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g) trends in components of human well-being. 106


116. With respect to long term observation and monitoring systems, coordination is essential in steps to harmonize data collection and management, including the adoption and promotion of standards and standard terminologies, and in building data sharing networks as is discussed below. 106

B.8.4 Availability of and accessibility to data and information 106

117. Data and information is fundamental to understanding status and trends in biodiversity, and the results of human interaction with biodiversity, and they are therefore essential components of biodiversity assessments, indicators and models, and provide the basis for monitoring impacts of decisions made at all levels. The spread of the Internet has been enormously helpful in improving opportunities for sharing data, information and knowledge, however, despite the Internet, despite the many programmes, networks and institutions collecting and managing data at all levels, and despite a far more clearly understood need for data and information, there remain a number of barriers to more effective use of biodiversity information, even where it already exists. 106

118. These barriers include: cultural barriers, which lead to an unwillingness to share data; lack of standardization, which makes it more difficult to combine data from multiple sources; insufficient incentive for those collecting and managing data to make it available to others; cost of digitization where the data concerned is still only available in hard copy; lack of information on datasets, on how data was collected and subsequently handled; and insufficient tools for providing meaningful access to data. 106


119. These barriers result in data availability and data access varying significantly from one part of the world to another. This is further compounded by the fact that species diversity is not fully described, that there is no broadly accepted classification of ecosystems, and that knowledge at the genetic level is even patchier than at the species or ecosystem level. 106

120. Having said this, many programmes, networks and institutions working at all levels are collecting and managing data for a variety of purposes, developing and promoting the use of standards, identifying ways to bring a variety of data from multiple sources together, developing increasingly sophisticated online access to data, and so on. All of this increases the data and information potentially available for supporting decision making, while recognising that significant taxonomic, thematic and geographical gaps remain. 106

121. However perhaps the most difficult barriers to address are the cultural barriers to sharing data and information, and to publishing it,, which range from financial issues to inter-institutional trust, and from concerns about releasing data before research is complete to publishing models which restrict access to those who have paid. There is now an increasing pressure to place data and information in the public domain, and momentum on this is increasing. 106

122. In the context of improving the use of data and information in decision making the following actions are key. Some are already under way to a greater or lesser extent, and some have strong champions, but there are advantages to be gained if there were increased coordination, clearer political support and more secure financing, and if more attention was being paid to those knowledge gaps of particular importance for decision making processes: 107

a) Promoting and facilitating the use of internationally adopted standards, terminology and nomenclature so that data and information can be more easily shared and combined. 107

b) Ensuring that datasets and information repositories have associated metadata describing for potential users their provenance, and the methodologies used for data capture, management and manipulation. 107

c) Advertising the existence of datasets and information repositories more widely so as to increase their use by interested parties. 107

d) Promoting and facilitating increased online access to data and information (including publications) so that others are able to use them. 107

e) Developing and testing methods for combining data captured at different scales and using different methods so that they can be meaningfully and effectively used - so called data harmonization. 107

f) Developing tools that locate and/or combine data from multiple sources, and present these in ways that aim to directly support the decision making process. 107

g) Promoting a culture that reduces restrictions on access to data and information, encouraging organizations and individuals alike to work towards open access to data, information, expertise and knowledge. 107

h) Building the capacity of those managing data and information to carry out many of the tasks identified above for their own databases and information repositories. 107

i) Increasing coordination in improving access to data and information will substantially improve the knowledge base, particularly when combined with better understanding of the needs of policy makers. 107


123. Particularly important for increasing access to information are the development of national and regional information networks, the latter also facilitating and promoting the development of the former. The Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network (IABIN), for example, is beginning to play a valuable role in building capacity for data management and sharing at national and regional levels, initiated at least in part with the intention of supporting decision making. At the national level organizations such as the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) and the Comision Nacional el Conocimiento y Uso de la Bioversidad (CONABIO) in Mexico are examples of networks which provide some of the same functions at the national level, helping to ensure access to data and information relevant for decision making. Both regional and national networks are actively supported by international programmes and networks which facilitate and promote increased access to data. 107

