International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN): UPSC IAS Notes

By K Balaji|Updated : November 24th, 2022

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is a global authority working on the status of the natural world and the actions required to protect it. IUCN is a vital topic in the UPSC syllabus, and question from this international body is asked in both UPSC Prelims and Mains exam. IUCN UPSC notes would be helpful for the candidates to answer correctly the questions asked in all stages of the UPSC Exam.

In this article, we will be covering facts, significance, and other related information to the IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature. Additionally, we have provided a link to download the IUCN UPSC notes below.

Table of Content

What is IUCN?

IUCN is the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which was established in 1948 in Fontainebleau, France.

  • The IUCN collaborates with both governments and civil society establishments with a common goal of safeguarding nature.
  • Aim: To persuade international collaboration and impart scientific knowledge that guides conservation actions. 
  • The main vision of IUCN is to create a just world that values and conserves nature.
  • IUCN has its headquarters in Gland which is close to Geneva in Switzerland.
  • With over 1,400 Member organizations and 18,000 experts representing about 170 countries, IUCN has become the world’s biggest and most diverse environmental organization.

How Does IUCN Operate?

  • IUCN works based on democratic principles and unites influential organizations and leaders from across the world in a combined effort to protect nature and promote sustainable development.
  • IUCN World Conservation Congress is held quadrennially (once in four years) where the IUCN members which include policymakers, civil society representatives, leaders from indigenous communities, business, and academia come together and set the path of the IUCN’s work.
  • IUCN consists of six Commissions that provide scientific knowledge and recommendations to the organization and its members which forms the framework for conservation and sustainable development. These commissions are:
    • CEC - Commission on Education and Communication
    • CEM - Commission on Ecosystem Management
    • CEESP - Commission on Environmental, Economic and Social Policy
    • SSC - Species Survival Commission
    • WCEL - World Commission on Environmental Law
    • WCPA - World Commission on Protected Areas
  • Further, the IUCN Secretariat which is led by a Director-General focuses its work mainly on crucial themes and is divided into 11 operational regions to secure its knowledge and serve the local interests.
    • The major themes include Climate change, Ecosystem management, Gender, Protected areas, Species, World heritage, etc.

IUCN Significance

  • IUCN has successfully spread awareness about the adverse impact of various human activities on nature.
  • IUCN endorsed the need for the adoption of environmental impact assessments, which have now become a standard in various sectors.
  • In 1964, IUCN established the IUCN Red List which has become a holistic database of the conservation status of various species.
  • IUCN played a key role in the development of important international conventions and agreements such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the World Heritage Convention, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
  • IUCN also collaborated with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to publish the World Conservation Strategy which is considered as a revolutionary document that defined the concept of ‘sustainable development’ and provided a framework for global conservation and sustainable development agenda.
  • Acknowledging its importance in environmental conservation, the UN General Assembly provided IUCN the official observer status in 1999.
  • IUCN has further developed various nature-based solutions which address key issues associated with food and water security, climate change, and poverty.

IUCN Red List

  • The IUCN Red List was set up in 1964 and is a comprehensive database on the global extinction risk status of various species of animals, fungus, and plants.
  • The IUCN Red List has become a key indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity.

The IUCN Red List categorizes species at high risk of global extinction into nine categories namely -

IUCN Categories


Not Evaluated (NE)

Not yet assessed by the IUCN

Data Deficient (DD)

There are inadequate information on the species

Least Concern (LC)

Species that are unlikely to become endangered or extinct in the near future.

Near Threatened (NT)

species that are close to being endangered in the near future.

Vulnerable (VU)

species that are considered to be at high risk of human-caused extinction without further human intervention

Endangered (EN)

Species that are considered to be at very high risk of extinction in the wild

Critically Endangered (CR)

Species that are considered to be at an extremely critical state.

Extinct in the Wild (EW)

Species that are surviving only in captivity, cultivation and/or outside native range

Extinct (EX)

Species that are no longer extant


IUCN is an international organization working in the field of environmental conservation and is an important topic for both UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains examination. It comes under “Environmental Conservation” in GS paper 3 of the UPSC Mains Syllabus and “General issues on Biodiversity” of the UPSC Prelims Syllabus. Candidates must refer to the right UPSC Books, and study material that would help them ace this topic, and lead to an efficient preparation. 


Candidates can bookmark this page to get access to the IUCN UPSC Notes whenever they want. However visiting the website, again and again, might consume time, and it is not feasible always. That’s why we have prepared the IUCN notes PDF below.

Download IUCN UPSC Notes PDF

IUCN UPSC Questions

Candidates can also download the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to analyse and solve the IUCN questions asked in the past. 

Q1. With reference to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which of the following statements is/are correct?

  1. IUCN is an organ of the United Nations and CITES is an international agreement between governments
  2. IUCN runs thousands of field projects around the world to better manage natural environments
  3. CITES is legally binding on the States that have joined it, but this Convention does not take the place of national laws

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer (b)

Q2. The “Red Data Books” published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) contain lists of: (2011) 

  1. Endemic plant and animal species present in the biodiversity hotspots,
  2. Threatened plant and animal species.
  3. Protected sites for conservation of nature and natural resources in various countries.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 and 3

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3

(d) 3 only

Answer (b)

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  • IUCN- International Union for Conservation of Nature is an international organization that works for the conservation of the world’s fauna and flora. Switzerland is the headquarters of the IUCN. IUCN releases the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species which is the world's most comprehensive database of plant and animal species' global conservation status.

  • IUCN is an independent organization that has observer and consultative status at the United Nations.

  • IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the most holistic database in the world on the global extinction risk status of various species. The red list uses IUCN categories to define the extinction status of all the plant and animal species.

  • IUCN was formerly known as the World Conservation Union between 1990 to 2008.

  • The IUCN Redlist categories are:

    • Not Evaluated (NE)
    • Data Deficient (DD)
    • Least Concern (LC)
    • Near Threatened (NT)
    • Vulnerable (VU)
    • Endangered (EN)
    • Critically Endangered (CR)
    • Extinct in the Wild (EW)
    • Extinct (EX)

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