Putting in place legal framework that gives a right to participate is not enough to generate people’s participation.163 Effectiveness of community participation in environmental decision-making requires an understanding of political context, suitability of the decision-making process, and community awareness of environmental issues. The lack of adequate level of awareness has double negative implication: low level of public participation to decision-making and difficulties in complying with resulting new policies. Therefore achieving good level of awareness about environmental issues among the general public is a major goal in capacity building. The following were also identified as ways of building this capacity by NCSAs:
build capacity of policy-makers to grasp the essence of environmental issues, key concepts to effectively use scientific information in their deliberations;
build capacity of knowledge producers to communicate effectively their findings to policy makers and the large public;
use training, education and awareness-raising as channels to knowledge and information sharing with the public to gain their interest and participation;
strengthen capacity to document and disseminate indigenous knowledge and practices in natural resources management beyond the traditional sectors of traditional medicine and food production; and
facilitate access (availability and accessibility) to knowledge and information between all interested stakeholders.
Capacity for effective use of knowledge in formulating policy choices and their implementation
Rio Conventions obligations consistently call for the establishment of legal and institutional enabling frameworks at national level for their implementation. This constitutes the overall environment in which policy making processes can take place. It facilitates the mainstreaming of environmental issues into national plans and provides required resources for action. The increase in the number of ministries of environment throughout developing countries over the past three decades is herald to reflect the acceptance of environmental issues as a priority.164
However a sizeable number of NCSAs reported ineffective frameworks to guide action for biodiversity and natural resources in a coherent manner. The need for inter-institutional coordination and participation mechanism was also underlined.
For regional and international policy making, negotiators from all countries are increasingly required to assimilate vast amounts of scientific information at ever increasing rates165. Sufficient capacity means multidisciplinary teams that include sufficiently qualified members to access and interpret such information in light of issues on the negotiating table. Inter-disciplinary capacity also helps handling cross-cutting issues such as potential impacts of trade agreements and policies on biodiversity and natural resources more effectively.
Overall, the following were typical priorities in building capacity to effectively use existing knowledge:
acquire capacity to combine and use environmental, social and economic information on a suitable scale for sustainability, vulnerability or adaptation studies;
enhance effectiveness of inter-institutional coordination and participation mechanism;
put in place and publicise mechanisms for community participation in decision-making on environmental issues;
strengthen institutional adaptability and ability to innovate and meet new challenges; and
build individual and institutional capacity in negotiation skills and policy formulation of processes especially at levels higher than the national level.
Some lessons learnt from NCSA Programme
By their “national” focus, NCSAs did not consider capacity (in data, knowledge, information) that might exist outside national borders, in countries which may be facing similar issues. Such data and knowledge could be very relevant to science-policy interface or requiring minor adjustment to be used (knowledge doesn’t have to be internally-generated for each country to be useful to its policy needs). NCSAs identified opportunities for UNDP/UNEP regional offices and other regional coordination mechanisms to facilitate data, knowledge and information sharing, capacity exchanges and synergies at regional level.
From ongoing debates on data sharing and publication166, many potential benefits are anticipated to be gained from such widespread data availability. However, getting access to data only represents a first step in acquiring sound information for decision-making and implementation. Scientific and technological know-how would be needed to fully equip most NCSA countries take full advantage of such data.
Capacity building is one of major areas for bilateral, regional and multilateral co-operation. Scientific institutions in developing countries still largely rely on the generosity of international donors rather than their own national governments to meet their basic financial and manpower needed. Ultimate solution may be found in addressing the underlying causes. UNIDO167 singles out adequate levels of public investment in science and investment, combined with well designed and effectively implemented policies in developing world to achieve sustainable scientific capacity.
Invasive Alien Species
Invasive alien species are species whose introduction and/or spread beyond their natural distribution threaten biological diversity. Invasive alien species are found across taxonomic groups (animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms) and are commonly regarded as one of the top three drivers of biodiversity loss. Increased trade, travel and tourism have facilitated the movement of invasive alien species increasing their potential range and rates of introduction with significant consequences. Invasive alien species impact a range of ecosystems (e.g., forests, marine and coastal area, dry and sub-humid lands, inland waters) and sectors (e.g., environment, agriculture, livestock, fisheries, forestry, trade, transport and human health).
