CITES has two scientific committees, the Animals Committee and the Plants Committee. The membership of the Animals and Plants Committees consist of: i) a person chosen by each of the North American and Ocean geographic regions; ii) two persons chosen by each of the African, Asian, Central and South American and the Caribbean, and Europen regions; and iii) a specialist on zoological nomenclature (Animals Committee) and a specialist on botanical nomenclature (Plants Committee) appointed by the Conference of the Parties who would be ex-officio and non-voting;
The Plants and the Animals Committee were established through resolution Conf. 6.1. Both committees were subsequently re-established; the latest resolution in this regard is resolution Conf. 11.1 (Rev. CoP14), which agreed the terms of reference for both committees that they should carry out the following with respect to wildlife trade:
provide scientific advice and guidance to the COP and other Convention bodies and processes;
deal with nomenclatural issues;
assist the Secretariat with respect to identification issues;
cooperate with the Secretariat in assisting Scientific Authorities;
develop regional directories of experts in CITES-listed species;
identify and assess taxa included in Appendix II which may be significantly affected by trade
assess information on species where there is evidence of a change in the volume of trade;
undertake a periodic review of animal or plant species included in the CITES Appendices;
make available advice on management techniques and procedures for States requesting it;
draft resolutions on scientific matters for consideration by COP;
perform any other functions at the request of the COP or Standing Committee; and
Document SC54 Inf. 4 and SC54 Inf.5, describe the evolution of the terms of reference of the committees and of the duties and responsibilities of the committee members, together with the results achieved, resources and support available to the committees and a comparison with practices in other biodiversity related multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).
There have been several moves to merge the two Committees (CoP12, CoP14), but Parties have always been strongly opposed to this. CoP13 adopted a process to review the Scientific Committees. COP 13 directed the Standing Committee to determine a process for the review of the scientific committees and to proceed with the review. The Standing Committee established an External Evaluation Working Group to undertake the review. The External Evaluation Working Group recognised that the scientific committees were achieving a generally high level of performance in the high-priority tasks assigned to them and often with very limited resources or a reliance on voluntary effort. They made the following recommendations to the Standing Committee for the Review of the Scientific Committees (CoP14 Doc 12):
On the gap analysis of duties performed and factors that could be compromising their performance, ways to improve or modify relevant procedures, the evaluation recommended that:
Increased performance, particularly in lower-priority tasks, would require increased budgetary funds and other resources in relation to those tasks, especially for translation and intersessional work.
Performance would further improve if greater consideration were given by the COP and the Standing Committee to whether these tasks are within their mandates and the forthcoming Strategic Plan, and whether the tasks were adequately resourced.
The scientific committees should be able to organize their working methods within the priorities allocated to them by the COP.
The COP should take into account the workload of the committees in assigning tasks to them, but the frequency of the committee meetings should remain unchanged unless otherwise determined by the COP.
Performance would improve if funds were made available for the chairmen to operate and participate and represent their committees at meetings of the Standing Committee and at other key meetings.
Their terms of reference in Resolution Conf. 11.1 (Rev. CoP13) could be revised with a view to clarifying their mandate.
On opportunities for efficiencies in the functioning of the scientific committees, the evaluation recommended that:
To promote and facilitate coordination and contact between the taxonomic expertise in regions, the former Nomenclature Committee could function as a working group of the Animals and Plants Committees, but should retain its ability to take decisions intersessionally in accordance with COP Resolutions and Decisions.
The members of the Nomenclature Committee should be elected for a fixed term lasting two intersessional COP periods.
The requirement of a Party/region to provide the time and resources for a regional representative to carry out his/her duties needs to be strengthened, and Parties should aim to commit to this at time of nominating.
The costs and benefits of the COP nominating independent chairmen of the scientific committees or extra regional representatives fulfilling this role should be explored.
The Secretariat should seek assistance from the scientific committees in the assignment of consultants and the definition of terms of reference for specific projects.
Responding to the recommendations, of the external valuation, COP 14 decided to conclude the review, Resolution 11.1 was modified, and a decision directed the Animals and Plants Committees to ‘evaluate the need to further review and revise the terms of reference [for the establishment of the Animals and Plants Committees] in Resolution Conf. 11.1 (Rev. CoP14) and as necessary revise the terms of reference for presentation at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties’.
