Tuesday, January 22, 2013

IPBES-1 day two

“Contact groups” and “Friends of the chair” – let the grinding begin
A faculty meeting is a dream come true of cooperation compared to the tough grinding that is and will be going on here the next days. As mentioned yesterdays IPBES is run in consensus mode and that means that every time opinions differ it takes quite some effort (and time) to come to an agreement if it can be reached at all – if not – put it in square brackets and deal with it some other time. Quite naturally the plenary is not the ideal place to reach agreements – it is a place of debate. This is where “Contact Groups” and “Friends of the Chair” set in – just two of a set of tools where smaller groups come together to actually work on a compromise. In the Contact Group format all delegations send someone to participate in the discussion. In the “Friends of the Chair” format, the chair asks specifically those groups to a meeting that are most outspoken in their disagreement. These tools came to use today for the continuation of defining the Rules and Procedures of IPBES. Unfortunately the topics that were being discussed are not really worth being repeated here while the points that actually would have been of great interest to us stakeholders as, e.g. the setup of the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel and the rules that will determine the rights of the observers, will be dealt with tomorrow due to a lack of time today. We had prepared statements on these issues and will present them tomorrow at the next round of the Contact Group if we get the chance. These positions should strengthen the rights of the stakeholders to participate for example in the nomination process for the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP). Right now, this can only be done by countries – but not for example from the different science organizations such as the IBS. A second issue is the general setup of the Multidisciplinary Panel. As mentioned yesterday, 5 positions are granted to each regional group. Thus there is no guarantee that the panel is actually balanced e.g. by disciplines. Stakeholders suggest that some additional seats should be installed that are reserved for important disciplines that are underrepresented.

For the interim panel this is not relevant anyway as candidates have already been nominated and probably also decided by now, as Canada indicated today. Unfortunately these most interesting discussions happen behind closed doors so we have to wait a couple more days to find out how the MEP will actually be made up. Unlike with the MEP some information today leaked regarding the future chair of IPBES. The person who talked about it was actually Robert Watson himself who mentioned that a compromise might be reached that the two nominees for the position of the chair will simply co-chair IPBES. This would certainly be a good solution. We’ll find out tomorrow if all the delegations think the same. 

—Lars Opgenoorth

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