A International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity consultative process
B Millennium Ecosystem Assessment follow-up process
C The Assessment of Assessments and the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the state of the Marine Environment
D Increasing coherence within the UN and environmental governance
Background Material on the Description of the Institutional Landscape
E Summary table on the scientific advisory bodies and processes of the Rio conventions
F Summary table on the scientific advisory bodies and processes of the global biodiversity-related conventions
G Summary descriptions of the scientific advisory bodies and processes for the global biodiversity-related conventions and Rio conventions
H Examples of the involvement of selected intergovernment organizations in science-policy interface
I Examples of coordination mechanisms and their components relevant to the science-policy interface
J Examples of other organizations involved in science-policy interface and referred to in the text
Background Material for Analyses
K Review of the role of local knowledge in science-policy interfaces relevant to biodiversity
L Overview of a range of indicator processes for the global biodiversity-related agreements and other related agreements and programmes
M The experience of indicators at the regional level – SEBI2010
N Strengthening the linkages between biodiversity indicators at global and national scales
O International expert workshop on the 2010 Biodiversity Indicators and Post-2010 Indicator Development (6-8 July 2009)
P Areas of overlap of various indicator process with the CBD biodiversity indicator framework
Q Review of assessments and their role in the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services
R Examples of horizon scanning and futures techniques for providing early warnings on emerging issues of concern
S Review of capacity fundamental to the science-policy interface through National Capacity Self Assessments
T Invasive Alien Species
U National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans
V Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD)
W Fisheries Management and Biodiversity
X List of acronyms and abbreviations
Over the past decades the international community has established a number of regimes to conserve and use sustainably biodiversity and ecosystem services. These efforts have led to the development of a considerable, continuously evolving and ever-more complex system of environmental governance. Nonetheless, notwithstanding significant progress in science and the increasing recognition of the importance of using science effectively in decision-making, biodiversity and ecosystem services continue to be used unsustainably and inequitably, and are being degraded at increasing rates.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment showed that over the past 50 years humanity has caused unprecedented losses in biodiversity and declines in ecosystem services. Of the 24 assessed ecosystem services, 60 per cent recorded a decline, with further degradation expected unless immediate action is taken. This is expected to have a negative impact on development processes in all countries, but in particular in developing countries, and is impeding the attainment of both the Millennium Development Goals and the internationally agreed target to reduce significantly the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.
While there are many reasons for this situation, there is growing consensus that strengthening the interrelations between science and policy at all levels is necessary (but not sufficient) for more effective governance of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Current environmental problems, often of considerable magnitude and complexity, challenge science, politics, policy and their interrelations in unprecedented ways, confronting them with situations in which facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.
In recent years considerable attention has been paid to tackling inadequacies in the interrelations between science and policy, insofar as this is possible within given mandates, budgets and decision making processes, and to exploring options for a more effective science-policy interface, as in the case of the ad hoc international and multi-stakeholder meeting on an intergovernmental science policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services, convened in Putrajaya, Malaysia, from 10 to 12 November 2008.2
In the Putrajaya Road Map, set out in the annex to the report of the meeting (document UNEP/IPBES/1/6), participants recognized that mechanisms to improve the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being and sustainable development should continue to be explored and called for a gap analysis to be undertaken with the aim of supporting future discussion by reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of existing science-policy interfaces and the coordination between them across all spatial scales. They requested a preliminary report to be made available at the twenty-fifth session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environmental Forum, in February 2009. At that meeting, representatives called upon UNEP to complete the gap analysis for presentation at the next ad hoc intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder meeting, building on comments received through an open review process.
The full gap analysis builds on the preliminary version, incorporating the comments received during the review process and further drawing on scientific literature, policy reports, institutional research and consultations with experts.
In answering the mandate accorded by the Governing Council and the related discussions, the objectives of this analysis are:
To review the institutional landscape relevant to the discussion and to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of existing science-policy interfaces and coordination between them at the national, regional and global levels of governance;
To present the findings of this review and analysis in such a manner as to help to orient future discussion on strengthening the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The gap analysis identified six key findings, ranging from the complexity of science-policy interfaces to the lack of coordination between the many stakeholders in covering the broad spectrum of biodiversity and ecosystem services in a comprehensive manner, which is essential for effective policymaking in the development field.
