Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

336 I Global biosphere policy

I 3.2.1

Innovative structures

One fundamental and overarching topic in the

preparation phase of the COP-5 has been a revision

of the way the CBD works. The existing bodies allow

for continuous cooperation among the parties, but so

far they do not provide for the incorporation of independent

scientific experts and can only provide insufficient

guarantees in the crucial monitoring of


An informal meeting of experts (London, January

1998) discussed the possibility of improving the

structure and working methods of the CBD and forwarded

recommendations to the COP-4 that took

place in May 1998 in Bratislava.

These recommendations related in particular to

an improvement in the scientific advice and monitoring

of implementation, the incorporation of non-governmental

players and cooperation with other conventions

and programmes.

The fact that a special working meeting was convened

in June 1999 (ISOC) shows what importance

the community of parties accords this topic. The

establishment of a new Subsidiary Body on Implementation

(SBI), a proposal for which many parties

from the Group of 77 and China had called, however,

made it more difficult to achieve agreement. The

Council recommends that the German federal government

support the further development of the

CBD institutional system and in that context in particular

take up the recommendations and arguments

discussed in the following Sections I and I


Establishment of an IPBD to provide scientific


Experience from a variety of negotiating processes in

international environmental and sustainability policy

make it clear that there is a need for well founded

and independent scientific advice. The IPCC (Intergovernmental

Panel on Climate Change) fulfils this

role for climate policy (WBGU, 1997, 1998a).There is

no comparable institution to provide for advice and

follow-through on international biodiversity policy.

The vagueness of the scientific foundations, terms

and concepts with which work is being conducted in

the negotiations is increasingly becoming an obstacle

to the development and implementation of decisions

by the contracting countries. One example for this

situation is the discussion on the definition and

design of the ecosystem approach (Section I 3.2.3)

that is one of the fundamental concepts of the CBD.

The scientific deficit may be seen at two levels.

First of all, the knowledge available on the state

and loss of biological diversity and the consequences

of this trend is still insufficient and patchy. The gaps

must be identified systematically and worked on. At

the same time sound scientific follow-through of topics

that have already been processed politically is also


Furthermore, there is the failure to translate the

results of scientific research into politically relevant

options for action and the integration of scientific,

socio-economic and legal expertise.

A first attempt to do justice to these shortcomings

was undertaken with the Global Biodiversity Assessment

(GBA; WBGU, 1996). This GEF-financed

report was published by UNEP in 1995 and submitted

to the COP-2 in Jakarta (Heywood and Watson,

1995).As the original title indicates, it was initially an

exercise in taking stock that constitutes a very good

scientific basis for international biodiversity policy.

The report was produced with the broad, international

participation of scientists and involved peer

review procedures very similar to the work of the

IPCC.A continuation and supplement to the GBA in

the form of a continual evaluation and advisory procedure

was not envisaged and it remained at a oneoff

endeavour– with many unresolved questions of

practical policy against the background of the established

dramatic and irreversible loss of biological


Providing scientific-technical advice in biodiversity

policy has up to now been the job of two permanent

bodies: SBSTTA and the Scientific and Technical

Advisory Panel (STAP) of the GEF.These bodies,

however, fulfil firmly delineated tasks within the

political process. STAP is first and foremost responsible

for evaluating GEF project applications and

evaluations and does not provide policy advice

beyond that task. It is the function of SBSTTA in the

CBD system to suggest and evaluate scientific expertise

in response to specific requests from the COP.

The results of these expert assessments must then be

packaged into motions for decision by the COP.

SBSTTA, as a subsidiary body subject to instructions

from the COP, is closely bound to the programme of

work of the CBD, must work on the instructions from

the COP and is not free to select the topics it investigates.

In the force field of political interests the independent

scientific work that would be necessary cannot

be realized. Often at SBSTTA meetings instead

of independent scientists it is government representatives

who are present and who conduct discussions

at the political level of the COP: SBSTTA is increasingly

becoming a ‘mini COP’. It remains to be seen

whether the envisaged establishment of an Ad Hoc

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