At the ecological level, invasive alien species can change ecosystem structures by impacting ecosystem services and species compositions. In economic terms, some experts estimate the global cost of invasive alien species at US$1.4 trillion annually. Their movement and spread are also linked to other drivers of global change, such as climate change, desertification, fire, etc. Despite their relevance across a spectrum of environmental issues, invasive alien species have been addressed at differing levels of depth within major multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), ranging from detailed discussions under the Convention on Biological Diversity to passing references under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change and the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification.
The present study will examine the extent to which invasive alien species have been addressed in MEAs and the type and level of scientific input into those discussions. The analysis will focus only on discussions, decisions and documentation specifically related to invasive alien species and not sub-items or passing references. MEAs considered include: the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD); the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES); the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS); the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance; the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC); and the World Heritage Convention under the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). Consideration will also be given to independent organizations with relevant scientific and technical expertise, and their role in providing input into MEAs.
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): Invasive alien species are a cross-cutting issue under the CBD and are referenced in Article 8(h) of the Convention, which calls upon Parties to “prevent the introduction of, control or eradicate those alien species which threaten ecosystems, habitats or species.” The CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) has addressed the issue six times, considering eight official background documents and fifteen information documents, and producing six recommendations. The Conference of the Parties (COP) has addressed the issue five times, considering three official background documents and five information documents, and adopting five decisions. Of SBSTTA’s information documents, four explicitly state that they were written by an external expert/consultant (the actual number may be higher), and eight are inputs from technical meetings and/or organizations. For the COP, two information documents are from external expert workshops. Additionally, both SBSTTA and the COP have considered invasive alien species in other thematic areas such as forest biodiversity, marine and coastal biodiversity, inland waters, island biodiversity, the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, impact assessment and protected areas.
In addition to these inputs, the CBD Secretariat has facilitated external scientific and technical input into the Convention through a range of activities including:
Creating an International Liaison Group on invasive alien species including the secretariats of relevant international agreements as well as GISP and IUCN (2008);
Convening a meeting of an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) on gaps and inconsistencies in the international legal framework related to invasive alien species (2005);
Convening an invasive alien species liaison group which met in conjunction with a workshop on the Global Invasive Species Programme’s (GISP) first phase of activities (2000);
Co-convening an expert workshop on pre-screening imports of live animals in international trade with GISP, IUCN’s Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG) and the University of Notre Dame (2008);
Co-convening an expert workshop on potential terrestrial and aquatic elements of a joint work programme on invasive alien species with GISP (2005);
Co-convening an expert workshop on potential marine and coastal elements of a joint work programme on invasive alien species with GISP and the UNEP Regional Seas Programme (2005);
Inviting Hal Mooney, an invasive species expert and former chair of GISP, to make a keynote address to SBSTTA4 (1999).
The liaison group of 1999 and the AHTEG were both composed of representatives nominated by Parties and a number of “observers” from non-Parties, inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations.168 The liaison group included: 6 experts from governments and 10 experts not affiliated with a government. The AHTEG included: 14 experts nominated by Parties and 10 observers, 7 of whom were not affiliated with a government. Generally, the Party-appointed representatives were experts in their field (particularly with the AHTEG) although both groups did include individuals with a broader responsibility for the CBD and/or biodiversity within their government (i.e., the usual SBSTTA and COP delegates).
For input outside of governments, a number of SBSTTA and COP recommendations highlight and request input from GISP, particularly regarding its Global Strategy, management techniques, information resources and other expertise, as well as other expert organizations such as ISSG, DIVERSITAS and other multilateral agreements. Several of the information documents were prepared by these institutions, including a toolkit of best management practices, socioeconomic assessments of island ecosystems and inland water systems, and a guide to designing legal frameworks. Additionally, personal communication with present and former staff from GISP and ISSG indicate significant informal communication with the CBD Secretariat, particularly around the preparation of background documents and information for meetings of the COP, SBSTTA and the AHTEG. For example, in the context of COP9’s in depth review on invasive alien species, GISP solicited input from all the Parties with a particular stress on those countries where GISP members had offices, and then helped compile input and extract general trends and capacity needs.
In addition to the International Liaison Group involving other agreements, the CBD Secretariat has used joint work plans with the Ramsar Convention and the International Plant Protection Convention to identify relevant areas of collaboration on invasive alien species. A memorandum of understanding has also been signed with GISP and a draft joint work programme has been developed to guide future work. Finally, the controversy surrounding the adoption of the COP Decision VI/23 in 2002 (which was a procedural issue arising from concern over trade-related language in the Guiding Principles for the Prevention, Introduction and Mitigation of Impacts of Alien Species that Threaten Ecosystems, Habitats or Species) arguably diverted attention at subsequent COP and SBSTTA away meetings from scientific and technical issues and toward broader political debates over trade and precaution.