Finding No. 1: Multiple science-policy interfaces
A wide range of science-policy interfaces of varying types, sizes and purposes already exist for the many multilateral environmental agreements and other bodies relating to biodiversity and ecosystem services at all levels. Between them they have, to a certain extent, enriched decision-making and raised awareness of biodiversity and ecosystem services among the environmental community.
The specific findings are as follows:
Finding No. 1.1: The existing landscape of science-policy interfaces and interactions provides an important basis that can be built upon and strengthened;
Finding No. 1.2: The variety of existing science-policy interfaces is in part historic as institutions have been created on an ad hoc basis to deal with problems and issues as they have emerged. Much of this variety is, however, likely to be inherent, given the complexity of governance arrangements, the multiple levels of governance, the broad range of sectoral interests and the variety of purposes.
Finding No. 2: Effectiveness of science-policy interfaces
Notwithstanding the progress made by many of the existing science advisory bodies to improve the focus and quality of scientific inputs into policymaking processes, there is scope for further improvement in scientific independence through increased credibility, relevance and legitimacy.
The specific findings are as follows:
Finding No. 2.1: Most science-policy interfaces have relatively modest budgets for the size of the task that they are expected to perform, potentially limiting their ability to assess knowledge comprehensively and ensure the input of the best available science, leaving them to rely on inputs from other bodies and processes that might not be best suited to their needs;
Finding No. 2.2: Each science-policy interface works in a separate manner and each mechanism can bring its own limitations, such as the problems that can be encountered when an advisory body is responsible for providing scientific input to the policy process while acting as an initial negotiating platform.
Although an extensive knowledge base exists to support decision-making in each of the many science-policy interfaces, shared frameworks, methodologies and basic understandings to respond to the complex nature of biodiversity and ecosystem services issues remain missing or incompletely implemented. There are also significant gaps in knowledge that need to be filled.
The specific findings are as follows:
Finding No. 3.1: Notwithstanding the considerable progress in and growth of the relevant sciences, some fundamental knowledge gaps exist, in particular with regard to the dynamic interactions between drivers of change, ecosystems and human well-being. This is of particular concern at the regional, national and local scales, where many of the most important interactions of this nature occur and where human well-being depends most directly on ecosystem services;
Finding No. 3.2: Although a range of institutions support the development of research strategies to meet policy needs, there is currently no process providing common and regularly reviewed guidance on a strategic approach to research to ensure that the most important needs in terms of knowledge to support more effective governance at all levels are being identified and responded to in a coordinated manner;
Finding No. 3.3:While awareness of the need to draw more systematically on a broad range of knowledge types is growing, there remains a lack of processes for ensuring the effective incorporation of types of knowledge into the knowledge base, including the incorporation of knowledge from other sectors and disciplines, non-formal knowledge and mutual learning;
Finding No. 3.4: Notwithstanding continuing efforts, there remain significant gaps in long-term observation and monitoring programmes, in particular as regards data and information on interactions between drivers of change, ecosystems and human well-being, and on particular geographic regions;
Finding No. 3.5: While progress has been made, there remain significant barriers to the effective use of existing data and knowledge resulting from institutional and technical impacts on both the availability of data and information and on the ability of users to gain access to such data and information in meaningful ways.
Finding No. 4: Policy impact
Various mechanisms synthesize, present and communicate knowledge to inform policy. There is, however, a lack of regular processes providing periodic, timely and policy-relevant information covering the full range of biodiversity and ecosystem service issues to the broader development community. This information and knowledge is not always translated and communicated in the most efficient way or the most useful format.
