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34. In practice, there is a range of scientific advisory bodies and processes of different type, size, purpose, and spanning different levels and sectors. These can be very different in nature, some being very formal and others rather informal in character, some being closer to scientific processes while others are closer to the political process. They may also have different functions, or operate at different stages of the policy process. 91

35. In order to provide a common ground of understanding for discussions on mechanisms to improve the science-policy interface for biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development, it is important to define the concepts central to the gap analysis, and define to the scope. 91

B.3. Defining the scope of the gap analysis 91

36. Given the mandate to support discussions exploring the mechanisms to improve the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services, long-term human well-being and sustainable development, the scope of the science-policy interface, and hence of the gap analysis, is taken to encompass the following with respect to biodiversity and ecosystem services: 91

37. The analysis therefore implicitly or explicitly includes institutions, networks and processes related directly to biodiversity and ecosystem services governance, as well as those that address sustainable development, and others that impact one or more aspects of biodiversity and ecosystem services. 91

B.4. Defining concepts central to the gap analysis 91

38. Science can be defined as the systematic pursuit of objective knowledge, involving formalised and disciplined methods of knowledge production which include the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, theoretical explanation and prediction of phenomena. In trying to attain objectivity, science relies on the minimisation of any kind of influence that would introduce bias in knowledge production, and on validation of results through peer-review. Science encompasses all natural and social sciences, although the various disciplines differ significantly in their methods and concepts, and this has implications for developing interdisciplinary approaches, as is discussed later. 91

39. In addition to disciplined scientific knowledge there are other, non-formal types of knowledge, such as local, practical or traditional knowledge, that differ from scientific knowledge in essential ways. This non-formal knowledge often rests on experience and customs, and does not separate ‘secular’ or ‘rational’ knowledge from spiritual knowledge, intuitions and wisdom. It is often highly dependent on context, dynamic, collectively held and inter-generational in nature. Nonetheless, much non-formal knowledge exists that has the potential to considerably enhance the effectiveness of policies. 91

40. Policies can be defined as commitments to definite courses or methods of action with broad implications, selected from among alternatives in light of given conditions, and taking account of norms, values and motives, to increase the certainty of realising desired outcomes. Policies are adopted not only by governments and intergovernmental bodies, but are also made by companies, interest groups and other organised forms of society. In contrast, politics can be understood as the set of practices and institutions through which an order is created in the context of power and conflict, including processes of bargaining, negotiation and compromise over policy development and implementation. 92

41. Science and politics are characterised by different types of knowledge and processes, and as such they are treated as independent and separable human activities. However, in reality the scientific and political spheres deeply intersect with one another through the intermingling of processes, products and actors. 92

42. It is in this context that science-policy interfaces can be defined as structures and processes that aim to improve the identification, formulation, implementation and evaluation of policy to render governance more effective by: defining and providing opportunities for processes which encompass interrelations between science and policy in a range of domains; assigning roles and responsibilities to scientists, policy-makers and other relevant stake- and knowledge-holders within these processes; and facilitating improved coordination within and between the different stakeholder groups. 92

43. With this in mind, science-policy interfaces need to be understood both as a means to more effectively link knowledge to action by providing for a flow of credible, policy-relevant and authoritative information to those actors who have the influence to actually make a difference, and as core elements of international governance that have the potential to shape governance systems significantly. 92

44. A wide range of reviews and studies related to the use of science in policy formulation and decision making has identified relevance (or salience), credibility and legitimacy as amongst the most important attributes of effective science-policy interfaces. The following definitions are consistent with those used in the Assessment of Assessments/Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the state of the Marine Environment: 92

45. In addition it is assumed that science-policy interfaces should also be efficient in the sense of being costs-effective, and building on existing experience, organizations, processes, networks and programmes. Throughout the following analysis consideration is given to these characteristics and whether they are being adequately addressed. 92

46. Four main categories and/or areas of work of a science-policy interface emerge from the discussion at both the IPBES Meeting in Putrajaya and the UNEP GC/GMEF: 92

B.4.1.1 Description of the Institutional Landscape 93

Finding #1. 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. 93

47. Throughout the last few decades there has been significant increase in the arrangements made at all levels to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystem services. These arrangements range from legally binding treaties to disbursement of multilateral assistance, and from national policy development to setting fisheries quotas. Meanwhile there has been significant advance in science, and increasing recognition of the importance of effective use of science in decision making. Therefore, as environmental governance arrangements have proliferated, mechanisms for ensuring that these are advised by science have also developed. 93

48. The landscape of processes, organizations, networks, programmes and other arrangements promoting, ensuring and supporting the use of science in decision making is now large and complex, and it is in the context of that landscape that consideration needs to be made of how to most effectively improve the science-policy interface and ensure the effective incorporation of biodiversity and ecosystem service science into decision making at all levels and across all sectors. 93

B.5. Setting the scene 93

49. This section aims to describe that landscape, to identify by examples the range of individual scientific advisory bodies and processes involved, and the range of support they have available. In addition, Annexes E-J and T-W provide further descriptions of a range of examples of scientific advisory bodies and processes, and of some of the plethora of organizations, networks and programmes that support them. 93

