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Monday, 9 December 2013

IPBES Plenary Day 1: Health care for Mother Earth?

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

IPBES continues to grow. There are now 115 members, and over 100 listed observers. About thirty new observers were admitted today without discussion, and the Plenary moved smoothly into presentations of the Work Programme, the Conceptual Framework and the Budget.

Now, if you thought that the name IPBES might imply focus on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the Conceptual Framework may surprise you. IPBES starts with talking about “Nature”, “Mother Earth” and “System of Life”. If we (scientists) consider ecosystems as supporting “Quality of Life” or “human wellbeing”, the Conceptual Framework attempts adds the terms “Living in harmony with nature” and “living in balance with Mother Earth”. Sounds strange? Not if you listen to Bolivia’s support of the Conceptual Framework versus its harsh comments on the Work Programme  (Hereafter, WP if you don’t mind).
The point is that being inclusive requires consideration of other schools of thought and other vision of the world. As well explained at the plenary, the MEP has made huge efforts to translate western terms into world-encompassing ones, while trying not to lose pragmatism on the way. The outcome is quite impressive, even if thought-provoking.

Notably, however, as the Conceptual Framework was developed only after the WP, which was written only after the Stakeholder Engagement Strategy, the three simply don’t align well with each other. As Bolivia put it: the Assessments are severely plagued with a western, colonialist, capitalistic approach which views the world through money. True, one has to admit, but the good thing is that this can still be rectified.

Coming to money, though, our SCB delegation maintains some serious concerns. IPBES’s suggested budget for 2014-2018 was set at merely $39 million. For the size of such a Platform this is actually quite cheap. The sum is reachable, and Norway alone agreed to offer $8 million to support. But would it be sufficient? SCB and other organizations see a major gap: even if approved and supported, too little budget is currently allocated to supporting the engagement of stakeholders – without which, how exactly can IPBES deliver?!

Following short contemplation, we decided SCB should make its own intervention at the opening Plenary. We raised a hand, marked a wish, and were nearly to give up - when suddenly the opportunity fell on us due to a minor error: we were erroneously recognized as Saudi Arabia by the Chair, meaning that we had a priority over 8 other interventions… Excited but concrete, Bege raised our concerns about the limited funding for stakeholder involvement, the need to make reference to the Aichi targets set by the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the lack of concrete plans on how to secure a bottom up, regionalized structure of IPBES – which SCB can support through its structure.
SCB’s statement closed the day, and offered an immediate opportunity for unofficial  discussions.

Guy Pe’er, Antalya.

Picture: Bengt Gunnar Jonsson (Bege, Middle, in white) speaking up at the Plenary. Picture: Andras Baldi (MEP member)

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