The specific findings are as follows:
Finding No. 4.1: As a result of the vast quantity and varying quality of differing, fragmented and sometimes even contradictory knowledge currently available, together with the lack of clear authoritative synthesis and a clear and targeted communication thereof, decisions taken are not necessarily informed by the best available knowledge;
Finding No. 4.2: Knowledge is often not presented in the form of clear policy alternatives that systematically outline the implications of policy options under detailed framing assumptions and provide better guidance in policy implications;
Finding No 4.3:In discussions on science-policy interfaces there is far more focus on identifying issues and formulating policies with regard to multilateral environmental agreements at the global level than on supporting policy implementation and policy evaluation, particularly at the national and regional levels of governance, and on the extent to which effective information and advice pertains to and is used by the development community at the lower governance levels;
Finding No. 4.4: There is a need for more integrated quantitative models, scenarios and indicators that will aid understanding of not only biodiversity and ecosystem services, but also the relevance of biodiversity and ecosystem services to human well-being;
Finding No. 4.5: Notwithstanding the range of assessments relating to biodiversity and ecosystem services, no regular periodic multi-level assessment process exists that provides the conceptual and institutional framework coherently to gather, review, synthesize, communicate and monitor information and track changes in biodiversity and ecosystem services and their consequences for human well-being at the global, regional and national levels and on the interrelation across these levels;
Finding No. 4.6: There are continuing difficulties in ensuring timely scientific advice on emerging issues of concern at and across all levels, whether in response to policymakers’ requests or resulting from concerns arising from the scientific community.
Finding No. 5: Coordinated approach
Notwithstanding the existence of several mechanisms to improve the coordination of the wide range of science policy interfaces for the many multilateral environmental agreements and other bodies related to biodiversity and ecosystem services, there is significant room for building on the existing experiences that would lead to better coordination between and across global and national mechanisms.
The specific findings are as follows:
Finding No. 5.1: There is significant potential to improve the effectiveness of science policy interfaces through more coherent coordination within and across their various functions, integrating such aspects as research strategies, models and scenarios, assessments, knowledge brokering and capacity-building;
Finding No. 5.2:Examples exist of thematic mechanisms such as expert groups or other collaborative arrangements that are providing valuable support to policy formulation and implementation on specific issues. Lessons can be learned from this;
Finding No. 5.3: There is a lack of coordination across sectors to allow for the constant exchange and joint creation of knowledge, leading to mismatches and duplications of information and policies relevant to the broader development community;
Finding No. 5.4: There is a lack of coordination across levels of governance to allow for the effective exchange of knowledge and experience back and forth across relatively diverse science policy interfaces from the national to the global level that is necessary to avoid mismatches and duplications and to increase synergies between them.
Numerous institutions and processes are helping to build capacity to use science effectively in decision-making at all levels. Further efforts, however, are required to integrate multiple disciplines and knowledge systems to produce relevant knowledge effectively; to translate knowledge into policy action and to coordinate these processes; and to build the capacities of developing countries to use science more effectively in decision-making and to participate fully in the science-policy dialogue.
The specific findings are as follows:
Finding No. 6.1: Notwithstanding continuing efforts and improvements in capacity building supporting the various processes of interfacing science and policy, there remains a significant and widespread lack of capacity in interdisciplinary approaches for knowledge production relevant to biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being and governance that draw upon a variety of knowledge systems;
Finding No. 6.2: There is a widespread lack of capacity for brokering knowledge effectively so that it is used appropriately in decision-making, including by identifying the implications of various policy options;
Finding No. 6.3: There are geographical variations in capacity relevant to science-policy interfaces, with significantly reduced capacity in developing countries, and in particular the less developed countries and small island developing States, impeding these countries’ full engagement in nearly all relevant processes.
Mandate, objectives and methodology for the gap analysis
The Ad hoc intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder meeting on an intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services (IPBES Meeting) was convened in Putrajaya, Malaysia, from 10-12 November 2008, to consider ways and means of improving the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being, including possible establishment of an intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services (IPBES). The meeting recognised that mechanisms to improve the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being and sustainable development should continue to be explored, and called for a gap analysis to be undertaken with the aim of supporting future discussion, in particular at the second IPBES Meeting (scheduled for 5-9 October 2009, in Nairobi, Kenya).3 Participants specifically requested that the gap analysis provide:
an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of existing science-policy interfaces and coordination among them at all spatial scales, including the advisory bodies of biodiversity-related Multilateral Environmental Agreements and United Nations bodies; and
an assessment of the potential for strengthening existing science-policy interfaces, as well as the potential added value of a new mechanism complementing existing interfaces and helping to overcome the recognized weaknesses in the current system.