In summary, CITES is unusual in having two (and for a long time having had three) scientific committees, which were established in the 1980s and remained largely unchanged (although they had been charged with additional tasks). The review process that has been initiated has addressed a number of areas in which the work of those committees, and the support for them, can be improved, and these are being addressed as resources allow.
The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), its Scientific Council, and the scientific advisory bodies of CMS Daughter Agreements
The Scientific Council was established by the first COPmeeting in 1985 as foreseen in Article VIII of the Convention text. Over almost 30 years the Scientific Council has provided advice on scientific matters through identifying research and species conservation priorities to the Convention. All Parties are entitled to nominate a qualified expert, as a member of the Scientific Council, and an alternate entitled to participate in meetings of the Council when the regular Councillor cannot attend. Country members are appointed in their individual capacity as scientists and do not represent their Governments – a feature which aims to ensure the autonomy of the Scientific Council. In addition eight experts are appointed by the COP to contribute through offering specific expertise on taxa, geographic regions and threats. At present, the Council includes 93 members of whom 85 are Party-appointed, and eight appointed to cover the following areas: marine turtles; birds; aquatic mammals; fish; neo-tropical fauna; Asiatic fauna; African fauna; by-catch.
The functions of the Scientific Council are defined as: providing scientific advice to the COP, the Secretariat, and, if approved by the COP, to any body set up under the Convention or an Agreement or to any Party; recommending research and the coordination of research on migratory species, evaluating the results of such research in order to ascertain the conservation status of migratory species and reporting to the COP on such status and measures for its improvement; making recommendations to the COP as to the migratory species to be included in Appendices I and II, together with an indication of the range of such migratory species; making recommendations to the COP as to specific conservation and management measures to be included in Agreements on migratory species; and recommending to the COP solutions to problems relating to the scientific aspects of the implementation of the Convention, in particular with regard to the habitats of migratory species. The Council’s work programme is maintained intersessionally by nine working groups, five on taxonomic groups and four on threats, notably climate change, by-catch and wildlife diseases and sustainable use.
The COP frequently directs the Scientific Council to provide specific advice. For example, COP 3 requested the Council to provide recommendations and advice on a range of issues related to the conservation of Appendix I and II species, species to be added to the Appendices, and other issues (resolution 3.4). Through resolution 4.5, COP 4 directed the Scientific Council to provide further advice on Appendix species, existing Agreements and potential new ones and on small-scale pilot projects promoting the Convention’s implementation. Resolution 7.12 of the COP, on the background of the growing number of Parties and hence members to the Scientific Council, acknowledged the need for a review of the Scientific Council’s working practice ‘to optimise its productivity and capability to deal with the scientific and technical aspects of numerous issues relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of migratory species’ and instructed the Scientific Council to produce a strategy on its scientific and conservation work. The 12th meeting of the Scientific Council elaborated on a Strategic Implementation Plan of the Council in light of the emerging Strategic Plan for the Convention. It also considered the modus operandi of the Council, with a focus on how to better involve the councillors in the work of the Convention, in particular during intersessional periods. The 13th meeting of the Scientific Council adopted its Strategic Implementation Plan. The Plan outlines the contributions of the Scientific Council to the CMS Strategic Plan 2006-2011. The 13th meeting also discussed the resources and working practices of the Council and agreed to retain its current format.
The Scientific Council normally meets twice between COP sessions to offer scientific advice and identify research and conservation priorities; however, COP 9 decided that an extraordinary meeting of the Scientific Council would be convened in 2009. The meeting has been convened as “Planning Meeting of the Scientific Council of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals” (Bonn, Germany, 13 June 2009). There, the Council addressed its own expertise through discussing a proposed questionnaire/survey (“Survey of the Expertise of Scientific Council Members”, the Small Grants Programmes, and the intersessional work of taxonomic and thematic working groups.
Within the framework of the work undertaken concerning the future shape of the CMS, the COP has instructed the ad hoc working group on the future shape of the CMS and the CMS family to take into account inter alia, “ possibilities and options for ensuring a sound science base of a growing CMS family and the resultant growing responsibilities for a higher number of species” (UNEP/CMS/Resolution 9.13).
