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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Second plenary day IPBES

Long day, slow pace and wrong direction

Disclaimer: the views expressed hereby represent the personal impressions and opinion of the writer, and do not attempt to represent SCB as a whole.

After a relatively short day yesterday, today everyone again bunkered in enormous windowless Plenary rooms named Maximus, little suspecting we would still be there 13 hours later. In the morning the Plenary established three Contact Groups (CGs), which are ‘smaller’ meetings between the IPBES Members, to discuss point-by-point, line-by-line the documents that will hopefully be approved at the end of this week. At lunch, the Contact Group for the Budget met; the CG for the Work Programme and Conceptual Framework as well as the CG for Procedures started work at 5pm, working all the way through to 22:30 with a break for dinner.

Joining the CG for Procedures, review started upbeat, with two decisions in quick succession: IPBES would adopt the historical UN Regional groupings into the future for IPBES, and second, that the number of persons in the so called “Multidisciplinary Expert Panel” (MEP) from each of these regions will foreseeably remain at five.

After these decisions, however, the situation rapidly unwinded. We spent thirty minutes discussing whether definitions of terms needed to be added to the beginning of the Procedures document, or whether it was sufficient to document them separately. At around 9pm, Argentina threw a major spanner in the works by stating that the process of acceptance-adoption-approval of reports were not only not understandable, but unacceptable to them. Despite Bob Watson’s emphatic insistence that the procedure was exactly the same as the IPCC procedure, Argentina resisted and insisted that IPBES was not the IPCC, that the introduction of the ‘validation’ concept was legally unique, and that without further legal clarity with rules, there could be no progress on this section. Post-square-bracketing, the CG moved on to an issue that made your two SCB delegates sit up nice and tall: the issue of whether Stakeholders would have the privilege of nominating experts into the process, alongside States?

Very much to our surprise, this appears to not be a straightforward decision by the Members that were in the room, with several (USA, Canada) expressing that they were yet to hold an opinion, while Egypt, Japan, Russia and Argentina were not in favour of direct stakeholder nominations. The EU, led by Lithuania, expressed that they supported nominations by stakeholders.

This is clearly a red line issue for SCB – and IPBES. If stakeholders’ expertise and right to participate in an effective way are not recognised, IPBES risks losing its connection to the scientific community. IPBES will then not only miss the chance to utilize the scientific network for identifying experts, but even more sever – if only governments can suggest experts, the whole process will be seen as political and lacking scientific credibility. The SCB delegation went to bed worried and probably slept uneasy. 

Eszter Kovacs (ESSRG) with support from others

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