IUCN Director General Inger Andersen visited the West African region from 25 February to 4 March 2018. She visited Mauritania and Senegal where IUCN has had a presence since 1986. This visit was an opportunity for the Director General to breathe new life into the region.
IUCN is celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2018 and the Director General’s first visit to the region since taking office in 2015 was an opportunity to celebrate this event. She used the occasion to invite all stakeholders to become more involved in the protection of our planet for the well-being of all, and to join in the 70th anniversary celebrations taking place around the world this year.
During her stay, Ms. Inger Andersen met with the leaders of the countries visited to discuss the environmental agenda at both the global and regional levels. Meeting with IUCN staff, Members, Commission experts and Union partners, she discussed major environmental challenges and prospects for collaboration for a healthier world that values and conserves nature. This visit to the region also provided Ms Andersen the possibility of sharing her vision of IUCN, as Director General, for the coming years.
In Mauritania, where she made her first stop (from 25 February to 7 March 2018), the Director-General held high-level meetings with the highest authorities in the country, including President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and Prime Minister Minister Yahya Ould Hademine, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Amedi Camara, Secretary General of the Government, Minister Zeinabou Ely Salem, Speaker of the National Assembly, Mohammed Ould Boilil and other ministers, including Isselkou Ould Ahmed Izid Bih (Foreign Affairs and Cooperation) and Nani Ould Chrouga (Fisheries and Maritime Economy). A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, highlighting the strenghtening of the collaboration between IUCN and Mauritania, and demonstrating Mauritania’s intention of joining the Union as a State Member.
The challenges of nature conservation are all the greater as this country has a wide coastal strip, which is an integral part of the Great Green Wall project in sub-Saharan Africa. Ms Andersen reiterated the importance and strategic position of the country in addressing the environmental challenges of the sub-region and called for more commitments to nature. IUCN has also decided to continue advocacy with financial partners to support conservation efforts in the country's coastal zone.
In Senegal, in addition to staff and Members of the Union, the Director-General met with many public figures, including the Prime Minister's Cabinet Director, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Senegalese citizens abroad, Sidiki Kaba, the Minister of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Mame Thierno Dieng, the President of the National Assembly, Moustapha Niasse and the President of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, Mrs. Aminata Tall. Ms Andersen also congratulated Senegal for its commitment to nature conservation, and renewed the call for continued cooperation with IUCN in the same dynamic. "We are going to expand our efforts to protect and restore mangroves in Senegal, and we have seen that in areas where there is no mangrove, the sea is the most advanced. Mangronves are natural barriers to coastal erosion. We will concentrate our work in the Saloum Delta and the Senegal River Valley ", she explained. To this end, the Director General announced: "We have projects under negotiation that run between 10 and 12 million dollars in Senegal. We will be in Senegal to discuss all these issues in July 2018". This step allowed the Director General to participate in a pre-COP Ramsar regional meeting in Dakar.
All of these announcements and the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding have supported IUCN in further strengthening its position in these countries in particular, and in the region in general.