Sunday, January 20, 2013

IPBES-1 day zero

Stakeholders exchange their views and find common ground in preparation of IPBES-1

Under the chair of Anne Larigauderie of Diversitas International the IPBES-1 stakeholders today took center stage at the old German Parliament in preparation of the first plenary session that starts tomorrow. The roughly 150 of us coming from a diverse group of science organizations such as the IBS, indigenous groups, and NGOs such as Friends of the Earth, arrived only successively on a day that saw Frankfurt Airport close down due to ice and snow.

The stakeholders seemed somewhat biased by science organisations respectively scientists. Especially the absence of some of the major environmental NGOs was noticeable. This absence was interpreted by some that these NGOs are sceptical that the IPBES process will be independent enough and that it does not focus enough on the biodiversity crisis but rather on the ecosystem service part and human well being. It will certainly be a great challenge to balance these interests during the IPBES process.

The goal on day zero of IPBES-1 was to exchange ideas and to come to common positions for the up-coming week. In two roundtables the themes “Rules and Procedures” including the “Role of Observers”, and the IPBES “Initial Work Programme” were being discussed. We agreed that interest and engagement of all relevant stakeholders are key for the impact and legitimacy of IPBES. We will therefore try to convince the plenary to develop a strategy how stakeholders can be effectively included in the IPBES process. This strategy should get installed by the second plenary. One interesting suggestion included the setup of crowdsourcing tools to effectively empower a broad range of people to getting involved. Many participants stressed the importance to acknowledge the variety of relevant knowledge that exceeds knowledge provided by the science community. It will certainly be a major challenge to include the different groups of knowledge holders in the process and at the same time enable an effective science driven assessment procedure in this science-policy interface. Besides stakeholder involvement another point of concern were how the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) will be set together in the future and how the roles of the MEP and the IPBES Bureau will be interpreted. While nominees for the Interim MEP (this will serve for 2 years) have already been named (list of nominees can be seen here: ) and will be elected tomorrow, it is still unclear how the procedure of proposing the members will be handled in the future. As the MEP is the body that will be central in guiding the scientific aspects of the IPBES, we will strongly encourage the plenary to set up rules that allow all stakeholders to participate in the proposal procedure, and to make this process transparent. Regarding the roles – we are convinced that it should be the responsibility of the MEP alone to rank requests for assessment topics as part of its scientific and technical functions to ensure that this process will be science driven. Finally we agreed to ask the plenary meeting that the MEP will quickly start the process of developing an initial work programme during the intersessional phase so it can be voted on during the 2nd plenary.

Tomorrow the country delegations of 105 member states of IPBES will move into the spot light, and after a very long preparatory process IPBES-1 will officially begin.

—Lars Opgenoorth

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