How IPBES works: The functions, structures and processes of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

Working Paper (PDF Available) · May 2016with 107 Reads
DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1464.4080
Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance, University of Cambridge, Forthcoming, DOI:10.13140/RG.2.1.1464.4080
How IPBES works:
The functions, structures and
processes of the Intergovernmental
Platform on Biodiversity and
Ecosystem Services
Jasper Montana
C-EENRG Working Papers, 2016-2
May 2016
Please cite this paper as:
Montana, J. 2016. “How IPBES works: The functions, structures and processes of the Intergovernmental
Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”. C-EENRG Working Papers, 2016-2. pp.1-23.
Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance, University of Cambridge.
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Contents
ABSTRACT.........................................................................................................................................5
1. INTRODUCTION............................................................................................................................7
2. INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS...............................................................................................9
2.1. The functions of IPBES...................................................................................................................................... 9
2.1.1. Assessments............................................................................................................................................ 10
2.1.2. Knowledge and data.............................................................................................................................11
2.1.3. Capacity building................................................................................................................................... 12
2.1.4. Policy support......................................................................................................................................... 12
2.2. The key structures of IPBES........................................................................................................................... 12
2.2.1. Government members and Plenary................................................................................................ 12
2.2.2. Bureau and Multidisciplinary Expert Panel................................................................................... 13
2.2.3. Secretariat and Technical Support Units........................................................................................ 13
2.2.4. Stakeholders and Observers.............................................................................................................. 13
2.2.5. Work Program expert and author groups......................................................................................14
2.3. The key processes of IPBES........................................................................................................................... 14
2.3.1. Plenary negotiations.............................................................................................................................14
2.3.2. Operational decision making............................................................................................................ 15
2.3.3. Integration of dierent knowledge systems................................................................................ 15
2.3.4. Expert group selection......................................................................................................................... 16
2.3.5. Assessment processes.......................................................................................................................... 16
2.3.6. Peer review............................................................................................................................................... 18
2.3.7. Reporting uncertainty.......................................................................................................................... 18
2.3.8. Financing.................................................................................................................................................. 18
3. CONCLUSION...............................................................................................................................19
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS..................................................................................................................20
REFERENCES....................................................................................................................................20
3
Jasper Montana
Department of Geography, University of Cambridge,
Downing Place, Cambridge, CB2 3EN, United Kingdom.
jm915@cam.ac.uk
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C-EENRG WORKING PAPERS, 2016-2
How IPBES works:
The functions, structures and
processes of the Intergovernmental
Platform on Biodiversity and
Ecosystem Services
Jasper Montana
Abstract
The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is an
international knowledge institution established through the United Nations system.
Mandated to “strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem
services”, IPBES has a detailed set of intergovernmentally agreed functions, structures and
processes that guide its rst Work Program (2014-2018). This working paper sets out
these institutional arrangements, noting that broader understanding of the IPBES
mechanisms may assist wider participation, accountability, and scholarly analysis.
Keywords: biodiversity; environmental knowledge; institutional arrangements; IPBES;
science-policy interface
5
6
How IPBES works:
The functions, structures and
processes of the Intergovernmental
Platform on Biodiversity and
Ecosystem Services
Jasper Montana
1. INTRODUCTION
The Intergovernmental (Science-Policy) Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
(hereafter IPBES, or ‘the Platform’) is an international knowledge institution that was
formally established in 2012 through the United Nations system1 with the mandate to:
“strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for
the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being
and sustainable development” (IPBES2012a: 1).
1 Under the auspices of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), United Nations Educational,
Scientic and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
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C-EENRG Working Papers, 2016-2
The Platform was initiated 20 years after the Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD) formally recognised biodiversity as a “common concern of humankind” (CBD 1992)
and seven years after the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) formalised the
denition of ecosystem services as “the benets people obtain from ecosystems” (MA 2005:
26). IPBES is hoped to achieve similar international standing as the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC; Nature 2010) and has adopted an initial four-year Work
Program (2014-2018) to be completed in early 2019. This working paper provides an
overview of the key institutional arrangements of IPBES as they stand for this rst Work
Program.
The establishment of IPBES is the result of over a decade of discussions, workshops,
and formal negotiations that took place both inside and outside of the United Nations
system (see historical accounts in Granjou et al. 2013: 16, Koetz et al. 2011, Perrings et al.
2011, Vadrot 2014). Although legally independent, it is administered by the United
Nations Environment Program and has a set of precise institutional arrangements
(functions, structures and processes) that provide a framework of rules, principles and
procedures to govern the Platform’s work.
Although many of the intergovernmentally-agreed decisions that led to these
arrangements are made available online through the Platform’s website (www. ipbes.net),
the available documents follow strict protocols of recording and cross-referencing, which
create a “web of texts” that is considered largely impenetrable to those outside the
established processes (Granjou et al. 2013: 16). Despite its institutional arrangements
being complex, necessarily incomplete, and subject to interpretation when brought into
practice, they deserve detailed attention:
Firstly, institutional arrangements provide a framework for the participation of
experts. Basic knowledge of the functions, structures and processes of IPBES can make the
nomination, selection and participation process more ecient and eective for those with
little or no experience of intergovernmental or environmental assessment processes. As will
be set out below, IPBES seeks to provide a more inclusive process than previous Global
Environmental Assessments and the initial overview provided in this working paper may
provide an additional entry point for new participants.