124. One other specific case of barriers to use of existing knowledge which it is worth emphasising further concerns access to publications, including in particular the scientific literature. The current publishing model and the costs of purchasing publications, and in many cases even of access to them over the internet, is essentially reducing access to and use of published knowledge. This particularly affects those in developing countries. There are programmes and activities addressing this, such as the increase in public access journals on the internet, online publishing, the OARE project, and specific national efforts in a range of countries, but these need further promotion and extension. 107

B.9. Effectively informing policy 107

125. Adequate synthesis, presentation and communication of the knowledge base is just as important as the creation of it, given that different rationalities, discourses and norms need to be bridged to effectively inform policy. Benefits that accrue from ensuring that policy makers have access to information from science and scientists in a form that best helps them to use it. For example, information provided is far more likely to be used if it is: 107

a) Context specific: the implications of scientific research are expressed in such a manner that their relevance to policy issues and decision making is readily apparent to a non-scientist; 107

b) Clearly expressed: the implications of scientific research are expressed succinctly, and in such a manner that the conclusions and implications are readily understood by a non-scientist; 108

c) Credible: arising from recognised, independent and unbiased sources, backed up by necessary research and supplementary evidence (and where appropriate caveats), and peer reviewed; 108

d) Appropriately communicated: delivered in the most appropriate formats and through the most appropriate channels to ensure that it is taken account of; 108

e) Responsive: directly responding to the identified needs of or requests from policy making bodies and decision-makers (whether by direct request or responding to know agendas); and 108

f) Timely: the information is delivered not only in appropriate formats, but to timetables appropriate for consideration by those developing policy and making decisions. 108

126. There is a long history in environmental governance of trying to ensure that policy is informed by the best knowledge available, and a variety of mechanisms of synthesizing, presenting and communicating knowledge to inform policy have emerged over time, and across scales and different regimes. However, despite the increasing role of science advice in governance, questions continue as to whether scientific advice is being delivered in the most effective way. Based on a review of previous discussion on the science-policy interface, the following elements are considered essential for synthesizing, presenting and communicating knowledge to inform policy on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and are analyzed in more detail below: 108

a) nature and scope of synthesis, presentation and communication of knowledge to inform policy; 108

b) models, scenarios and indicators; 108

c) assessments; and 108

d) early warning of emerging issue of concern. 108


B.9.1 Nature and scope of synthesis, presentation and communication of knowledge to inform policy 108

Clear and authoritative synthesis and communication of knowledge to inform policy 108



127. For essentially historic reasons “western” society is characterized by a fragmentation and specialization of knowledge, including, in particular, scientific knowledge. Dividing, reducing, or structuring the world into distinct separate realms of learning and research was key to early processes of science. This has also had an influence on governance. As scientists began to play an increasing role in calling for policy change, the structure of science became mirrored to some extent as new governance arrangements evolved, resulting in an similarly divided and fragmented institutional landscape of governance. This fragmentation is particularly evident in environmental governance. In biodiversity and ecosystem services governance, institutions have been created case by case over a long period of time, resulting in an array of conventions, institutions, networks and programmes with overlapping remits and often poorly defined boundaries between them. 108

128. This fragmentation is also reflected in the system of institutional arrangements established to interface science and policy on matters regarding biodiversity and ecosystem services governance, and provide advice to it. Not only is there a vast quantity and varying quality of differing, fragmented and sometimes even contradicting knowledge on biodiversity and ecosystem services, there is also a wide range of differing, fragmented and sometimes potentially incompatible processes established to bridge this knowledge with policy. While this range of different knowledge and institutions and their fragmentation are to some extent necessary to ensure some degree of efficiency and effectiveness in the face of the complexity of inherently interlinked global environmental change, it is more and more difficult to reach a shared understanding and hence to take corrective steps. 108


129. In the absence of institutional arrangements that would ensure the provision of relevant, credible and legitimate information and advice on the issue of biodiversity and ecosystem services on which all relevant users could draw, information and advice can potentially be contested. As a result there is debate on the science in most scientific advisory bodies and processes, and the potential for States, large NGOs and other knowledge holders with vested interests to use science as a tool for politics, instead of supporting decision-making processes by providing an authoritative overview of the best available knowledge. 109

