Following the International Conference Biodiversity: Science and Governance held January 2005, in Paris, France, an international consultation process was launched to assess the need, scope and possible forms of an International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB). An Executive Secretariat was established, and an Executive Committee and an International Steering Committee, including representatives of a range of key stakeholders, were appointed to guide and support the process.
Between February 2006 and November 2007, the consultative process 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.93 The final statement that was delivered by the International Steering Committee in November 2007,94 identifies the following needs:
The need for independent scientific expertise: independent, synthetic, comprehensive information to support the needs of MEAs, proactive scientific input on emerging threats and issues, increased ability at all levels to predict the consequences of current actions, and insights from the relevant sciences and other forms of knowledge to inform local/national decisions on topical issues;
The need for more capacity: mobilizing scientific expertise for local national and regional level capacity building, and improving understanding of the factors affecting biodiversity and ecosystem services; and
The need for improved communication: enhancing understanding of how to use science, improving access to science so that it can be more effectively used in decision-making, promoting increased dialogue among diverse knowledge systems, and identifying research priorities and gaps identified by decision-makers’ concerns.
While recognising that a number of intergovernmental and non-governmental institutions are already addressing some of these needs, the International Steering Committee recommended further and urgent consideration of the establishment of a means of enhancing the use of science in decision making at all levels, and suggested a number of principles and characteristics that needed to be considered in carrying this out. They agreed, inter alia, that a science-policy interface should:
be scientifically credible, politically legitimate, and policy relevant without being policy prescriptive, responding to policy needs identified by decision making organs at multiple scales;
be supported by a network of scientific and national capacities and by capacity building integrated into the assessment process and/or networking efforts, and promote dialogue between international agencies and decision-makers; and
be flexible and pragmatic, building on what already exists, and involving all relevant stakeholders across multiple scales.
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment follow-up process
Following completion of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) in 2005, and taking account of the recommendations of two independent evaluations of the MA conducted in 2006 and 2007,95 a global strategy for follow-up to the MA has been developed in 2007 by a group of interested partner organizations.96
Both evaluations reported that the MA’s technical objective of assessing the capacity of ecosystems to support human well-being proved both innovative and far-reaching. The emphasis on ecosystem services and their significance for human well-being was widely recognized as having made a major contribution to linking biodiversity conservation with poverty alleviation. However, the evaluations also concluded that, at that time, there was little evidence that the MA had had a significant direct impact on policy formulation and decision-making, especially in developing countries. The main reasons were identified as being:
Limited awareness and understanding of the concept of ecosystem services: Ecosystem services are a new concept to most decision makers, and as a result, there is limited capacity to apply the ecosystem services framework and work proactively on incorporating ecosystem service considerations into development strategies.
Lack of operational tools and methodologies: There was limited availability of working models that could be used readily by policy-makers to analyze ecosystem services and their trade-offs with development policies and resource allocations.
Limited economic analysis: The MA fell short of providing convincing economic values of ecosystem services, and in particular of the regulating and cultural services which could be used to evaluate the trade-offs with conventional development strategies.
Insufficient attention to Sub-Global Assessments: Very few developing country sub-global assessments (SGAs) were adequately funded, resulting in the significantly varying quality of the SGA products and a lack of comparability across the sub-global assessments.
Gaps in ecosystem services knowledge base: More needs to be known about the interdependence of ecological and social systems for human well-being, including the way ecosystems function, their response to human pressure, and the relationship to biodiversity. Few ecosystem services, other than those traded in markets, are routinely monitored.
Lack of periodic assessments: No permanent body or process exists to conduct periodic assessments of the status of ecosystem services, nor to monitor and track changes in ecosystem services and the impacts of these changes on human well-being.
The Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) considered the implications of the MA for the work of the Convention (decisions VIII/9 and IX/15), and, inter alia, requested the Executive Secretary, and invited Parties and other Governments, to contribute actively to the implementation of the global strategy for follow-up to the MA aimed at addressing knowledge gaps, promoting sub-global assessments, promoting application of the MA framework, methodologies and findings, and outreach.
