By Guy Pe'er, posted on January 21, 2013

IPBES Stakeholder Day

It’s -2 Celsius and snowing on 20 January, Stakeholder Day at IPBES in Bonn, Germany. 
The train system does not cordially support the timely arrival of people at the World Conference Centre in Bonn, but we still managed to gather one day before the opening of IPBES with more than 100 other IPBES "stakeholder" representatives to try and shape our discussion and contribution to the first IPBES plenary.
Guy Pe'er, a member of SCB's IPBES delegation, at Stakeholders' Day
Sitting at the same hall where governmental delegations will convene starting Monday 21 January, and knowing that soon we will moved to the back of the hall, we share the vision that IPBES is perhaps one of the most important global science-policy interfaces on environmental topics. We thus try to jointly shape a message that will help our voices be heard. 
A diverse group of people, united by their concern for the fate of the environment, seem to share a concern that while IPBES has not quite forgotten us, it may not grasp how central external stakeholders are to the very basic functioning of IPBES.
IPBES is a defined process where governments and stakeholders interact to guide future policies. Accordingly IPBES seems to recognize the importance of knowledge-holders, indigenous people and an even much broader range of groups and people who could and should be incorporated into this process.
At the same time, this immense diversity of partners is summarized by one word: “observers.” 
Hmm, isn’t this a bit over-simplified?
As the day proceeds an important message evolves: 
Given the immense diversity of environmental problems, the vast number of assessments to make, and various people to engage, participants here seem to share the opinion that IPBES might simply fail if its processes are not truly inclusive. It’s not only about “allowing” people to participate; it’s about finding and approaching them, activating them and even supporting them. 
So, what did we manage to agree on? Quite a lot:
We are diverse. 
We are not “lobbyists.” We hold knowledge and inputs without which IPBES may fail. As such, rather than just “observe” processes or “be welcome” to make suggestions, we believe IPBES should do more to include “we” (conservation organizations, indigenous peoples, government agencies, business and industry representatives, and scientific societies) into its structure and processes.
We realize that the structures and procedures for IPBES are formed now, this week in Bonn, and we wish to ensure that that things are done now “the right way”, from concepts, through structures, to processes.
In the meantime, governments will convene today to start selecting potential nominees for the bureau. We don’t have much say here. Isn’t this rather contradictory to the spirit of inclusiveness that IPBES is trying to set as a basic concept? As one of the "stakeholders" wondered asked today: Why do we have to meet on a Sunday, separately? The devil is in the details…
It’s all quite exciting and promising. We sit together and the number of governments and stakeholders that join the process increases. These must be good signs, surely reasons for optimism.

Stakeholders' Day Highlights

A group of more than 100 stakeholders met on 20 January 2013. The meeting was convened by the interim IPBES Secretariat and co-facilitated by IUCN and ICSU. 
• Expressed appreciation to the interim IPBES Secretariat and to the government of Germany for providing an opportunity for consultation prior to and during the first plenary meeting of IPBES;
• Noted that the interest, engagement and participation of all relevant stakeholders along the entire process are key for the relevance, impact, credibility and legitimacy of IPBES but that their key roles are not yet fully reflected in the proposed rules, procedures and structures of the platform;
• Urged for a stakeholder engagement strategy to be developed together with the stakeholders before the second plenary meeting that would ensure the full and effective participation of all stakeholders in the work, the governance and the operations of the platform taking into account the diversity of expertise that they could contribute and the need for financial support to enable this; 
• Urged this plenary meeting to clarify the respective roles of the MEP and Bureau in prioritizing requests, inputs and suggestions for activities to be undertaken by the platform. The MEP should have the responsibility to rank in a transparent manner requests as part of its scientific and technical functions; 
• Strongly urged that Observers be allowed to nominate members for the MEP;
• Underlined the importance of having a conceptual framework for IPBES, and called for an effective involvement and participation of relevant stakeholders in the timely preparation of this framework;
• Recommended this plenary meeting request the MEP to further develop the elements of an initial work programme, taking into account input by Governments and other stakeholders during the intersessionnal work with a view to making a recommendation to the plenary for its second session; 
• Further recommended that IPBES initiate the establishment of partnerships with existing initiatives to support and expedite the implementation of its work programme and reports on progress at the second plenary meeting.