Some of the Daughter Agreements under the CMS also have scientific advisory bodies, including the: Scientific Committee of Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic area (ACCOBAMS); the Advisory Committee of EUROBATS; the Advisory Committee of Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Marine Turtles and their Habitats of the Indian Ocean and South-East Asia (IOSEA); and the Technical Committee of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). Furthermore, within these processes additional ad hoc working groups can be established, as in the case of EUROBATS’ Intersesssional Working Group on “Producing Guidelines on Bat Monitoring Methods to Assess Population Trends at Different Levels”. However, it would seem that no formal linkages have been established between the processes of these advisory bodies and the CMS Scientific Council.
In summary, the Scientific Council has provided advice on issues as outlined by Article VIII of the Convention. The challenges that have been recognised do not relate to the provision of advice on scientific matters per se but to the operations of the Council. With the growing number of countries acceding to the Convention, the membership of the Scientific Council is growing accordingly, which creates financial and logistical challenges to its functioning. The Council, as requested by the COP, has responded to this challenge with the adoption of a Strategic Implementation Plan that mirrors the Convention’s Strategic Plan and guides the work of the Council.
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and its Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP)
The Ramsar STRP was established by Resolution 5.5 as a subsidiary body of the Convention to provide scientific and technical guidance to the COP, the Standing Committee, and the Ramsar secretariat. Its individual members are elected by the Standing Committee, based upon nominations from the Parties, on the same regionally proportionate basis that is used for electing the Standing Committee itself, but they serve in their own capacities as experts in the scientific areas required by the STRP's Work Plan and not as representatives of their countries. In addition to the 12 individual STRP members, delegates from the five International Organization Partners -- BirdLife International, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wetlands International, and WWF International -- represent their organizations as full members of the Panel. In addition, representatives of the 18 subsidiary bodies of other Multilateral Environment Agreements and non-governmental organizations and associations specified in Resolution X.9 are also invited to participate as permanent observers during each triennium, and representatives of other organizations are invited to participate in the work of the STRP as required by the nature of the tasks under study.
The Standing Committee originally requested the STRP to concentrate on three specific items: review of the criteria for identifying Wetlands of International Importance; definition of ecological character and change in ecological character in relation to Ramsar sites; and review of the application of the Montreux record (relating to listed wetlands under threat). COP resolution VI.7 requested the Standing Committee to define the principal tasks for the STRP in the coming year. Through resolution VII.2, the COP emphasized the need for establishing a close link between the STRP and the network of scientists and experts in each Contracting Party. The COP invited Contracting Parties to nominate STRP focal points, invited a number of organizations, including the International Organization Partners of the Convention, and bodies as observers to the STRP, and decided that the STRP membership should have the same regional structure as the Standing Committee.
COP resolution VIII.28 approved a revised modus operandi for the STRP. The modus operandi states that the COP shall establish the priorities for STRP work in the coming triennium and that the Standing Committee shall adopt the definitive list of STRP assignments for the triennium on the basis of the Convention work plan and resolutions adopted by the COP, and will provide additional guidance on priority tasks. The modus operandi identifies the Terms of Reference of the STRP and its members as follows:
review the tasks and nature of the products requested of it by COP Resolutions and the Convention's Work Plan;
undertake strategic review of the current tools and guidance available to Parties and new and emerging issues for the Convention;
determine and agree a mechanism for the delivery of each of these tasks, including the establishment of Expert Working Groups as appropriate, advise on which tasks it does not have the expertise or capacity to progress, and receive the advice of the Standing Committee for this work plan;
identify, for each task the Panel proposes to undertake, and with the advice of any Working Group on the topic, the best global expert(s) either from within or outside the Panel to undertake drafting work, taking into account geographical and gender balance and language ability;
identify, for each product in the work plan, and with the advice of any Working Group and the STRP Support Service, additional experts to undertake review by correspondence of draft materials, as necessary;
make expert review of the draft products in its work plan, taking into account the views expressed by additional experts in (d) above, agree any amendments needed, and transmit these revised products for consideration by the Standing Committee;
ensure, with the assistance of the Ramsar Bureau, that the work of the STRP contributes to and benefits from the work undertaken by similar subsidiary bodies of other MEAs.