130. A direct outcome of this are expressed concerns that range from the workings of SBSTTA and the politicisation of debate on scientific issues,, to the wide application of prioritization approaches used by some NGOs which are influencing conservation and development investments. This is not to say that either are necessary wrong or inappropriate, but that concerns are being expressed, and that this is in part a result of not having a clear and authoritative synthesis and communication of knowledge to inform policy. 109

131. This is rather different to the situation in climate change governance, which relies to large extent on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for much of the scientific validation of concepts and information. This has considerably reduced debates over scientific credibility in processes such as the UNFCC SBSTA, because as a result of the existence of the IPCC – which predates the adoption of the UNFCCC – there is little debate on many of the scientific issues as government has already accepted the results in another forum. This is not to say that this covers all scientific issues and there is not debate, but that for many issues this is not necessary. 109

132. In effect, the fragmented nature of science and scientific organizations is also contributing to this for the very reason that they do not speak with one voice, and have often not found themselves able to do so. The MA is an example where they have done so, and this has substantially contributed to the very significant shift in thinking so that the world is far more concerned with ecosystem services, and links between biodiversity and human wellbeing. It therefore seems true to say that the more science and scientists can speak with one voice, and the more credible, relevant and legitimate the process or processes that enable them to do so, then the more effective the results are likely to be in informing policy development and implementation. 109

Issue advocacy versus brokering knowledge in form of policy options 109



133. There is tendency to think that within the science-policy interface there should be an unproblematic, linear relationship between scientists and decision makers, in which the output from one process - the production of knowledge - becomes the raw material for another - the making of policies and decisions - and in which achieving agreement on scientific knowledge will lead to political consensus and clear courses of action. The underlying assumptions of this conception, although subject to a robust and well-developed critique, are implicit in much policy discourse and often supported by natural scientists and policy makers alike. 109

134. In this context, important efforts which aim to interfacing science and policy, such as global environmental assessments, are predominantly aimed at reaching consensus on the scientific knowledge with respect to the status, trends and predictions of the most important drivers of environmental change in order to further environmental governance efforts. 109


135. However, there are no unambiguous answers in science that would resolve political conflicts over complex problems of global environmental change. Processes achieving legitimate outcomes over environmental conflicts involve bargaining, negotiation and compromise. Thus in situations of political gridlock, policy-makers frequently need new options, and not more science to advance in environmental governance. 110

136. Therefore there is a need for the scientific community to differentiate scientific results from the policy significance of those results, and to go beyond the presentation of scientifically unambiguous statements of status and trends, and engage more actively in policy analysis facilitating the creation of new and innovative policy alternatives along with expression of the implications of those alternatives where that is possible. 110

137. However, concerns have been raised that most scientists, even those asked to inform policy as for example in the cases of the IPCC and MA, typically eschew explicit discussions of the significance of their scientific findings for policy. Seeking to be ‘policy relevant but not policy prescriptive’, scientists rarely go beyond a description of their scientific results as concerns trends, conditions and projections, do not take the next step further explaining how these findings translate into different policy alternatives, and leave the analysis of what these findings imply for policy actions to decision makers. 110

138. As a result, decision makers often find themselves dependent on in-house capacity within their secretariats to translate science into policy actions, or, if there is a lack of such capacity, on the interpretations provided by consultants or interest groups. Otherwise they might be unable to follow scientific information or advice with the implementation of meaningful policy. For example, not having gone the further step and translating the MA findings into a more relevant context for national governments has been seen as one of the reasons why it did not have the expected results in shaping policies, in particular as regards developing countries. 110


139. What is lacking are institutional arrangements within science-policy interfaces that systematically assess and communicate the significance of science for policy. Such analysis of policy, the essence of policy advice, implies the presentation of information and knowledge in terms of an honest broker of a range of policy alternatives systematically revealing how alternative policy options would appear preferable under different detailed framing assumptions and showing how these dependencies relate to the real world. 110

140. Returning to the example of fisheries management in the European Union referred to in a previous section and discussed in more detail in Annex W, it is noted that as a result of frustration that their advice was not being followed scientists were increasingly moving away from simply being objective experts providing facts to working more closely with policymakers in approaches involving scenario-based modelling so that potential implications of decisions can be more easily understood. 110

