Finding #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.
In an earlier section it was noted that an analysis of interdisciplinary scientific assessment for environmental governance emphasized the mismatch between the emerging understandings of the complexity of reality, the ways scientists were coming to understand this complexity, and the way science connects to politics, policy, and management.83
It would therefore appear that there are significant gaps in capacity for using interdisciplinary approaches for knowledge production relevant to biodiversity and ecosystem services for human well-being and governance. At individual, institutional or systemic level there is need to improve the capacity to approach the production of knowledge in more interdisciplinary terms, in particular as concerns:
capacity of individuals to address complex phenomena in an interdisciplinary manner, reflecting the need for more interdisciplinary understanding to be taught and practiced; and
institutional capacity to encourage and allow for scientists and other knowledge holders to collaborate, promoting collective and discursive learning and knowledge-producing processes.
Such efforts should build on and learn from the existing interdisciplinary approaches gradually being discussed and developed within a number of the organizations already referred to in this paper, and also adding to their capability and potential.
It was also identified earlier that there was a need for the scientific community to go beyond the presentation of scientifically unambiguous statements of status and trends, and engage more actively in policy analysis facilitating the creation of new and innovative policy alternatives along with expression of the implications of those alternatives where that is possible. There is therefore also a need for a more systematic approach to ensuring capacity at all levels to interpret and broker knowledge in the interface between science and policy.84 This would suggest that:
training and practice is also needed to develop interpretation and knowledge brokering skills in researchers and relevant staff in government departments and agencies; and
tools and needed to which support and enable all relevant actors to broker knowledge and interface science and policy need to be developed.
To some extent such needs are being addressed by existing institutions such as ICSU (see Annex J) and the MA and its follow-up strategy (see Annex B). Interdisciplinarity and knowledge brokering are also key elements of the proposed GRAME and UNEP’s proposed science strategy. However, many of these efforts have been ad hoc and one off, and are limited in scope or resources, and a more systematic approach to build capacity building on interdisciplinarity and knowledge brokering is needed.
The North-South capacity divide
Finding #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.
There are many institutions, programmes and processes supporting capacity building in developing countries and countries with economies in transition, including UNDP, the World Bank, UNEP and FAO, GEF and a wide range of other multilateral and bilateral development assistance agencies, most of the MEAs, as well as some assessment processes. For example:
The UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF),85 which describes how UN agencies and programmes working at the national level can coherently respond to the priorities identified in national development frameworks supporting countries in achieving MDG-related national priorities;
The UNEP Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity-building,86 providing for a framework and systematic measures for technological support and capacity building based on national or regional priorities and needs,
The UNDP/GEF National Capacity Self-Assessment (NCSA)programme for environmental management,87 established to identify capacity needs of developing countries to effectively meet the challenges of national and global sustainable development and environmental governance, and to strategically enhance their capacity
Many of these and other capacity-building efforts relate to strengthening of abilities also relevant for the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Other initiatives include the work of ICSU and the MA follow up strategy referred to in the previous section. However, despite these efforts, there remain significant gaps in capacity relevant for the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services in developing countries, and the capacity divide continues to be a severe obstacle to equitable participation of developing countries and those with economies under transition in the processes relevant to the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services.88
According to a review of a representative sample of completed National Capacity Self Assessments (NCSAs),89 a significant number of developing countries continue to lack among other things the personal and institutional capacity:
for effective reconciliation of demand and supply of policy relevant scientific knowledge, as they often lack academies of sciences or scientific councils vital to provide guidance and coordination for the identification of knowledge needs, and research programmes;
for effective production of policy relevant scientific knowledge, as they often lack sufficient individual, institutional and financial capacity for conducting research, show gaps in inventory data collection and documentation, and have inadequate management and assessment of knowledge and information;
to effectively communicate knowledge to decision makers and larger public, including the lack of institutional capacity for assessing and contributing to policy-making effectively, and lack of institutional frameworks that incorporate all stakeholders; and
to effectively use knowledge in formulation policy choices and implementation, as they often lack sufficient individual, institutional and financial capacity to understand and effectively use provided knowledge.
The analysis of existing capacity-building efforts suggests that the gaps related to capacity for building and effectively using the science in policy setting and decision making rest at least in part on:
a lack of focus and priority providing clearer definition of the knowledge and research needed, clearer understanding of how this will support decision making, and increased priority afforded to capacity development in these areas;
insufficient long-term capacity building strategies established to support long-term processes of sustainably building capacity needed to fully engage in all relevant processed interfacing science and policy reaching from public education, to research programmes, to specific training of decision-makers; but above all
a lack of coordination among existing capacity building efforts on the priorities and objectives identified to enhance the capacity needed to fully engage in all relevant processed interfacing science and policy.
The pronounced lack of capacity in developing countries has considerable implications for the effectiveness of the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Not only does this affect the decision making processes at the national level, and ability to, for example, fully and effectively implement MEAs at the national level (see for example Annex U on CBD national biodiversity strategies and action plans), it also reduces national potential to contribute to the common knowledge base, and potentially also to fully participate in scientific advisory bodies and process at regional and global levels.
More profoundly, in an international governance system that aims to rely on scientific knowledge to make political claims through scientific advisory bodies and processes, developing country can be disadvantaged with respect to the expression and negotiation of their environmental perspectives and interests.90 Given that the legitimacy of the global environmental processes seems to be a major concern of many developing countries,91 this underlines the absolute importance of ensuring an equitable capacity of all relevant stakeholder and knowledge holders.
Gap analysis for the purpose of facilitating the discussions on how to improve and strengthen the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services92 Annexes Contents
Summaries of key related processes
A. Executive summary 84
A.1. Introduction 84
1. 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. 84
2. 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. 84
3. 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. 84
4. 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. 84
5. 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. 85
6. 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. 85
7. In answering the mandate accorded by the Governing Council and the related discussions, the objectives of this analysis are: 85
a) 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; 85
b) 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. 85
A.2. Key findings 85
8. 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. 85
9. 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. 85
10. The specific findings are as follows: 85
Finding No. 2: Effectiveness of science-policy interfaces 85
11. 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. 85
12. The specific findings are as follows: 85
Finding No. 3: Common and shared knowledge base 86
13. 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. 86
14. The specific findings are as follows: 86
Finding No. 4: Policy impact 86
15. 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. 86
16. The specific findings are as follows: 86
Finding No. 5: Coordinated approach 87
17. 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. 87
18. The specific findings are as follows: 87
Finding No. 6: Fundamental capacities 87
19. 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. 87
20. The specific findings are as follows: 87
B. Introduction 88
B.1. Mandate, objectives and methodology for the gap analysis 88
21. 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). Participants specifically requested that the gap analysis provide: 88
22. 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; 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; and further review of scientific literature, policy reports, institutional research, and consultation with stakeholders familiar with the different processes and mechanisms under review. 88
23. 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: 88
24. 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. 89
B.2. Background and context 89
25. 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. 89 26. 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. 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. 89
27. 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. 89
28. 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: 89
29. 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. 90
30. 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: 90
31. 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: 90
32. 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: 90
B.2.1.1 Setting the Context 91
33. There is significant variation in understanding of what science-policy interfaces are, how they work, and what they can achieve, and this variation in understanding is contributing to delays in consensus building and potentially hindering opportunities for full agreement on how to improve the current science-policy interface. It is not entirely clear to all of those participating what issues are being addressed, and what the scope of the discussion is. 91