14.10.2011 - Natural Sciences Sector

Creating a new platform for biodiversity: Results of the 1st IPBES plenary

In the face of its continuous and alarming erosion and unsustainable use, biodiversity and ecosystem services are gaining increasing attention in the international arena, including in the context of climate change, global food security, development and poverty reduction, and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD also known as Rio+20) dialogue on the green economy.

Over the past decade there has been growing international agreement that the system for linking science and policy in the area of biodiversity and ecosystem services needed further improvement, resulting ultimately in the process for creating an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The first session of the IPBES plenary meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, on 3-7 October 2011, has made important steps forward in establishing and operationalizing the platform.
 
Over the five-day meeting, delegates considered the modalities and institutional arrangements for an IPBES, including: the functions and operating principles of the platform; the legal issues relating to the establishment and operationalization of the platform; the work programme of the platform; and the criteria for selecting host institutions and the physical location of the secretariat.

It was agreed that the Platform’s programme of work will focus on assessments to identify and prioritize relevant knowledge –including traditional knowledge– and policy responses, and on capacity-building.

The delegates invited UNESCO, UNEP, FAO and UNDP to submit a joint proposal to institutionally co-host the Secretariat. Accordingly, the four UN Organizations are discussing a joint submission. They are also working together to prepare for the second plenary meeting, tentatively scheduled for April 2012. As for the choice of the physical location of the secretariat, it will be determined through a competitive process, with possible joint candidacies of two or more countries. All proposals must be submitted by 15 January 2011.

Discussions will resume at the second session of the plenary meeting in six months. Outstanding issues include the structure, role, and functions of subsidiary bodies, with the potential establishment of a science panel, an expanded bureau, and the issue of a central secretariat vis-à-vis regional hubs.

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