Focus of policy information 110



141. As stated earlier, there are essentially four different areas or phases of policy to which science can contribute and which science-policy interfaces should take into account - issue identification, policy formulation, policy implementation, and policy evaluation. There is a strong tendency for scientific advisory bodies and processes at the international level to focus on issue identification and policy formulation, which takes place at the global level of governance, to the detriment of providing knowledge support to policy implementation and evaluation, which is mostly an issue to national and regional levels of governance. 110

142. This lesser focus on policy implementation and evaluation has the potential to considerably impede biodiversity and ecosystem service governance. For example: 110

a) Lack of knowledge and practice on ecosystem-based management, lack of economic incentive measures, and lack of support in mainstreaming biodiversity into other sectors were mentioned among the key challenges impeding on the implementation of the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs), the CBD’s most important means to allow for national self-expression and key instrument for implementation (see Annex U). 110

b) The fact that the MA did not go beyond the presentation of general findings relevant to global governance and take the next step in terms of helping countries with taking and using these findings, and to design policies at their respective scale and context, has been identified as one of the reasons for why the MA has been limited in impact. 111


143. In the case of biodiversity and ecosystem services, most actions will have to be taken at the local level and are not dependent upon coordinated global action, a predominant focus on issue identification and policy formulation, and the relative neglect of focus on policy implementation and evaluation at national level inherent in much of the international science-policy interface, constitutes a critical gap of the current science-policy interface. 111

144. In trying to make a difference, certain initiatives interfacing science and policy, such as the MA follow-up strategy, have prioritized the focus on sub-global levels of governance, for example with the development of tools and mechanisms that facilitate the interpretation of scientific findings in terms of their significance for policy. Others, like the TEEB, are making a considerable effort to provide knowledge and advice on how best to mainstream biodiversity issues into other sectors. However, these efforts are only limited in scope and time, and no institutional arrangements exist that would ensure more continuous support to policy implementation and evaluation and to mainstreaming biodiversity. 111

145. Having said this it is not the case that there should be a total change of focus to these issues, but that it is necessary to ensure that efforts of issue identification, policy formulation, implementation and evaluation are well orchestrated within an integrative processes that reaches across all relevant scales and sectors. 111

B.9.2 Models, scenarios and indicators 111

146. Models, scenarios and indicators are increasingly being used as means of bringing data and information together from a range of different sources, and presenting them meaningfully in such a way as to inform policy processes. For example scenarios are extensively used in assessments such as the MA or GEO to present the implications of different policy approaches, and indicators are increasingly used for tracking progress in achieving targets adopted by policy processes. 111

Integrated models of conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services 111


147. A model is essentially a simplified representation of how a system works, developed so as to improve understanding of the system itself, and to aid understanding of how different factors affect the behaviour of the system. Models of coupled social-ecological ecosystems are essential for research, synthesis and projection of management actions. Models can be useful tools to help provide decision makers with an understanding of likely impacts the implementation of policies might have, and can provide the basis for reviewing different options and scenarios. 111

148. A wide range of processes, actors, organisations, networks and products are currently involved in assessing biodiversity impacts using models and scenarios. These range from response to the ad hoc requests of specific assessment processes, to models developed by groups of organizations (e.g. InVEST by the University of Stanford and others; GLOBIO developed by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency working in collaboration with UNEP-WCMC and GRID Arendal). Currently the most widely used model of biodiversity at the science-policy interface is GLOBIO, which is based on response relationships between species abundance and five anthropogenic pressures. 111

149. In a recent report on biodiversity scenarios commissioned by the CBD Secretariat for input to the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 and prepared under the leadership of DIVERSITAS, the authors reviewed the projections of a range of models and associated scenarios. The report drew on the experience of six lead authors and 33 contributing authors from 17 countries across the world. As part of the report the authors addressed the future needs for biodiversity and ecosystem service modelling, identifying in particular that: 111

a) currently separate models for terrestrial, freshwater and marine biomes need to be fully integrated to take account of interactions and feedbacks among biomes; 112




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