The gap analysis is based on the preliminary gap analysis submitted to the twenty-fifth session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environmental Forum held 16-20 February 2009 in Nairobi;4 the input of governments, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, the scientific community and other relevant stakeholders that have provided comments on the preliminary gap analysis;5 and further review of scientific literature, policy reports, institutional research, and consultation with stakeholders familiar with the different processes and mechanisms under review.
In preparing the gap analysis there are inevitable limitations in what can be achieved, given the breadth and complexity of the issue, and the time and resources available. In particular the following should be born in mind:
Widely differing views of stakeholders: Given the complexity of the issue and the wide range of perspectives, different stakeholders have views and positions on how to improve the science-policy interface (or components of it) that differ significantly from those of others. Aware of the broad range of perspectives, every effort has been taken to ensure an inclusive and balanced approach in this analysis.
Large and varied institutional landscape: There is a significant number and variety of relevant scientific advisory bodies and processes, and associated political and scientific institutions, differing in type, size, mandate, purpose and nature, and spanning different scales, sectors and regions. Inevitably the gap analysis cannot provide an exhaustive description of the complete landscape of interfaces, organizations and networks, and instead draws on representative experiences while endeavouring to place this in context of the whole landscape.
Stakeholder input: Fewer comments have been received on the preliminary gap analysis than was anticipated, despite direct request to governments and additional approaches to other stakeholders with the support of IUCN and DIVERSITAS. It is therefore hoped that the input received covers the full range of views and positions.
Time and resources: The preliminary gap analysis was peer reviewed and the current paper draws on those review comments, however it was not possible to provide the full gap analysis for further wide-scale peer review, although parts of it were commented on by a number of stakeholders.
Given the orientation provided by the IPBES meeting, and the various comments and inputs provided, this gap analysis aims to: clearly define the concepts and outline the context relevant to the discussion on improving the science-policy interface in order to provide for a common ground of understanding; review the institutional landscape relevant to the discussion and to analyze strengths and weaknesses of existing science-policy interfaces and coordination among them at all levels; and present the findings of this review and analysis in such a manner as to help orient future discussion on strengthening existing science-policy interfaces and addressing gaps and weaknesses.
Background and context
Over the last few decades of the twentieth century the international community established an international regime which aimed to conserve and use sustainably biological diversity and ecosystem services. These efforts have led to the development of: a considerable, continuously evolving and ever more complex governance system, including substantial networks of actors, complex institutional settings extending across sectors and scales; a constantly growing body of decisions, policies, programmes and agreements; and a constantly growing body of knowledge on which actors draw to inform these.
However, despite this multiplication of policy processes and increase of knowledge production, according to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, biological diversity and ecosystem services continue to be used unsustainably and inequitably, and biodiversity is changing and being lost at increasing rates.6 This is likely to have a negative impact on development processes in all countries, but in particular on developing countries, and is impeding achievement of both the Millennium Development Goals and the internationally agreed target to significantly reduce the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010.7
Today’s environmental problems, often of considerable magnitude and complexity, challenge science, politics, policy and their interrelations in unprecedented ways, confronting them with situations where facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high, and decisions urgent. Ensuring an effective interface between science and policy is fundamental to good decision-making and effective governance, as the extent to which decisions lead more reliably to desired outcomes is critically influenced both by the scope of the knowledge that key actors have available to them, and the power and influence that they are able to mobilise.