Addressing the identified needs, this strategy provides a roadmap to operationalize the MA. The strategy offers a common framework for partner organizations to enhance their collaboration in the implementation of MA related activities thereby maximising their impact in a coordinated and coherent manner. Guided by the findings of the evaluations and the discussions at the CBD COP, the MA follow-up process has elaborated a detailed strategic approach pursuing a four objective ‘global strategy for turning knowledge into action’:
continuing to build and improve the knowledge base on the links between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, ecosystem services, and human well-being, primarily by supporting and improving ongoing, and further establishing sub-global assessments;
promoting the systematic application of ecosystem service considerations in public, civil society and private sector decision-making – primarily by developing tools for mainstreaming ecosystem services into development and economic decision-making;
disseminating the findings of the MA and its conceptual framework, tools and methodologies to relevant stakeholders through the development of action-based media strategies and educational tools; and
exploring the needs, options and modalities for a possible second global ecosystem assessment, complementing existing assessment processes and contributing to the development of a more coherent international environmental assessment landscape.
The institutional arrangements established to ensure the implementation of the strategy foresees:
a MA Follow-up Implementation Group that represents all partner organizations interested in the strategy and coordinates the implementation of the strategy and joint programming of related initiatives;
an Executive Committee, comprising a subset of the MA Follow-up Implementation Group, revising ongoing activities and promoting coordination;
a MA Follow-up Advisory Group that advises on strategic directions on the MA Follow-up activities, links and engages with a range of stakeholders and ensures the scientific, technical and policy leadership and credibility of the initiative;
thematic working Groups, formed as needed to facilitate the exchange of information and lessons learned, and ensure coordination at the working level; and
a MA Follow-up Global Secretariat, hosted by UNEP in collaboration with UNDP to support the various groups mentioned above.
So far the following has been achieved:
the MA Follow-up Global Secretariat is established and based at UNEP/DEPI;
a Working Group on Sub-Global Assessments, with a secretariat based at UNU/IAS, was established to coordinate and provide a clearing house for the network of 34 completed and ongoing Sub-Global Assessments (SGAs) and, other new emerging SGAs, with a total of 12 joining the network so far;
a multidisciplinary group of experts to identify key gaps in knowledge and data, to design a research agenda, and to influence the priorities of research funding agencies has been established and has delivered a report on Research and Monitoring Priorities Based on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment;97
an ecosystem assessment manual has been developed to provide practical guidance for undertaking integrated ecosystem assessments and will be published towards the end of 2009;98
tools such as those that are able to map ecosystem services have been developed;
new assessment programmes have been initiated such as the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Programme (ESPA) and Reefs at Risk + 10; and
a number of outreach activities have been carried out, such as workshops, media releases, documentaries and websites to support the uptake of the key findings from the MA into policy.
The COP of the CBD also viewed the use and impact of the SGAs in the MA.99 Further lessons learned specific to SGAs were identified. Main lessons learned are:
Geographic coverage of the SGAs was uneven: The basic bottom-up approach taken in developing SGAs resulted in wide and varied assessments driven by user-demand, but did not provide a comprehensive global coverage of ecosystem types and geographical areas. Further more such an approach did not allow for effective comparisons across SGA.
Lack of capacity: Many SGA practitioners lacked capacity in aspects in the assessment methods (e.g. responses and scenarios) and tools (economic valuation) to be able to carry out a comprehensive SGAs.
Engagement of policy makers: SGAs were catalyzed and led by individuals or organizations (research and NGOs) and policy makers were not fully engaged as stakeholders, resulting in many SGAs having little or no impact on policy-making at the relevant scales.
The following activities are underway to support the completed, ongoing and new SGAs and address the lessons learned from the original set of SGAs:
New SGAs are being encouraged in under represented regions such as West Africa through initiatives such as the Poverty and Environment Initiative;
A network of assessment practitioners has been established and is growing with the inclusion of new SGA members;
Annual SGA meetings are held to allow for the exchange of experiences and lessons learned between SGA practitioners; and
Capacity building workshops are planned for 2009, which will utilize the ecosystem assessment manual and build the capacity of practitioners already carrying out assessments and practitioners wishing to begin an assessment.
