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Editor’s Note No. 137
Friday, 23 October 2009
Lynn Wagner, Ph.D.
Lynn Wagner, PhD
Editor,
Linkages Update

and MEA Bulletin
There are many similarities between the discussions at the ninth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), during the meeting of the Committee on Science and Technology and the first UNCCD Scientific Conference, and the Second Ad hoc Intergovernmental and Multi-stakeholder Meeting on an Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Both meetings discussed policy makers’ need for relevant scientific advice and delegates presented their interpretations of how such advice would be best developed. A statement by Robert Watson, who chaired the IPBES meeting and was a past Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which delegates in both fora held up as a model for bridging the science-policy gap, offered a particularly appropriate description connecting what delegates at many recent meetings have tried to do. Our IPBES report indicates that, in response to a question about a funding mechanism for an IPBES, “Chair Watson said that it is important to first define the functions, principles and procedures, and ‘get the process right’.”  


The first UNCCD Scientific Conference had generated enthusiasm and input from the scientific community, but many shortcomings were identified with its process. The advice from the scientific community was not presented in a format that decision makers could incorporate into their decisions and there were questions about the participation of experts from each region, among others. Many elements of the decisions coming out of the meeting focused on identifying lessons from the experience and incorporating them into preparations for the second UNCCD Scientific Conference. A longer-term process was also established to examine how the “right” process could be established to bridge the desertification science-policy divide. This process will no doubt look to the IPBES experience. And both are looking to the IPCC experience, which many view to have gotten its process “right.” The IPCC will demonstrate its process next week, as delegates to its working groups convene in Bali to agree on the respective chapter outlines and schedules of work for the Fifth Assessment Report. 


This week’s Ad hoc Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) to Prepare for the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Mercury is focused on providing guidance for the INC process, in particular the negotiating priorities, timetable and organization. Early discussions regarding how issues will be framed and approached could influence the talks for years to come and therefore delegates sought to ensure that preparatory work will not pre-empt the political outcomes. The UNCCD COP demonstrated the influence that early discussions can have years later, with negotiations related to the “constructively ambiguous” compromise through which the Global Mechanism was established concluding without a resolution. The Earth Negotiation Bulletin forms an archive of the discussions and compromises involved as the international community seeks to “get the process right” for sustainable development policy making, and therefore helps document how successful processes have evolved and where challenges may remain.
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