SCB was well represented at the IPBES-3 Plenary session, with seven members dedicating their time to IPBES, including two days of the Stakeholder forum, and six days of formal plenary sessions.
SCB delegates included Bengt-Gunnar (Bege) Jonsson (Sweden, chair of SCB’s IPBES committee), Carolyn Lundquist (New Zealand), Teuta Skorin (Croatia), Martin Dieterich (Germany), Kyle Gracey (USA), Eszter Kovacs (UK), Judith Schleicher (UK).
Delegates at IPBES-3 in Bonn, Germany in January 2015. Photo credit: IISD
Stakeholder days, 10-11 January 2015
The Stakeholder workshops were held at the natural history Museum Koenig in Bonn on Saturday 10th January, and at the World Conference Centre in Bonn on Sunday 11th January. A number of new stakeholders were in attendance, as well as the many stakeholders like SCB that have been attending global and regional IPBES meetings since its inception. Discussions and presentations covered general information about the IPBES platform, the role of stakeholders within both plenary and inter-sessional IPBES activities, and importantly, how best to organise the presentation of stakeholder views to governments, particularly through the organisation of joint stakeholder statements (interventions) on particular issues. The stakeholder group determined schedules and self-organization for each morning prior to plenary sessions, and agreed to share leadership and organization of the daily stakeholder meetings and interventions across organizations. To better inform the Chair of the plenary session so that jointly agreed stakeholder statements will be recognized and given the floor (when appropriate) during plenary sessions, we negotiated a ‘coordinated stakeholder’ microphone for all Plenary sessions. We also requested that stakeholders be allowed to observe discussions about the IPBES Budget, and were initially successful.
Plenary sessions, 12-17th January 2015
The main plenary session began with opening statements, including SCB Board Member Carolyn Lundquist speaking on behalf of the stakeholder group, highlighting outcomes of the stakeholder discussions, and urging governments to discuss and adopt a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy in order to enable broader engagement and mobilization of stakeholders. For those not familiar with IPBES terminology, stakeholders are broadly defined, and include knowledge holders and contributors, rights holders, and end users of IPBES products. Many SCB members are already contributing as scientific stakeholders to IPBES assessments, and a stakeholder strategy will develop a structure to better communicate with and encourage expert contributions from diverse stakeholder networks. Key items on the agenda for IPBES-3 include discussion and adoption of the Work Program, Rules of Procedure, Budget, Communications Strategy, Stakeholder Engagement Strategy, and Formation of Strategic Partnerships.
For those interested in more details about IPBES and this third plenary session, please see the IPBES website or read the daily reports from the meeting by IISD.
The IPBES Work Program is ambitious, and includes multiple assessments and task forces. The task force on capacity-building developed a programme of fellowship, exchange and training programmes, and determined and prioritized key capacity-building needs to guide financial support. Documents prepared by this task force are available on the IPBES website. There is also a task force on knowledge and data which has prepared a data and information management plan to support the work of the platform, and a knowledge and data strategy to guide its work in meeting priority knowledge and data needs for policymaking, and catalysing efforts to generate new knowledge and networking. A final task force is on indigenous and local knowledge systems, and has prepared a roster and network of experts and draft procedures and approaches to working with indigenous and local knowledge systems.
Other IPBES products include a number of guidance documents, for which drafts are in process. These include a guide to the production and integration of assessments from and across all levels. A further guide is being developed to conceptualize values of biodiversity and nature’s benefits to people. An expert group is also preparing a catalogue of policy support tools and methodologies and to provide guidance on how the further development of such tools and methodologies could be promoted and catalysed.
The final aspect of the Work Program are the assessments that will serve as the primary outputs of IPBES. The first two assessment, already in process, are a thematic assessment on pollination, and an assessment of policy support tools and methodologies for scenario analysis and modelling of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Discussions took place to determine the nature of regional assessments and the timeline upon which they would occur. Regional assessments were proposed for Africa, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, Europe and Central Asia, and Open Oceans. Upcoming topical assessments include a thematic assessment on land degradation and restoration, and a methodological assessment on the conceptualization of values of biodiversity and nature’s benefits to people. A global assessment of biodiversity and ecosystem services was also discussed.
The Budget required to support the IPBES deliverables, its meetings, and its secretariat is substantial. While many governments have committed funding, the desired budget is still far above the funding currently available. Of key interest to science stakeholders is what is missing from the budget. We noted a lack of adequate funding to support stakeholder engagement and the stakeholder engagement strategy, and dependence on in-kind contributions to implement stakeholder engagement. From the perspective of expert scientists contributing to assessments which require attendance at multiple author meetings, IPBES does provide travel support for experts from ODA eligible countries, but not for developed country experts including those from for example Eastern Europe who may have little resources to support participation of their nation’s experts. Discussion included the potential addition of Eastern Europe to the list of countries supported. However, this does not address the lack of funding to support most developed country experts, who must rely on institutional funds if governmental funds are not provided to support travel (e.g., Canada, Australia as examples). The stakeholder group also requested that IPBES estimate the in-kind contributions to the work plan, including, for example, the cost of expert time in preparing assessments. With over 500 experts already, and estimates of 0.1 FTE per expert, the in-kind contributions to IPBES of experts far exceed the cash budget of the platform, though this contribution is poorly recognized by governments.
