IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature, Red List, Classification | IUCN UPSC Notes

By Balaji

Updated on: February 28th, 2023

The IUCN, or International Union for Conservation of Nature, is a global authority working on the status of the natural world and the actions required to protect it. IUCN was established in 1948 in Fontainebleau, France. It works in the area of sustainable development and also makes suggestions for ways to deal with resource depletion. The IUCN has the resources and knowledge base to support global environmental protection and sustainable development.

IUCN is a vital topic in the UPSC syllabus. The article will cover facts, significance, and other related information to the IUCN. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is a significant global organization, particularly in light of the IUCN Red List. Additionally, we have provided a link to download the IUCN UPSC notes below.

Table of content

  • 1. IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature (more)
  • 2. Working of IUCN (more)
  • 3. IUCN – Six Major Commissions (more)
  • 4. Significance of IUCN (more)
  • 5. IUCN Red List (more)
  • 6. IUCN Categories (more)
  • 7. IUCN UPSC (more)
  • 8. IUCN UPSC Questions (more)

IUCN – International Union for Conservation of Nature

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. It aims 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, 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.

Working of IUCN

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. The IUCN World Conservation Congress is held quadrennially (once in four years).

The IUCN members, including policymakers, civil society representatives, leaders from indigenous communities, businesses, and academia, come together and set the path of the IUCN’s work. The major themes include Climate change, Ecosystem management, Gender, Protected areas, Species, World heritage, etc.

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 local interests. Dr. Bruno Oberle serves as the Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

IUCN – Six Major Commissions

IUCN consists of six Commissions providing scientific knowledge and recommendations to the organization and its members, forming the conservation and sustainable development framework. 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 Area

Significance of IUCN

The International Union for Conservation of Nature 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 standard in various sectors.


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 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 with 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, fungi, and plants. The IUCN Red List has become a key indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity.

The state of the world’s biodiversity can be determined in large part by looking at the IUCN Red List. It is an effective instrument to guide conservation policy and action. Information regarding a species’ distribution, habitats and ecology, population size, conservation measures, use and commerce, and threats are provided to aid in making conservation decisions.

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

  • Not Evaluated
  • Data Deficient
  • Least Concern
  • Near Threatened
  • Vulnerable, Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild
  • Extinct

IUCN Categories

The IUCN Categories and Criteria are designed to be a simple and universally recognized system for categorizing species at high risk of extinction on a worldwide scale. Let us discuss the IUCN Categories, along with their description.

IUCN Categories Description
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 in an extremely critical state.
Extinct in the Wild (EW) Species that survive only in captivity, cultivation, and/or outside the native range
Extinct (EX) Species that are no longer extant


IUCN is an international organization working in the environmental conservation sphere. It is an important topic for UPSC Exam and comes under GS paper 3 of the UPSC Mains Syllabus. Candidates must refer to the right study material that would help them ace this topic and lead to efficient preparation.

IUCN UPSC Questions

Candidates can also download the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to analyze and solve the 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: Option (b)

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

  1. Endemic plant and animal species present in the biodiversity hotspots,
  2. Threatened plant and animal species.
  3. Protected sites for the 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: Option (b)

UPSC Notes
Biosphere Reserves in India Environmental Conventions
Human Development Index Biodiversity Hotspots in India
World Economic Forum Rio Earth Summit
UNO G20 Summit
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