In recent years considerable attention has been given to options for developing a more effective interface between science and policy with respect to biodiversity and ecosystem services. While much of this is described elsewhere in this document, particularly relevant to the lead up to the current discussions and the preparation of the gap analysis are the following two initiatives:
The International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB)consultative process was carried out between February 2006 and November 2007, and included six regional meetings, case studies, briefings, presentations and discussions at numerous other scientific and policy meetings, written input from a wide range of other sources, and dialogue with a number of stakeholders.8 The consultation identified a number of key needs, and criteria for ensuring that these needs were addressed in an appropriate manner, which are summarized in Annex A. The final meeting of the International Steering Committee9 also invited the Executive Director of UNEP to convene an intergovernmental meeting with all key stakeholders, both governmental and non-governmental, to consider establishing an efficient international science-policy interface addressing the findings of the consultation.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) follow up processwas developed following completion of the MA in 2005, and taking account of the experience of the MA,10 the recommendations of two independent evaluations of the MA conducted in 2006 and 200711 and discussion during the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (decisions VIII/9 and IX/15). This process aims to strategically address the following four issues: continuing to build the knowledge base through sub-global assessments; promoting the consideration of ecosystem services in decision making processes; making assessment tools and methodologies widely available; and exploring needs, options and modalities for further global assessments (see Annex B).
Following completion of the IMoSEB consultation, and as part of the MA follow-up, the UNEP Executive Director convened the ad hoc intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder meeting on an intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services from 10-12 November 2008 in Putrajaya, Malaysia to consider establishing an efficient intergovernmental science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being and sustainable development. At the meeting it was agreed that no recommendations would be adopted, but that the Chair’s summary, annexed to the meeting report, would serve as the outcome.12
Participants at the IPBES Meeting recognized that there were currently numerous national and international science-policy interfaces for biodiversity and ecosystem services. But there was also broad recognition that there was a need to improve the science-policy interface, which should draw on the best available knowledge. Participants recognised that mechanisms to improve the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being and sustainable development should continue to be explored, and:
recommended that the Executive Director of UNEP should report at the twenty-fifth session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum on the outcome of the meeting;
recommended that the UNEP Governing Council should request the Executive Director to convene a second intergovernmental multi-stakeholder meeting on an intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services with a view to strengthening and improving the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for human wellbeing, including consideration of a new science-policy platform; and
called for a gap analysis to be undertaken with the aim of supporting future discussion by reviewing the existing mechanisms and processes, and requested that a preliminary report be made available at the twenty-fifth session of the Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environmental Forum.13
As requested, a preliminary gap analysis was provided as information document UNEP/GC.25/INF/30 to the UNEP Governing Council in February 2009. The UNEP Governing Council took note of the preliminary gap analysis, and in decision 25/10:
invited Governments and relevant organizations to continue to explore the mechanisms to improve the science-policy interface for biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development, taking into account the special need to develop and maintain the technical and scientific capacity of developing countries in biodiversity-related issues;
requested the Executive Director to undertake a further process to support these efforts aiming to report on its progress at the special session on biodiversity of the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly and other relevant meeting; and
requested the Executive Director to convene a second intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder meeting at the earliest possible convenience in 2009 following the completion of the full gap analysis.
During review of the preliminary gap analysis, several Governments drew attention to the need to relate discussions to two further ongoing processes, so as to ensure complementarity:
The Assessment of Assessments and the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the state of the Marine Environment (GRAME)are being carried out under UN General Assembly Resolution 60/30 to review available knowledge and the ways in which it is used in the marine environment, and to propose options and a future framework14 for ensuring an adequate reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment in order to support decision making, including aspects of building capacity, improving the knowledge base, improving networking among assessment and monitoring processes, and improving communication tools (see Annex C). The AoA/GRAME process is currently in a very advanced and critical phase, with an Ad hoc Working Group of the Whole 31 August - 4 September 2009, and plans to submit its proposals to the UN General Assembly in October 2009. There are obviously close parallels with IPBES, warranting tracking of the reports and outcomes of meetings later this year.
Moves towards increased coherence within the UN and environmental governancehave been under way for a number of years, recognizing the potential for missed opportunities for synergy, and duplication of effort if this is not addressed. Discussion on increasing coherence in both the UN system and international environmental governance is likely to continue for some time, and its final outcome cannot be predicted. However it can be assumed that emphasis will remain on the need for greater coherence, that improvements in the ways in which science can be used to support decision making will continue to be recognised as a key issue, and that improvements in delivery and use of such information now will be important for whatever governance landscape exists in the future. This is discussed further in Annex D.