Institutions and processes at global and regional levels 93

Finding #1.1 The existing landscape of science-policy interfaces and interactions provides an important basis that can be built upon and strengthened. 93

Finding #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. 93

50. The United Nations system and related governance processes have over the years demonstrated a steadily increasing interest in drawing on scientific information and advice in order to fulfil their responsibilities to advance human health, welfare, and development, while better managing and conserving the environment and natural resources. This need for scientific advice has been approached by different organs of the system, at different times, in different ways. Some of the most relevant examples include the following. 93

51. There is also an increasing number of intergovernmental arrangements at the regional level that play important roles in interfacing science and policy in biodiversity and ecosystem governance. For example, the following three organizations (see Annex J): 94

52. Other key institutions which play important roles in interfacing science and policy are within or closely linked with the scientific community. Examples of such institutions include the following: 94

53. Finally there is the role played by civil society organizations and the private sector in providing support to science-policy interfaces. Some of the most relevant examples include: 94

54. In each case throughout this section it is important to remember that each of the institutions and processes referred to has its own mandate and its own governance arrangements, and their working arrangements vary widely depending on both their history and the particular mandate they have. It is therefore not surprising that this quick illustration of the institutional landscape shows that existing interfaces related to biodiversity and ecosystem services vary widely in nature, for example: 95

55. Together these individual science-policy interfaces and components of science-policy interfaces form a complex and continuously evolving interface between science and policy. As a result of this huge and varied landscape, there are many different approaches and messages, partly as a result of different mandates and interests, but also perhaps because there is no single frame of reference. 95

Institutions and processes at the national level 95

56. This complex landscape of internationally operating institutions and processes is complemented by similar sorts of arrangements at the national level, although the degree of complexity varies depending on national circumstances, as does the degree to which they interact with the international institutions and processes. 95

The special case of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) 95

57. As an illustration of the workings of the science-policy interface it is worth looking more closely at the different types of arrangements used by a range of the MEA scientific advisory bodies, as is described here and in Annexes E-G. The MEAs covered are the six global biodiversity-related treaties (CBD, CITES, CMS, International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), Ramsar and World Heritage, and the other two “Rio Conventions” (UNFCCC and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)). 95

58. The existing scientific advisory bodies and processes vary in quite significant ways in practice. All the biodiversity-related and Rio Conventions have formal scientific advisory bodies, with the exception of the World Heritage Convention (which draws on the advisory capacity of three independent organisations), and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (which has not yet identified a need to establish a standing scientific advisory body, and benefits from the work of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture). All of the advisory bodies report to the relevant COP, with the exception of the Ramsar STRP which reports to and is overseen by the Standing Committee. 95

59. The tasks of these scientific bodies and processes are convention-specific, with the bodies of most treaties focusing on scientific advice, while some are also expected to also make strong technical input. For example, the UNFCCC SBSTA is tasked to provide scientific advice, but also to promote the development and transfer of technologies, to conduct technical work on national communications and emission inventories, and to carry out methodological work in a range of specific areas. 95

60. The membership of the advisory bodies of MEAs is either open to all Parties (CBD, CMS, UNFCCC, UNCCD) or consists of appointed members and/or regional representatives (CITES, CMS, Ramsar). Some conventions encourage Parties to nominate experts or scientists in their delegations to the scientific bodies (national representatives at the CITES Animals and Plant Committees are primarily drawn from the national Scientific Authorities to CITES, for example), but there are no mechanisms to guarantee this will happen. The number and proportion of scientists participating in advisory bodies varies greatly between conventions and, within conventions, between one national delegation and another. 95

61. There are various ways for the scientific advisory bodies to draw on external scientific and technical information, and independent experts are frequently invited to contribute in one way or another. For example CMS and Ramsar can appoint scientific experts as members of the science advisory bodies for specific issues, and as previously mentioned the World Heritage Conventions uses the expertise of three independent organizations. For the UNFCCC, a completely independent external institution exists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which provides advice for SBSTA to consider and make available to other Convention bodies and Parties. 95

62. Several conventions make use of expert groups. For example, limited duration ad hoc technical expert groups play a particularly important part in the CBD, where they address specific issues and provide input to SBSTTA, while the UNCCD has established a Group of Experts on Combating Desertification and Mitigating the Effects of Drought and the UNFCCC an Expert Group on Technology Transfer. In a few cases expert groups are used by more than one convention, as is the case with the Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds which is used by Ramsar, CMS and one of the CMS daughter agreements. 96

63. The UNCCD is the only convention that foresees in its articles the establishment of a roster of experts. The COP has faced problems in receiving information from Parties on the extent to which they have made use of the roster of experts and, through establishing the Group of Experts, has found a way to formalise the roster. The CBD established a roster of experts under SBSTTA but later discontinued its use; it was preferred to invite Parties to nominate experts for the ad hoc technical expert groups and other purposes. The UNFCCC continues to use a Roster of Experts. 96

