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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Heaven for some Hell for others

I wish I was a sociologist as this must be heaven for them. The melting pot of different cultures, world views, political positions, disciplinary backgrounds and contrasting agendas is the character of the meeting. To map and understand this is of course impossible, but enough for a large sociological research programme. The misunderstanding of terms depending on different perspectives is making the interaction between participants in the meeting into a micro-representation of the problems that we are facing globally. There is no lack of good will or joint ambitions to create this science policy interface. Yet, we fail to communicate in a language and with terms that make sense to all and hence we have mistrust on several levels. We can regard the whole event as a huge “experiment” – an experiment that I would assume being a sociologist “wet dream”.

Concerning what we are doing, the message from yesterday is basically the same; it is uphill with very little substantial progress. Whenever the term “stakeholder” shows up, it is put in square brackets (for those of you unfamiliar with the process it means that it is something that is not agreed upon and that needs to be resolved later). As “stakeholders” from the scientific community it is of course vital that we are allowed to play a central role in this science-policy interface. We should be allowed to nominate experts and be seen as significant contributors to the process. Without us, there is no translation of science to policy. The problem is though, given the definition of stakeholders that we live with, and as mentioned in the contact group that I participated in today, that the Argentina representative’s children and Sir Bob Watson’s mother are also stakeholders. No surprise that several governments have a problem in allowing stakeholders to having a significant role in IPBES!

To provoke my fellow SCB representative Guy Pe’er (which tends to say the opposite) I would say that there is no ground for optimism and what remains is hope – hope without very little substance to back it up. So my “hope” is that we can provide a slightly more optimistic blog tomorrow.

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