IPBES: An Unbearable Burden
by S Faizi on 22 Dec 2012 0 Comment

Surplus income of some countries and under-employed experts when combined together can create global havocs. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is one such havoc. It is an unnecessary duplication of existing organisations and can do more harm than good in furthering the triple objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). Perhaps that is what it is meant to be.


There is no serious reason for emulating the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) model. For when IPCC was established the climate change issue was a fairly recent realization, whereas there are indeed several more than half a century old international organisations working on biodiversity issues. There is no dearth of international organisations and initiatives, including multilateral ones, working on species issues, protected areas, ecosystem management, strategy issues, policy matters and so on, and there is no genuine need for a new forum like this; hence the Convention on Biological Diversity’s cooperation with IPBES is totally unwarranted.  


It is also important to note that IPBES comes at a time when funds for implementation of the Convention are hard to come through, with the last meeting of the CBD’s Conference of Parties (CoP) witnessing the European Union seeking to block CoP decisions that have financial implications.


The French have been itching for IPBES for quite some time now. The International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB), a well funded French government initiative, has metamorphosed into IPBES in an illegitimate way at rapid speed. The writer had a lengthy debate on IMoSEB with its co-chairs and the CBD Alliance membership in the loop, in 2007; they were not able to give any convincing reason for IMoSEB or its anticipated metamorphosis into IPBES.


The writer’s primary concern is about its implicit assumption that biodiversity management is
hamstrung by the lack of scientific knowledge, which is patently wrong. To take the case of the Convention on Biological Diversity, we have a well formulated treaty on hand, but its implementation is impeded by the lack of political will and by lack of adequate resources. We have huge volumes of data already available on biodiversity as well as its piracy, but that is not leading to the logical solutions to the issues. The IPBES can only add to the chaos and confusion and divert attention from the need to remain focused on the enforcement of the Convention on Biological Diversity. This also gives added burden to the fund-starved developing countries to attend another endless series of meetings, or to extend dependence on western charity.


IPBES also makes a joke of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific Technical and Technological Affairs (SBSTTA), established to provide scientific, policy and technological issues to the CoP, and is under the direct oversight of the CoP. IPBES is apparently an attempt to subvert the SBSTTA; indeed what we need is the strengthening of the SBSTTA, not undermining it.


However, that is not the intention of the IPBES lobby. In fact they would like to contribute to undermine the hard negotiated Convention itself. In their IMoSEB incarnation, they have explicitly argued against the founding principle of the Convention on Biological Diversity, namely, the recognition of national sovereign rights over biodiversity, in an information document distributed at the 2006 CBD CoP. In fact it was inappropriate on the part of the CBD Secretariat to have had such a document that challenged the founding principle of the very convention circulated in any official manner.


The Convention had established SBSTTA exactly for the purpose that IPBES seeks to serve, and it does not need a competing duplicate that has no accountability to the CoP.  There is no need for the Convention on Biological Diversity to engage with IPBES when no need for such a forum was ever been raised within the Convention deliberations. That was why countries like China and Brazil expressed serious concern about this idea of unjustified engagement at CoP11. The writer’s statement in Working Group II, as observer, elicited a lot of  support from civil society and Parties, though one is constrained to point out that civil society has not yet fully woken up to the threat that IPBES represents.


Vigilance is needed to thwart attempts to digress the Convention on Biological Diversity from its implementation focus, using extra-Convention means.


The author is a member of the CBD Expert Group on Biodiversity and Development, the Board of the CBD Alliance, and had been a negotiator in the CBD formulation meetings

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