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance: Ramsar bodies have discussed invasive alien species on six occasions with one official background paper and one draft resolution for COP consideration. More specifically, the Scientific and Technical Review Panel (STRP) considered the issue four times and issued four STRP Decisions on the topic (STRP8-11, 1999-2003). Ramsar COP7 (May 1999, San Jose, Costa Rica) considered a background paper and keynote address presented by Dr. Geoffrey Howard with IUCN and affiliated with GISP. Decision VII/14 directed the STRP to consider the need for guidelines specific to wetlands in view of ongoing by the CBD (e.g., the Guiding Principles) and GISP. STRP8 then established a Working Group on Invasive Species to: comment on guidance being developed by IUCN and the CBD’s SBSTTA; determine the sufficiency of such guidance for the Ramsar Convention and contribute to its development where appropriate; and provide input on risk assessment approaches.
Ramsar COP8 (November 2002, Valencia, Spain) considered a draft resolution (finalized as Decision VIII/18) but at the recommendation of the Standing Committee did not review the CBD’s Guiding Principles as well as a draft guide on invasive alien species and wetlands prepared by Dr. Howard and approved by STRP10 (June 2001, Gland, Switzerland). The political controversy surrounding the adoption of Decision VI/23 and the Guiding Principles at CBD COP6 (April 2002, The Hague, Netherlands) consequently extended into the Ramsar Convention. Continued concern in the Standing Committee by a number of Parties involved in the CBD debates led to the removal of the draft guide and the CBD’s Guiding Principles from consideration by Ramsar COP8.
The STRP’s Working Group on Invasive Species was open to input and participation by outside experts including those from IUCN, GISP as well as the CBD Secretariat. The Working Group also developed formal inputs for consideration by the CBD SBSTTA and COP in negotiating the Guiding Principles (a formal presentation was delivered by the Ramsar Secretariat to CBD SBSTTA6 on behalf of the STRP). Ramsar and the CBD developed a joint work plan which was approved initially in 1998 and has included a number of subsequent updates. The Work Plan has included alien species as a cross-cutting element, and has included the work of expert groups like GISP and IUCN. Invasive alien species have also been referenced in Ramsar documentation and discussions around: application of the ecosystem approach; environmental impact and risk assessments; and national management of wetland sites.
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES): The CITES process has considered invasive alien species on four occasions involving one background document and one revised resolution. COP13 (Bangkok, Thailand, October 2004) passed Resolution 13.10, which inter alia called for exploration of synergies with the CBD and instructed the CITES Secretariat, in conjunction with the Animals and Plants Committees, to establish cooperation with the CBD Secretariat and the ISSG. The CITES Plants and Animals Committees then considered the issue in two joint sessions (Geneva, Switzerland, May 2005; Lima, Peru, July 2006). For the Committee meetings in 2005, no background document was prepared although specific recommendations were made on listing potentially invasive CITES species and identifying possibilities for contributing to the implementation of the CBD’s Guiding Principles (outlined in a background document prepared by the CITES Secretariat for the 2006 meetings of the Plants and Animals Committees). ISSG provided input particularly with regard to further exploration of linkages under CBD Decision VIII/27. However the Plants and Animals Committees eventually agreed that the issue was not a major priority for future discussion and that the CBD Secretariat could provide relevant updates in the future. The provision in Resolution 13.10 calling for cooperation with ISSG was thereby removed in a revision of the Resolution at COP14 (The Hague, Netherlands, June 2007). While acknowledging the limited capacity of convention secretariats, this is one instance where Parties took the decision to remove a direct channel for scientific and technical input into the CITES process.
Convention on Migratory Species (CMS): Within the CMS, invasive alien species are listed as one of the primary threats and challenges, and the issue was included as a sub-agenda item at the 14th meeting of the Scientific Council. Although discussion was limited and there was no dedicated background document, the meeting highlighted a study reviewing the impact of invasive alien species on migratory species. This study is reportedly still underway and will be provided for future consideration by the Scientific Council. Invasive alien species are sometimes peripherally associated with the issue of avian influenza, although significant debate ranges within the scientific community over the extent to which avian influenza can be considered invasive especially if conveyed through natural migration. In this area, the CMS and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization have convened a Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds and have been involved in two technical workshops focusing on the topic). The work of the task force has been considered by the Scientific Council and also incorporated into COP Resolution 9.8 (although there is no direct reference to invasive alien species). More specific references to invasive alien species have arisen in discussions and materials on: threats to specific migratory species; capacity building efforts; climate change impacts; and particular action plans and memoranda of understanding.
