Emirati environmentalist Razan Al Mubarak in running to lead global wildlife agency

The Abu Dhabi environment agency head is one of two candidates for president of the IUCN, which produces the Red List of Threatened Species

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 30 SEPTEMBER 2018. Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Secretary General of the Enviroment Agency, Abu Dhabi, at the Artificial Intelligence Conference. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Alkesh Sharma. Section: Business.
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An Emirati environmentalist will run for the presidency of a global conservation body working to preserve wildlife and nature.

Razan Al Mubarak was chosen as one of the two candidates to head the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Ms Al Mubarak, managing director of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and head of Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, will be subject to a vote in June at IUCN’s World Conservation Congress 2020 in Marseille.

Her candidacy was announced at a meeting of the IUCN governing council in Gland, Switzerland, this week.

The second candidate is Pakistani politician Malik Amin Aslam Khan, the current vice president of IUCN and Prime Minister Imran Khan's main adviser on climate change. The outgoing president is Zhang Xinsheng of China.

If elected, Ms Al Mubarak will be the second woman to lead the IUCN in its 72-year history and the first president from the Arab world since 1978.

She was selected based on her impact in conservation and environmental management in the public and private sectors.

The World Conservation Congress is held once every four years when all 1,400 member organisations convene, in part, to vote on its governing council, including the post of president, which also has a four-year term.

Ms Al Mubarak has previously spoken of the threat our oceans face, the need to protect forests and the pressing need to source clean water without damaging the environment - a growing challenge in the arid Middle East.

"With our drinking water supply coming entirely from desalinated seawater, and a reliance on potable water through plastic bottles, there is an urgent need for us to look at more sustainable ways to package our daily water supply and deal with broader desalination issues," she wrote in The National last year.

"Preserving our waters is of utmost importance."

The IUCN is responsible for tracking and advocating for the status of the natural world. More than 15,000 experts contribute to its assessments.

It runs the Red List of Threatened Species, which sounds the alarm to governments and conservationists to species that face extinction.

As of this month there are 112,000 species on the red list. More than 30,000 of those are threatened with extinction, a third of them sharks and rays.

The union is governed from Switzerland by a 40-member elected council, which is led by a president who is responsible for implementing the overall vision, mission and strategy of the IUCN.

Despite rapid modernisation and the growth of the oil and gas industry, the UAE has worked to preserve its natural habitat, though it faces ongoing challenges.

Abu Dhabi established the MBZ Species Conservation Fund in 2008 and provides grants to individual species conservation initiatives and has supported 2,000+ projects in 160 countries.

Last year, the emirate also hosted the World Ocean Summit to share the best practices in marine protection and sustainable development.