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Saturday, 14 December 2013

IPBES closes: Cheering with a pinch of salt

disclaimer: this text only represents the opinions and views of the author.

Last day of IPBES-2: Time for speeding and wrapping up.
Two "Contact Group" sessions for the Rules of Procedures and the Budget, the latter being closed for Stakeholders and hence "free time" for us to discuss some standing issues and prepare a statement listing our concerns.
The early afternoon Plenary session moves suddenly at a different pace. One document after the other are being taken, changed or left as they are, and endorsed (sorry, says Mr Chair, I was just informed by an English speaker that I should use the word adopting). Time for a swift removal of the entire opening paragraph of the Work Programme (by Argentina of course), but then again, who needs this paragraph anyway. Budget: approved. Annex this and that: approved. Rules of Procedures: tension rises again. USA: we cannot read the text on the screen, please give us a few moments of concentration, Members examine the text to their best of capacity, and... endorse. Move on. CRP codes fly back and forth, Members complain that they are not available online and they should have been printed. This results in a much welcomed 1.5 hour break (jump into the sea!), and back to the race.

The end of the Plenary approaches. CRP.5 is being discussed - the communication strategy - and adopted. It's time for All of us Stakeholders move to the front of their chair: It's time for CRP.6: the Stakeholder Engagement Strategy. A few moments of heavy silence till the Chair announces: The Secretariat has decided to delay the decision on the SES to the next Plenary.
Of course there were many other topics on the agenda, and it makes no sense to open a new issue on the last moment, but, well, Damn...

Some of us gather around Estelle (EPBRS) who is about to read our common statement at the Plenary: we have to adjust the message given this unexpected update, and change words such as "welcome" to "disappointed". Well articulated by Estelle, we express our concern and disappointment: The plenary has shown too much distrust, especially with respect to issues such as nomination, and the general feeling is that many governments do not show flexibility or willingness to use existing networks but rather anticipate science to align to itself to governments' needs and desires. Is this how we envision a Science-Policy dialogue?

To sum up: IPBES can now really start moving forward: there is an approved work programme and budget, the outline for assessments and their timeline is quite well clarified, and all essential documents have been adopted to ensure that the MEP can go forward toward the actual scoping and execution of the assessments. LOADS of work for the MEP (info from Andras over a drink later on: estimated 300 working days per MEP member per year).
We can surely commend the Members, Bureau, Secretariat and the MEP for their hard work, and the outcomes look quite promising. The joy is genuine and well-deserved (well, of course: it is over!), but some serious challenges still ahead.

Guy Pe'er.

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