Other Multilateral Environmental Agreements: The UNCCD, the UNFCCC and the World Heritage Convention have taken no formal decisions on the topic of invasive alien species. Under the UNCCD, reference to the issue has arisen in: assessments of land degradation provided to the COP and the Committee on Science and Technology; linkages to the work of the CBD and its work programme on dry and sub-humid lands; and regional and national reports and action plans.
Under the UNFCCC, reference to the issue has arisen in: documents and supporting materials provided to the COP and Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice on topics of adaptation and land use, land-use change and forestry; national adaptation programmes of action to climate change; and linkages to the CBD on climate and biodiversity issues, particularly adaptation.
Within the World Heritage Convention, reference to the issue has arisen in: documentation and decisions relating to the “State of Conservation” and management recommendations for specific World Heritage sites; and discussions on the impacts of climate change on World Heritage sites.
Supporting Institutions: A number of independent organizations have provided input into MEA discussions on invasive alien species, including the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP), IUCN (Secretariat), IUCN’s Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG), DIVERSITAS, the Global Invasive Species Information Network (GISIN) and the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC). Within the CBD process, GISP has played a major role as it was basically conceived at the Norway/U.N. Conference on Alien Species (July 1996, Trondheim, Norway), which was designed to focus the CBD’s attention on the issue. GISP was initially organized under the auspices of the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment (SCOPE), IUCN and CABI, in association with DIVERSITAS.169
The initial concept of GISP was to gather the best minds (and later the best organizations) working on the issue of invasive alien species at the global level. The first phase of GISP was designed to consolidate available scientific and management information to raise awareness of the issue and to present best management practices. Through the use of thematic working groups GISP focused on key issues such as pathways, management, socioeconomics, etc., while simultaneously engaging national agencies and experts through a series of regional workshops. This model helped to funnel information developed by the international working groups down to the national level, while raising national level priorities and capacity needs to the global level. Information from both efforts was also channelled into the CBD.
As GISP and international discussions matured, the focus turned more to implementation and ensuring that science was informing the development of policy tools. With a slate of priorities defined in CBD decisions, GISP has facilitated dialogue with scientific and technical experts to most appropriately direct their input into guidance for Convention bodies as well as for national implementers. Recent examples include, cooperation with DIVERSITAS around COP9; work with the CBD Secretariat, ISSG and the University of Notre Dame around pre-screening animals in international trade; support to the government of New Zealand on regional island coordination and invasive alien species; and development of training courses with World Bank funding on national legal frameworks and economic assessments. By virtue of its global position and wide range of contacts, GISP has been most effective when serving as a facilitator to manage and package existing information and expertise
On a more direct level, GISP has also regularly participated at advisory group, SBSTTA and COP meetings. This longstanding involvement with the CBD, provides an understanding of the process and context by which GISP can convey information to the CBD Secretariat (informally and as information papers) as well as directly to Parties. Side events and distribution of other publications at relevant meetings are another mode of input. In many cases, the government representatives that GISP engaged at the country level later served on national delegations within CBD discussions on invasive alien species. Arguably, GISP’s “success” is largely due to its longstanding role in collating and providing information, as few others would serve this role in its absence. It should also be noted that GISP’s particularly niche has been the CBD, although it has engaged members and partners working in other forums (e.g., the International Plant Protection Convention, the International Maritime Organization and the Ramsar Convention).
IUCN and IUCN’s ISSG have also played complementary roles through: development of technical materials such as the IUCN Guidelines for the Prevention of Biodiversity Loss due to Biological Invasion; provision of advice and background information to the CBD, CITES and the Ramsar Convention; creation of information exchange and database tools; a repository for data on particular invasive species and their management; and participation in meetings.170 A final reference should be made to the Pet Industry Advisory Committee (PIJAC), which has also been active in providing scientific and technical advice from the perspective of the private sector. PIJAC was involved in the negotiation of the CBD’s Guiding Principles and has been developing input and management tools on the pre