The Assessment of Assessments and the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the state of the Marine Environment
In 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg recommended the establishment of a Regular Process under the United Nations for the global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects. This was endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) later in 2002 (Resolution 57/141).
In 2005, the UN General Assembly launched the “Assessment of Assessments” (AoA) as a preparatory stage towards the establishment of the “Regular Process.” Resolution 60/30 called for the establishment of an Ad Hoc Steering Group to oversee the execution of the AoA and a Group of Experts to undertake the actual work. It invited UNEP and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO to serve as lead agencies for the process, to provide secretariat services and to coordinate the work.
The AoA is a review of the global marine assessment landscape for the purposes of determining possible options and a framework for a Regular Process. Its final report provides, along with the Summary for Decision Makers, a thorough review of existing marine and coastal environmental assessments, at global and regional levels, includes a critical analysis of the assessments with a view to identify best practises, thematic and geographic gaps, capacity-building needs, and establishes a framework and options (with rough budgets) for the Regular Process.100
The AoA concluded that although assessment capacity is strong in many regions, there is a clear need for continued efforts to develop greater expertise and infrastructure around the globe in the technical aspects of marine assessment. In addition, five major areas that need immediate, concerted and ongoing attention are:
ensuring that assessment processes are well designed and clearly link assessment processes and policy-makers, conducted to the highest standards, and fully documented by the responsible institutions;
improving data accessibility and interoperability so that assessments can be extended and scaled up or down within and across regions;
increasing the consistency of selection and use of indicators and reference points to guide the interpretation of status and trends;
developing integrated ecosystem assessments that can inform on the state of systems rather than just individual sectors or ecosystem components and which include social and economic aspects,
strengthening the mandates of institutions to undertake fully integrated assessments; and
strengthening capacity for response assessments that are linked directly to the findings of state, pressure and impact assessments.
Accordingly, the fundamental building blocks of the first cycle of the proposed Global Reporting and Assessment of the Marine Environment (GRAME) (2010-2014) include:
build capacity at both individual and institutional levels based on identified priorities;
improve knowledge and methods of analysis;
enhance networking among assessment processes, international monitoring and research programs and associated institutions and individuals;
create communications tools and strategies for reaching different target audiences.
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. The ad hoc Working Group of the whole is to consider best practices and institutional options (see para 14 above) for the Regular Process and recommend a path forward to meet the commitment Resolution 54/141. The ad hoc Working Group plans to submit its proposals to the UN General Assembly in October 2009, for inclusion in the annual Oceans Resolution of UNGA.
Increasing coherence within the UN and environmental governance
Recognising missed opportunities for synergy, and the potential for duplication of effort, a number of intergovernmental processes and reviews within the UN system have been addressing ways and means to increase coherence both within the UN and its activities, and within the governance landscape. Given that many of these activities need to be informed by science these discussions and related actions are relevant to this gap analysis.
In 2001 the UN Secretary-General established the Environment Management Group as a UN system-wide coordination body on environment and human settlement.101 Its membership consists of the specialized agencies, programmes and organs of the United Nations including the MEA secretariats. While the EMG is neither a scientific body nor a decision making body it is in a position to facilitate and promote greater cooperation, including on science-policy issues.
The UN is also seeking greater coherence in its activities at the national level, through the development and implementation of UN Development Assistance Frameworks (UNDAF) which help to focus the activities of UN agencies, programmes and organs at the national level, and the Delivering as One pilot projects which are testing more coordinated approaches. While these plans and activities relate to nationally defined priorities, increased coherence in action inevitably requires increased coherence in the use of science in decision making.
In paragraph 169 of the 2005 World Summit Outcome, Governments agreed to explore the possibility of a more coherent institutional framework for environmental activities in the UN system by improving the key areas of concern including: enhanced coordination; improved policy advice and guidance; and strengthened scientific knowledge, assessment and cooperation. All these issues are directly relevant to steps to improve the science-policy interface.
The Bali Strategic Plan for Technology Support and Capacity Building adopted in 2004 aims to strengthen the capacity of Governments of developing countries and countries with economies in transition, at all levels, to inter alia develop national capacity for using science in decision-making with respect to environmental management.