Through resolution IX.11, the COP recognised the concern expressed by STRP about aspects of its operations, and its capacity and resourcing to deliver all of its required tasks. The COP consequently approved a revised modus operandi and established an STRP Oversight Committee, reporting to the Standing Committee, to deliver the responsibilities as defined by the revised modus operandi. The revised modus operandi identifies its key objective as “to establish ways and means of ensuring that the STRP mechanism delivers the best available scientific and technical advice to the Convention, in the most efficient and cost-effective manner, through the work of widely recognized wetland conservation and wise use experts and networks”.
In 2008, COP 10 adopted resolution X.9, which confirms the modus operandi of the STRP with some refinements. Resolution X.10 outlines the tasks and priorities of the STRP for 2009-2012 under the following headings: ongoing functions of the STRP; strategic scientific and technical implementation; general wise use of wetlands; wetland inventory, assessment, monitoring and reporting; wetlands and human health; wetlands and climate change; wetlands and water resources management; Wetlands of International Importance; wetland management – restoration, mitigation and compensation; communication, education, participation and awareness. Resolution X.10 also addresses how STRP members are selected, the directions allowing the STRP Oversight Committee valuable flexibility in identifying as members those best able to support work on the tasks set by COP.
The COP notes that “it has not been possible to progress some elements of STRP’s priority work in the 2006-2008 triennium and that full delivery of the Panel’s programme remains subject to resources” (resolution X.10).
In summary, the STRP has been confronted with issues of lack of capacity and resourcing. In response, the COP has established a modus operandi for the scientific body and detailed outlines of the tasks to be undertaken by the STRP. While the mechanisms of producing scientific and technical guidance for the COP as well the Standing Committee and the Secretariat work well, the workload of the STRP remains substantial and is likely to continue to provide enormous challenges, including financial ones.
World Heritage Conventions and its advisory institutions (IUCN, ICOMOS, ICCROM)
The World Heritage Convention does not have a scientific advisory body per se, but the Convention recognises and calls upon the competence and expertise of three advisory institutions, namely the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. These organizations have been providing advice to the World Heritage Committee for more than 30 years.
The Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the Convention define the roles of these three organisations as advisory bodies to the Convention as being: to advise on the implementation of the Convention in the field of their expertise; to assist the Secretariat, in the preparation of the World Heritage Committee’s documentation, the agenda of its meetings and the implementation of the Committee’s decisions; to assist with the development and implementation of the Global Strategy for a Representative, Balanced and Credible World Heritage List, the Global Training Strategy, Periodic Reporting, and the strengthening of the effective use of the World Heritage Fund; to monitor the state of conservation of World Heritage properties and review requests for International Assistance; and to, in the case of ICOMOS and IUCN, evaluate properties nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List and present evaluation reports to the Committee; and to attend meetings of the World Heritage Committee and the Bureau in an advisory capacity. In addition, the Operational Guidelines also highlights that the Committee may call on other international and non-governmental organizations to assist in the implementation of programmes and projects, and expert groups on specific issues related to the Convention are also established from time to time.
In summary, the World Heritage Convention does not have an established subsidiary advisory body, but calls upon the expertise of three organizations, namely the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM), the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and IUCN, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)
In 2007, the 2nd session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture agreed that the establishment of a permanent subsidiary body was premature. It was decided that ad hoc technical bodies with focused, specialized and outcome-oriented terms of reference offered the best approach for the time being. Furthermore, each Contracting Party’s delegate may be accompanied by experts and advisers (however with no voting rights) at the session of the Governing Body.
However it is worth also noting here the link between the Treaty and the FAO assessment on The State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture which is explicitly referenced in Article 17.3 of the Treaty, and which contributes to development and implementation of the Global Plan of Action that is referenced in Article 14. Also, to be noted the ongoing collaboration between the Treaty and the FAO on the development of the global information system on PGRFA.
In summary, even if the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) does not have a scientific body at present, it has direct access to assessments and information systems, it has direct access to assessments and information systems developed by FAO and the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.