European Wilderness Society

In memoriam: Dr Kathy MacKinnon

It is with enormous sadness that IUCN and the World Commission on Protected Areas announced the sudden passing of Kathy MacKinnon. She was a stalwart of protected areas and of conservation globally.

There are many ways to describe Kathy – as friend, mentor, committed conservationist, scientist, passionate advocate, dedicated organiser, funny and inspired, to name just a few. Kathy called IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas her second family, where she formed many deep friendships across the Union.

Legendary career

Kathy had a legendary career in conservation. She worked with many international and national conservation NGOs and government agencies in developing countries. For 16 years, Kathy was the Lead Biodiversity Specialist with the World Bank. 

She is the author of over 100 scientific books and publications, including recent books that promote protected areas. In 2007, she was awarded the Distinguished Service Award of the Society of Conservation Biology and in 2018, she was also awarded the Midori Prize for Biodiversity. 

Prominent in international forums

Kathy was prominent in many international forums for protected areas. She was on the International Steering Committee for the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 held in Sydney, Australia, and a leading contributor to the development of the programme for that Congress. 

As an IUCN Councilor, she served on the Finance and Audit Committee. The most prominent one was the Preparatory Committee for the IUCN Congress held in 2021 in Marseille. She was also a dedicated member of the World Protected Areas Leadership Forum. 

Kathy was the person in the IUCN Working Group implementing the Programme of Work on Protected Areas

Convention on Biological Diversity

Kathy MacKinnon was a constant member of IUCN’s many delegations to the Convention on Biological Diversity as well as a key person in the Working Group implementing the Programme of Work on Protected Areas. During this time, she was also very active in the many WCPA Specialist Groups and Task Forces that have defined international nature conservation policies and practices. 

Commitments to protected areas

In her words, “Protected areas of many kinds not only give sanctuary to the wonder of 4.5 billion years of evolution but, in holding species and ecosystems, they protect the fundamental underpinning of human livelihoods, economies and wellbeing. They are a key tool in maintaining the sustainability of life on Earth and in combatting the ravages of climate change.” 

As Chair, she was particularly dedicated to ensuring the WCPA produced high-quality guidance on many topics related to the governance and management of protected areas. She contributed to the development of the IUCN Green List Standard, and served as the Chair of the Green List Committee that placed the first sites on the IUCN Green List. 

Kathy was an inspiration to the whole conservation community, within and beyond IUCN. Her dedication to the work of the Union on protected areas was unmatched… 

Bruno Oberle
Director General, IUCN

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