Finally in order to support many of these activities there has been a recognition of the need to strengthen the scientific base of UNEP so that it is better placed to provide support at both national and international levels.
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.
Summary table on the scientific advisory bodies and processes of the Rio conventions
Scientific advisory bodies
Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA)
Committee on Science and Technology (CST)
Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA)
Membership of scientific advisory bodies
Open to participation by all Parties, it comprises government representatives competent in the relevant field of expertise, and to observers.
The Chair is elected at ordinary meetings of the COP; candidates should be recognized experts, qualified in the field of biodiversity and experienced in CBD and SBSTTA processes. S/he also chairs the Bureau. As a general rule, the chair rotates among regional groups.
The SBSTTA Bureau is composed of 10 members elected for fixed two-year terms by the Parties at SBSTTA meetings (2 from each of the 5 regional groups). They take office at the end of the meeting at which they are elected. In order to facilitate continuity only one of the regional representatives is replaced at each meeting.
Open to participation by all Parties, it comprises government representatives competent in the fields of expertise relevant to combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought, and to observers.
Participation in the new format of the CST ordinary sessions (i.e. scientific conference –style format) will be open to registered participants in their individual capacity, and participants accredited to the COP.
The Chair is elected by the COP at each of its sessions with due regard to ensure geographical distribution and adequate representation of affected Country Parties, particularly those in Africa. S/he serves for up to two consecutive years.
The CST Bureau is composed of the Chair and the four Vice-Chairs. It should hold two meetings per year.
Open to participation by all Parties: government representatives competent in the relevant field of expertise, and to observers.
Chair of the SBSTA is elected from the representatives of the Parties present at the COP session, and the SBSTA elects its own Vice-Chair and Rapporteur.
Mandate, terms of reference,
Article 25 establishes SBSTTA as an open-ended scientific advisory body to COP and, as appropriate, its other subsidiary bodies. As per Annex III of Decision VIII/10 (Consolidated modus operandi of the SBSTTA), its specific functions include, inter alia, to: provide assessments of the status of biological diversity; prepare assessments of the effects of types of measures taken in implementing the Convention; identify innovative, efficient and state-of-the-art technologies and know-how relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and advise on the ways and means of promoting their use; identify new and emerging issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity; provide advice on relevant scientific programmes and international cooperation; respond to scientific, technical, technological and methodological questions that the COP and its subsidiary bodies may put. Additional elements to its modus operandi are included in Decision IX.29. The meetings of the SBSTTA place as necessary and sufficiently in advance of each regular meeting of the COP.
Established under Article 24, the CST is a subsidiary body of the COP. Its mandate and terms of reference were defined and adopted during COP-1 (Decision 15/COP.1). The CST collects, analyses and reviews relevant data, and promotes cooperation in combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought through sub-regional, regional and national institutions, and in particular by its activities in research and development, which contribute to increased knowledge of the processes leading to desertification and drought as well as their impact. It also contributes to distinguishing causal factors, with a view to combating desertification and achieving improved productivity. In Decision 13/COP.8, the COP called for reshaping operation of CST in line with the strategic plan and framework to enhance the implementation of the Convention. Inter alia, the COP decided that each future ordinary session of the CST should be organized in a predominantly scientific and technical conference-style format. It meets in conjunction with the ordinary sessions of the COP.
SBSTA, established under Article 9, is a subsidiary body to provide the COP and, as appropriate, its other subsidiary bodies with timely information and advice on scientific and technological matters. Under the guidance of COP, and drawing upon existing competent international bodies such as the IPCC, the SBSTA: provides assessments of the state of scientific knowledge relating to climate change and its effects; prepares scientific assessments on the effects of measures taken in the implementing the Convention; identifies innovative, efficient and state-of-the-art technologies and know-how and advise ways and means of promoting their use; provides advice on scientific programmes, international cooperation in research and development related to climate change, as well as on ways and means of supporting endogenous capacity-building in developing countries; and responds to scientific, technological and methodological questions that the COP and its subsidiary bodies may put to it. The SBSTA meets at least twice a year.
