILD9 launched the new concept of wilderness as tierras silvestres (wilderness) in Latin American public awareness, professional endeavor and culture.
The WWC creates and announces new and improved protection of wilderness:
- Queensland’s Premier established protections for several new areas of intact rainforest adjacent to Queensland’s Daintree National Park at the 2nd WWC.
- Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser announced the expansion of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef National Park and recommends submission for World Heritage status at the 2nd WWC.
- 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), and received a grant from the GEF to implement the project.
- Angola’s Kissama National Park received a grant of $1 million USD from the GEF at the 7th WWC.
- Adrian Gardiner (Shamwari Game Reserve), the Wilderness Foundation (South Africa) and WILD announced the first wilderness designation on private property in Africa at the 7th WWC. The area is 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.
- A consortium of non-governmental organizations announces the designation of The Bonobo Peace Forest Initiative in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the 8th WWC.
- Collaboration with government agencies, NGOs and indigenous partners to strengthen peer-to-peer networks, share best-management practices and stimulate ongoing collaboration.
The WWC Brings People Together:
- The 1st WWC presented programs for integrating cultures and races around the world in nature conservation.
- At the 3rd WWC Professor C.A. Meier (Switzerland), colleague and friend of the late Carl Gustav Jung, made the first address to an international conservation conference by a leading psychologist.
- The 4th WWC was the first environmental conference to be opened by a minister of finance (Sec. of the Treasury James Baker III).
- The first ever Corporate Commitment to Wilderness and International Agreement on Wilderness Conservation, launched at WILD9.
- Focus on arts and culture as necessary elements to the wilderness movement. At WILD9, we worked with local charities to create 20 life-size jaguar sculptures which now decorate the city of Merida; and “Body Painting – Applying the 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