Friday, January 25, 2013

IPBES-1 day five

The day of decisions

The day started off with the appointment of the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP). So the MEP is up and will start running tomorrow morning at nine with their first meeting: 25 experts from the 5 UN regions. First of all – this is great news. However, much talk has been made in IPBES on balancing the MEP by region (that worked), by gender and disciplines. Well, the latter two did not work out so well, as 19 men and 6 women do not exactly spell gender balance. Of the disciplines – 21 are from the natural sciences, most from ecology, botany and forestry, and 4 come from the social sciences. As an ecologist and biogeographer myself I certainly sympathize with this bias to some extent. However, it does not really resemble a multidisciplinary approach. The reality in choosing the 25 out of the roughly 80 candidates seems to have been purely political in nature – which is not really surprising at this state. The rules for how this process will be handled in the future are being discussed here today, though no consensus could be reached. This might in fact be a good thing as it buys some more time to make a case for more objective forms of choosing candidates in the future. No matter how they were chosen, lets hope that they will be doing a good job during the next two years. One of the options for changing the process is the idea to base regions biogeographically instead of politically – which would seem much more natural given that the goal is to protect global biodiversity. The group of stakeholders suggested another rule that would allow observers to propose 5 candidates to balance independent of regions with the goal to balance disciplines and gender. However, currently it does seem likely that this idea will be adopted.

One of the most discussed topics today came on a different subject. Rule 14, dealing with the admission of observers. As on day one, Argentina, Brazil, and China held a strong opinion that admission needs to be based on consensus. As no decision has been reached yet regarding the status of the European Union, stakeholder have a strong ally as the EU currently only has observer status. Naturally the EU does not like the idea that any member state could by virtue of a de facto veto power keep them out of IPBES. The same is of course true for all the other potential stakeholders. One can imagine why some countries would have an interest in keeping stakeholder groups, such as ethnic NGOs out of the process. With others it is less clear. An agreement could not be reached today – thus it is not certain whether new Observers will get the chance to attend IPBES-2. Well, it seems like observers admitted to IPBES-1 will automatically be admitted to IPBES-2 – so IBS will most likely be able to send a delegation again. 

The final decision of the day will probably come with a vote for the chair. As no deal could be brokered (the G77 so far does not accept a compromise of having two co-chairs) it is likely that Zakri Abdul Hamid will be elected chair.

—Lars Opgenoorth

No comments: