Establishing IPBES: Deadlines are set, work in progress

21 October 2011 | Article

Significant progress in shaping the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has recently been achieved. What is the vision and involvement of IUCN? Find out in the interview with Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General.

IPBES stands for ‘Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’. IPBES will be an interface between the scientific community and policy makers that aims to build capacity for and strengthen the use of science in policy making. IPBES will be the only global and authoritative mechanism that brings information together and synthesizes and analyses it for decision making in a range of policy fora such as the global environmental conventions and development policy dialogues.

The progress to create the Platform is very slow given that global consultations to build an international science-policy platform started several years ago. Are you still confident that the Platform will be established soon?

IUCN did not lose its enthusiasm since the beginning of this process. Establishing working rules for an international independent body with such a broad mandate is indeed very challenging. Even though these discussions are not aimed at creating a legally binding agreement, IPBES is intended to be a permanent, adequately funded and authoritative mechanism. Its efficiency and effectiveness will depend on its modalities of delivering reliable reports and services. The fact that the deliberations were very intense at times during the preparatory meetings suggests that governments see value in the new mechanism, and want its urgent operationalization, as well as being cost-effective. At the time of the establishment of IPCC, no global coordination of scientific expertise on climate change was available. In comparison, there are several ongoing initiatives today that inform policy-making in the field of biodiversity, among them some from IUCN itself. I am very confident that we will see the Platform operationalized in the next few months. We are entering the last 100 meters of the marathon!

Do you consider that there is sufficient progress from the discussions at the first session of the plenary to be sure that the Platform will be operationalized soon?

Firstly, I do salute the positive and consensual spirit that characterized the discussions in Nairobi and led to significant progress. All the technical items such as the operating principles of the Platform, the proper scale of its operation which many governments want to see rooted at regional and sub-regional levels and the issue of membership, have been thoroughly discussed. I have the feeling that those discussions bring us close to a general consensus. There are still a number of issues which require further debate, especially the work programme, the role and participation of non-governmental stakeholders and the relationships of the Platform with other relevant initiatives. The good news is that governments set up a framework to work between the two sessions and this intersessional engagement will facilitate the roll out of the contributions to inform the process of defining the modalities of the Platform. IUCN will make its input in this process that will lead us to the Second Plenary Session in April 2012. Finally, governments agreed on the process to select the UN institutions that will host the Platform and the process to select the country that will host its secretariat. Those two practical and important arrangements will be agreed in the next session.

In its position, IUCN stresses the need to broadly engage scientific community and non-governmental stakeholders in the processes that will be set up under IPBES. Why do you think it is so important?

On this subject, some principles have already been agreed: IPBES will encourage and take into account the inputs and suggestions of civil society. Considering its mandate, IPBES should be inclusive as much as possible. To address the right challenges, the Platform should consult broadly before establishing its detailed work programme. To be cost-effective, it should consider all sources of knowledge, including traditional knowledge, and all past and existing initiatives. To produce relevant conclusions, it should rely on the decision-making needs at all scales, from local to global.

The modalities of this involvement still need to be detailed. IUCN together with other stakeholders and participants at the Nairobi meeting from the science community, local authorities, NGOs, indigenous representatives, have provided governments with relevant information on this subject which was well received. I am confident that governments will agree on the right level of participation of non-governmental stakeholders at the second session and that these stakeholders will design an appropriate mechanism to be fully engaged in the Platform.

Due to its major experience on science-policy on biodiversity and ecosystem services, what IUCN can offer to the Platform?

I strongly believe that both IPBES and IUCN will benefit from each other. IUCN can offer to the Platform its long standing and highly recognized expertise and experience in the fields of knowledge management, assessments, tools for managers and policy makers, capacity building and support to governments for addressing biodiversity issues. Moreover, IUCN is engaged from local to global levels, which means we could provide support to IPBES not only globally but also regionally or sub-regionally, if the Platform chooses to adopt these approaches. IPBES must build on these kinds of relevant experiences not only from IUCN but also from other organizations. For the Second Plenary Session to be held in April 2012, IUCN will make an offer to governments and other relevant non-governmental stakeholders proposing forms of partnership we could build to lead to win-win outcomes.

 

For more information please contact ipbes[at]iucn.org.