Scientific processes include the review of programmes of work of the Convention (e.g. agricultural biodiversity) and other initiatives of the Convention (e.g. 2010 biodiversity target indicators) as well as CBD publications, such as the Global Biodiversity Outlook
SBSTTA establishes, under the guidance of the COP, ad hoc technical expert groups (AHTEG) on specific priority issues (e.g. on the Review of Implementation of the Programme of Work on Forest Biodiversity).
SBSTTA established a Roster of experts: however, its maintenance and use was discontinued (Decision VIII/10).
SBSTTA works closely with the CBD Clearing-House Mechanism (CHM) and the Consortium of Scientific Partners on Biodiversity as well as with other processes such as the CMS/FAO jointly convened Task Force on Avian Influenza.
Roster (by nominations from Parties) of Independent Experts with expertise/experience in relevant fields. It is also used to establish Ad hoc panels appointed by the COP to provide it, through CST, with information/advice on specific issues regarding the state of the art in the fields of science and technology relevant to combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought.
Group of Experts (GoE), under the authority of CST, established by COP with a specific work programme, to assist in improving the efficiency/effectiveness of CST. COP-8 has not appointed a GoE.
CST-9 Special Segment: UNCCD 1st Scientific Conference:“Understanding Desertification and Land Degradation Trends” organized by the Dryland Science for Development Consortium (DSD) with the assistance of the UNCCD Secretariat (Sept. 2009).
Other valuable inputs include an institutions database, based on upon survey by CST, the Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands (LADA) project, and the a survey on other bodies performing work similar to that envisaged for the CST requested by Decision 21/COP 1.
Additionally “Friends of the CST” provide informal assistance from scientific community during COP and CRIC, and there is an UNCCD Fellowship Programme.
SBSTA cooperates closely with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its, inter alia, Assessment Reports, Guidelines, Technical Papers.
The Nairobi Work Programme (NWP) on Impacts, Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change.
Research Dialogues under SBSTA’s agenda item “Research and systematic observations”, (ref also to Decision 9/CP.11).
Groups of experts such as the Expert Group on Technology Transfer (EGTT) established by the Marrakesh Accords, is to provide scientific and technical advice to advance the development and transfer of environmentally friendly technologies under the Convention. It reports to the SBSTA.
The UNFCCC Roster of Experts (nominated by Party’s National Focal Points) contains information on experts in the areas of greenhouse gas inventory issues, in-depth reviews of national communications from Annex I Parties and technology transfer.
SBSTA also cooperates with the following: Global Climate Observing System (GCOS); Global Terrestrial Observing System (GTOS); and the Committee on Earth Observations Satellites (CEOS) and other organizations on a range of issues.
Linkages between scientific and other convention bodies
The SBSTTA fulfils its mandate under the authority of, and in accordance with, guidance laid down by the COP, and upon its request.
As a subsidiary body of the COP, SBSTTA is to report regularly to the COP on all aspects of its work.
The SBSTTA, in carrying out its functions, supports the implementation of the multi-year programme of work of the COP and the Strategic Plan of the Convention, in a manner consistent with other internationally agreed goals relevant to the objectives of the Convention.
SBSTTA Chair to attend relevant meetings of the COP Bureau.
The AHTEGs are established under the guidance of the COP.
CST advises COP on scientific and technological matters.
The Bureau of the CST is responsible for follow-up the relevant work of the Convention between COP sessions.
The CST serves as liaison between the COP and the scientific community by seeking the cooperation of, and utilizing the services and information provided by, competent bodies or agencies – national, international and non-governmental.
As per COP’s request, the CST could also provide the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC).
SBSTA reports regularly to COP on all aspects of its work.
The SBSTA provides the link between the scientific information provided by expert sources such as the IPCC on the one hand, and the policy-oriented needs of the COP on the other.
The SBSTA and the Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) have traditionally met in parallel, at least twice a year. When they are not meeting in conjunction with the COP, the subsidiary bodies usually convene at the seat of the secretariat.
The SBSTA and SBI work together on cross-cutting issues that touch on both their areas of expertise. These include capacity building, the vulnerability of developing countries to climate change and response measures, and the Kyoto Protocol.