At IPBES 3, the second Multidisciplinary Expert Panel was elected. The first MEP election, in Bonn 2 years ago, was fraught with challenges, and resulted in a panel that lacked gender and topical diversity, was biased toward natural sciences (versus social sciences and policy), and had few experts with experience with indigenous and traditional knowledge. Guiding documents were prepared to guide regions to work together in nominating experts to allow for a diverse final panel that encompassed the expertise necessary for IPBES as a whole, reflecting on lessons learned from the first MEP election. Current President of SCB Rodrigo Medellin was selected for the new MEP, and Andras Baldi (SCB Board) was on the first MEP.
Other Rules of Procedure reflect the expert nomination process, of which challenges were also discussed at the meeting. For example, MEP members noted that the current nomination process did not provide adequate representation across geographic regions, gender, scientific disciplines and knowledge systems. Stakeholders suggested relaxing the 80:20 split between government and stakeholder nominations, with a shift towards up to 50% of the selections based on stakeholder nominations, and making full use of the networks that stakeholders represent. Stakeholders also suggested increased transparency of the nomination and selection process, including publication of names and nominators of all experts, not just the ones selected, and a brief report on the selection process. Other aspects of importance to scientific experts were definitions of the acceptance, adoption and approval process for assessments, and how changes to report language would be incorporated, and whether authors could challenge changes requested by government. Finally, stakeholders suggested a defined ‘confidence’ language appropriate to biodiversity and ecosystem services, conceptually similar to what exists for IPCC in defining levels of uncertainty in statements made in these reports. Admission of observers still had a few key aspects requiring agreement at IPBES3, with the main contentious text being whether 1/3 of the member states or only one individual member state was required to reject an individual or group from being admitted as an observer to IPBES. So for example, if an SCB delegate had a previous negative history with one government, this could result in SCB being excluded if the one country rule went through.
A last rule of procedure concerned the conflict of interest policy. Existing assessments have had experts sign an interim conflict of interest policy, and it was hoped that a final policy would be adopted at IPBES3. Some NGOs expressed concern about the inclusion of experts from industry as authors, as they may present information incorrectly to not have negative influence on their products, and recent dialogue in Nature with respect to the pollination assessment and particular agro-chemicals has been an impetus for resolving the conflict of interest statement, public disclosure of conflict of interest, and whether a potential conflict of interest (for example, one of your graduate students is funded by a corporate interest) would result in removal of an expert. How big does a conflict of interest need to be to result in this removal?
And finally, the Stakeholder Engagement Strategy. Until Friday afternoon, things were progressing well, and the support of most nations was for a strategy that was all inclusive, and left management of the stakeholder forum with the stakeholders, in contrast to another option that had restricted stakeholder membership with control lying with the Secretariat and with governments. Stakeholders prefer the open ended option, and a surprise blocking of this strategy occurred midday Friday, with stakeholders and governments concerned that a strategy may once again be delayed for another year, as it was at IPBES2 in Antalya. Some countries were concerned about what the term stakeholder includes, and were uncomfortable with the broad, inclusive text proposed for the stakeholder forum, even though belonging to the stakeholder forum was a separate process than being given observer status and ability to attend and participate in the IPBES Plenary sessions, and also separate to the expert selection process for experts. Regardless, with 24 hours to go, we still had no consensus, and many tense moments occurred. There was some discussion amongst stakeholders on whether it was better to have a restrictive stakeholder strategy, where stakeholders had little control, or no strategy at all. Most favored coming to an agreement, and that we could work within either option. At end of day Friday, a small contract group did appear to finally make resolution with small word changes (forum replaced with network) to allow a stakeholder strategy to be adopted at IPBES3, and attendance of one of the concerned government delegations at the stakeholder meeting on Saturday morning allowed for an exciting interaction about the stakeholder strategy, and how stakeholders saw their role in IPBES. In the end, after five contact groups, many mini-contact groups, and endless discussions in the hallways, the stakeholder strategy text was agreed upon, and a quick gavel in the closing plenary session resulted in the adoption of a strategy that combined the original Options 1 and 2, such that the Secretariat and the stakeholder forum work together to implement the strategy.
The final hours of IPBES3 were surprising fast, with the rapid gaveling of many working documents frustrating some governments, though the Chair did remind those that proposed amendments that each working document had been discussed, often over five or more contact groups, and that any changes should have been brought up there. Of course this is challenging for delegations with only one or two members to attend all concurrent contact groups, and contact groups do not have translation into the six UN languages making it difficult for those that are not fluent in English.
The stakeholders and rights-holders finished with a bang, with much of Saturday spent drafting a final Coordinated Stakeholder statement at our designated microphone. We were preceded as per a prior agreement by a statement by IIFBES (International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services), showing the coordination between IIFBES and the broader group of stakeholders. The final statement was given by Judith Schleicher of SCB, who made an enthusiastic gesture moments after (while still on the video screens and unexpectedly viewed by everyone in plenary). While embarrassing at the exact moment, everyone appreciated the humour and the nerves when you are speaking in front of the larger plenary session, and the Chair in his concluding remarks, commented on the enthusiasm shown by the stakeholder group in supporting IPBES.
As always, an interesting week at IPBES, and while occasionally tedious, such as long-existing discussions of whether the terms ‘shall’ and ‘should’ have different legal meanings, the ever-present interventions between Argentina and the UK on the status of the Falkland Islands, and other curiosities, this was arguably the most successful IPBES plenary to date at agreeing on important Rules of Procedures and activities toward achieving its ambitious goals.