Tuesday, January 29, 2013

IPBES-1 day 6

IPBES up and running with Prof. Zakri of Malaysia as its Chair

The final day of the in-session process brought about some impressive consensus-building. After a vote had already been setup for the position Chair of IPBES, Mexico asked for yet another chance to come to a consensus decision. And indeed, after a long evening and a long morning of negotiations, the different delegations after all came to an agreement: the candidate of the Asia-Pacific States, Professor Zakri Abdul Hamid, was elected chair, while Prof. Sir Watson withdrew his bid for this position and instead was elected one of the vice-chairs. Part of the compromise was that the tenure of the chair lasts three years only and that there is no possibility for re-election. Furthermore, for the 2nd term, the Western Europe and Other States will have the privilege to nominate the candidate for the chair – thus their candidate, Prof. Sir Watson could become the 2nd chair of IPBES. The right to nominate the chair will then circulate among the regions. Of course this setting only holds in case the 5 UN regions will stay the regional structure of IPBES. As mentioned earlier, the debate revolving around this issue, is still ongoing, and will be taken up by the MEP during the next two years.

Another important issue could not be resolved for good: future admission of observers. All rules dealing with this issue are still bracketed – meaning they will have to be negotiated during IPBES-2. As interim solution for the next plenary session it was decided that all observers present this time are automatically granted observer status for the next time if they wish. Potential new observers must registered with the secretariat, the bureau makes a list and sends it to all members 8 weeks in advance. Each member can veto any potential new observer. But this veto can be overruled by 2/3 of the plenary.  

After a long week of dealing with rules and procedures and the establishment of IPBES one might wonder when the real work will start. In other words, where does IPBES go from here? The MEP as the center of the whole process will meet for the first time already in March. Their list of tasks is long  - but the most prominent one will be to develop an initial work programme for 2014-2018. The member states on the other side are invited to submit requests, while United Nations bodies that are related to biodiversity and ecosystem services, are invited to submit inputs and suggestions. The stakeholders, headed by IUCN and ICSU, and other “relevant stakeholders” are invited to draft a stakeholder engagement strategy until the second plenary.  It will be interesting to see, whether IBS will have an interest in participating in this process. I’d say, let’s do it.

—Lars Opgenoorth 

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