Words by Abi Scaife
Only the second woman in 75 years to lead the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Razan Al Mubarak is bringing a new voice to climate action. Also the first president of the IUCN to come from West Asia, Razan has been fighting for positive action on climate change for more than 20 years.
“Around the world, particularly in indigenous and rural communities, women are often the first to experience the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss in their daily lives,” Razan explains. “Yet, they are frequently excluded from decision-making processes that directly impact them. This dynamic must change.”
The IUCN is an international organisation that supports climate action by collecting and analysing data, performing research and providing technical and policy advice. Being an international organisation, the IUCN is keen on highlighting diverse voices.
“While the United Arab Emirates, which I am proud to call home, is known for its vast deserts, it is also home to large areas of mangrove, coral reef, seagrass, and salt marsh. I grew up surrounded by nature,” says Razan.
“There was little distraction to keep us from observing and enjoying all of the wonders of these landscapes. I studied environmental issues while I was in university, and this motivated me to look at how our impact on the environment was affecting our health, our identity, our culture, and indeed, our humanity. I came to understand that we are part of nature. We're not separate from it. And therefore, nature’s fate is very much intertwined with our own fate and prosperity,” she says.
IUCN has a huge part to play when it comes to helping climate action - their research is the driving force behind many of the key decisions that are made around our planet. That’s why it is so vital that the voices that come through in the IUCN reflect our planet’s abundant diversity, so we can learn what are planet really needs to heal.
So often, the only voices heard are those belonging to the majority - those who are privileged, come from the white, Global North, and have the time and resources to donate to their cause. While any work that goes towards climate action is good, it is important that everyone gets a seat at the table, and that everyone is heard.
“It’s of paramount importance, to me and numerous women leaders worldwide, to provide a blueprint for the young people of West Asia, North Africa, and beyond. These individuals aspire to realize their dreams and foster a brighter future,” says Razan. “I once heard someone say: diversity means having a seat at the table; inclusion means having a voice; and belonging means being heard. We need women’s voices to be heard - we need them to feel that they belong at every level of the decision-making process on issues that directly affect them.”
One of Razan’s other roles is United Nations Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28 - a job she is taking incredibly seriously. Razan is keen to mobilise people from all different walks of life, to help encourage and guide people into making changes for the environment.
“It seems like the more we ring the alarm bells with fancy words and descriptors, the more disconnected everyday people become from the reality of the message, which is actually quite simple: if we do not change, the beauty and wonder of Earth will wither,” says Razan. “It won’t happen in our generation - maybe not even in our children's or grandchildren’s - but people in the near future will be inheriting a reality very different from our own. And I worry about that, very much.”
“I view my roles as United Nations Climate Change High Level Champion for COP28 and IUCN president as very interdependent to the same mission: to help halt climate change and biodiversity loss - and to make sure that all people who are impacted and have solutions to contribute have a seat at the table."
Ultimately, Razan strikes on a key point - climate change, and climate action, are personal to each and every one of us.
“It is easy to feel disheartened. It is easy to feel that small steps in the right direction don’t matter,” says Razan. “But as a mother of two daughters, I don’t have the luxury of pessimism. I am consistently awestruck by my daughters’ capacities, abilities and promise. More than anything, I am motivated to ensure that their future is as bright as possible, and I will do anything to ensure the risks to their safety and security are minimal.”
“That’s what we all do as parents. It is our role. It’s our responsibility. It’s our duty. The right to a sustainable environment is every child’s right. It is a human right.”
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
The Climate Coalition. This is the UK's largest group of people dedicated to action against climate change. Find out more and support them here.
Climate Reframe. Climate Reframe is committed to supporting the climate and environment movement in its transformation towards greater justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI). Find out more.
Trees For Cities. They are working to plant more trees within large metropolitan areas, for the betterment of people and planet. Support them here.