Reading the final communiqué from the Congress. From left to right: Salomé ELOLO – Director, FESO; François Biloko – General Secretary, Réseau CREF; Benjamin Toirambe Bamoninga – General Secretary, Ministry for Environment and Sustainable Development; Bihini Won wa Musiti – Consultant for the Synchronicity Earth Congo Basin Programme. Image: Merline Touko Tchoko
Every four years, we saw our parents and elders hone their ideas and join forces to defend our land, our forests and our animals, each time travelling to a different country to take part in the IUCN World Conservation Congress.
It was a recurring dream that one day we too would join one of these great gatherings to speak up for nature and biodiversity. We dreamt of being able to play our part in these vital discussions on the future of our planet, our local communities and our Indigenous Peoples.
Then, one day, it was our turn. The date of the next Congress was announced.
It was a time full of joy and expectation as we prepared for our trip to Marseille, excited to have our voices heard in the discussions and votes and to finally meet all these partners we had been talking to and worked with for so long, but had never met in person.
Our heads were full of ideas and challenges: the Members’ Assembly, the votes for the election of the IUCN Council members and the IUCN Motions. But then, just as we were packing our suitcases and getting ready to depart, we heard the news: Congress had been postponed. Then it was postponed again, before finally, against the odds, a date for the Congress to take place was finally agreed (over one year later).
Despite the spectre of COVID-19 hanging over the event, we didn’t give up hope. Eventually, however, it became clear that any hopes we had of making it to Marseille were gone due to travel restrictions.
The Mini-Congress began with our representative Dr Bihini Won wa Musiti welcoming participants & outlining the congress’s goals. Image © Rachidyikulu
But then, through a thick fog of disappointment and frustration, a small flicker of light appeared: our ‘fairy godmother’ and supporter, Synchronicity Earth, had decided that, for eight days at least, Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), would become Marseille. We would be able to attend and participate in the Congress after all!
With the help of the Synchronicity Earth team and under the guidance of Dr Bihini Won Musiti, planning for a ‘Mini-Congress’ got underway and, before we knew it, there we were on September 3rd, 2021,