64. In most conventions, the COP has adopted a modus operandi or terms of reference for the scientific body in order to clearly define its work and the way it provides scientific and technical advice. These modus operandi vary between the conventions in length and detail. The CMS Scientific Council has adopted its own Strategic Implementation Plan, aligned to the Strategic Plan of the Convention. Various other ways and means to improve the effectiveness of the advisory bodies have been suggested, including closer links with the scientific community and different meeting styles. For example the UNCCD has agreed to hold its future Committee on Science and Technology meetings in the form of scientific conferences led by identified institutions. 96

65. In addition the forward agendas of most of the scientific advisory bodies are known, or can be inferred from their strategic plans or work plans. 96

B.6. Potential limitations of science-policy interfaces 96

Finding #2. 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. 96

66. In general the scientific advisory bodies and processes established by different governance bodies at whatever level have mandates and/or terms of reference that define how they work. These mandates are one of the strengths of the existing science advisory bodies just described, not least because it means that the governance bodies are likely to be listening to the advice given (even if there are other reasons why that advice is not ultimately followed). Additionally the modus operandi of the scientific advisory processes discussed above suggest that they are both expected to take account of scientific learning and experience, and have the potential to call on and involve scientists, which they all regularly do in one way or another. 96

67. As with any ongoing process it is important to regularly review and hopefully to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of scientific advisory bodies and processes, building on experience gained through practice. For example, several of the biodiversity-related treaties have initiated reviews of the effectiveness of their scientific advisory bodies. CITES established an external evaluation working group to review the scientific committees. UNCCD initiated extensive consultations on ways of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Committee on Science and Technology. CBD has considered suggestions for improving the workings and operations of SBSTTA on a number of occasions. Ramsar reviews the effectiveness of its STRP on an ongoing basis and has made adjustments to both membership arrangements and modus operandi in recent years. 96

68. However there are a range of recognised limitations which are common to almost the whole science-policy interface. To a large extent these occur because of the wide range of activities and relationships inherent in the complex landscape described above, and in each case the limitations could lead to mismatches, inefficiencies and duplication at all levels. These limitations are: 96

69. Meanwhile, two further distinct sets of challenges have been identified in reviewing these particular science advisory processes, those that are concerned with the increasing workload coupled with lack of (financial) resources and capacity, and those that are concerned with specific aspects of the processes employed. Some of the key concerns raised are discussed in the rest of this section, but it should be born in mind that these relate to the science-policy interface in general, and not just to the science advisory bodies and processes of the MEAs. 97

Capacities, budgets and agendas 97

Finding #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. 97

70. The first series of interconnecting issues which potentially result in limitations to the workings of scientific advisory bodies and processes are those concerned with their workload and resources. The challenges that can result are discussed in generic terms without specific examples, so as to avoid the potential for argument about the detail and any feeling that defensive positions need to be taken. Note that different scientific advisory bodies and processes are affected in different ways by these challenges, for some there is no problem, while for others the challenges are quite significant. 97

71. Agendas getting more crowded: In many cases more and more issues are being added to the agendas of those working at the interface between science and policy, in part because of increasing awareness of the relevance of biodiversity and ecosystem services to many aspects of society. This can potentially lead to: 97

72. Insufficient budget to prepare for issues adequately: Budgets are inevitably limited, and given the growing agendas and increasing complexity (as links to other sectors are increasingly being addressed), the budgets of most scientific advisory bodies and processes are relatively modest considering the breadth of issues they are expected to address. This can potentially lead to: 97

73. Unrealistic expectations: Depending on the issue of concern, research can take some time to complete, and in some cases scientific research over a period of time is essential (for example where aspects of change are being investigated). The scientific advisory bodies and processes can be severely challenged when they are set unrealistic timeframes for providing advice. This can potentially lead to: 97

74. The potential results if any of these concerns are realised are an increased risk of failure of uptake at the policy level, criticism of output and outcomes, and a dissatisfaction with the process that has led to them. This may then also lead to request for further input (which takes even more time), with concomitant delays in decision making. 97

Finding #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. 98

75. The second series of issues which potentially result in limitations to the workings of scientific advisory bodies and processes are those concerned with different aspects of process. Again the challenges that can result are discussed in generic terms, and again it is important to note that different parts of the science-policy interface are affected in different ways by these challenges. 98

76. Science advice verses negotiation: Some scientific advisory bodies are charged with both providing scientific advice to their respective governance bodies, and with initial negotiation on the text of decisions. This can potentially lead to: 98

77. Experts and expertise: Different processes have implications for the ways in which individuals are identified and involved, and the extent to which they can (or are qualified to) contribute. In particular the following are potential limitations: 98

78. Relationship to other processes and initiatives: Given many components of the science-policy interface address the needs of specific governance bodies and processes, and given the cross-sectoral nature of biodiversity, there are potential limitations in what can be achieved. In particular the following are potential concerns: 98

79. Flexibility: Depending on their mandates, terms of reference and/or modus operandi, it can be difficult for some science-policy processes to quickly react to emerging issues, something that can be compounded by other limitations identified above such as crowded agendas and limited budgets. The potential result is that key issues may be dealt with later than they should if the science-policy interface is not able to respond. 98

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