Secondly, greater awareness of the IPBES institutional arrangements provides
opportunity for a broader range of commentators to examine and input into the Platform’s
knowledge making practices. Opening up channels of evaluation and critique to more
diverse communities will be particularly important if IPBES is renewed for a second Work
Program, which may provide an opportunity for renegotiating some of its current
arrangements.
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HOW IPBES WORKS: THE FUNCTIONS, STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES OF THE
INTERGOVERNMENTAL PLATFORM ON BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
Thirdly, IPBES provides a valuable case study for analytical scholarship. However,
nding anchor points from which to conduct analysis can be a challenge. Although
necessarily partial in perspective, this working paper provides an overview of the terrain
for researchers to conduct more detailed exploration.
This working paper, produced as part of a larger empirical research project2,
provides an extensive, but non-exhaustive, overview of the functions, structures and
processes of IPBES in order to contribute to these three endeavours.
2. INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS
2.1. The functions of IPBES
The rst IPBES Work Program will be carried out between 2014 and 2018 and is divided
into 18 core deliverables (IPBES 2013c). The Platform has been initially charged with four
broad functions (IPBES 2012a: 1):
− to complete a set of assessments on the state of knowledge on biodiversity and
ecosystem services;
− build capacity across its program of work;
− identify and catalyse the development of policy-relevant tools and methodologies;
and
− stimulate further knowledge generation.
While the assessments function is familiar from previous Global Environmental
Assessment processes, the other three functions are broadly considered innovations in
IPBES. There has been some concern, however, that these newer functions are yet to
receive sucient nancial or institutional support in the process (Brooks et al. 2014).
2 Research methods included participant observation at IPBES plenary meetings (Antalya, Turkey in 2013;
Bonn, Germany in 2015; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016); insights from a four-month internship with the
IPBES secretariat from January until April 2015; and formal semi-structured interviews with nineteen
participants in expert groups, the IPBES secretariat, the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel and Bureau. The
research was conducted as part of a PhD program under ethical approval of the Department of Geography at
the University of Cambridge.
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C-EENRG Working Papers, 2016-2
These components of the work program are also currently underrepresented in the
‘Procedures for the preparation of the Platform’s deliverables’ (IPBES 2015c). The initial
work of the Platform in these areas is therefore to develop pilot approaches in lieu of
formal procedures and produce ‘guidance documents’ on how IPBES can further develop
its work (i.e. policy support tools, IPBES 2015g).
2.1.1. Assessments
Assessments in IPBES are dened as “published assessments of scientic, technical and
socioeconomic issues that take into account dierent approaches, visions and knowledge
systems.” (IPBES 2015c) For the rst IPBES Work Program, the Plenary has requested a
series of thematic, methodological, regional, and global assessments on biodiversity and
ecosystem services, totalling at least 9 standalone reports (see Table 1, IPBES 2013c). In
comparison, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on which many of
the institutional arrangements of IPBES are based3, produces just three main assessments
reports and one synthesis report in each work cycle (IPCC 2013 (1999)). IPBES
assessments are expected to take between three and four years to complete, with early
assessments completed in two years. Each assessment report will be completed by a stand-
alone author group. The Platform approved its rst assessments in 2016.
3 Occasional comparison with the IPCC in this working paper is intended to highlight key dierences or
similarities between the two institutions. This comparison is not intended to be exhaustive and the
institutional arrangements of IPBES have also been inuenced by other previous initiatives such as the
Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
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HOW IPBES WORKS: THE FUNCTIONS, STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES OF THE
INTERGOVERNMENTAL PLATFORM ON BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
Table 1: Assessment reports originally proposed at plenary meeting of the
Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in 2013
and their anticipated completion dates. *pending request by Plenary.
Assessment Type Name Completion date
Thematic Pollinators, pollination and food production February 2016
Thematic Land degradation and restoration Early 2017
Thematic Invasive alien species and their control Early 2018
Thematic* Sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity Not scheduled
Methodological Scenario analysis and modelling of biodiversity and
ecosystem services
February 2016
Methodological* Diverse conceptualization of values of biodiversity and
nature’s benets to people including ecosystem services
Not scheduled
Regional Africa regional assessment Early 2018
Regional America regional assessment Early 2018
Regional Asia-Pacic regional assessment Early 2018
Regional Europe and Central-Asia regional assessment Early 2018
Regional* Open Ocean regional assessment
(has not been requested)
Not scheduled
Global Global assessment Early 2019
2.1.2. Knowledge and data
The Knowledge and Data function of IPBES is intended to “identify and prioritize key
scientic information needed for policymakers on appropriate scales and to catalyse eorts
to generate new knowledge by engaging in dialogue with key scientic organizations,
policymakers and funding organizations” (IPBES 2013c: 4). In establishing a ‘Task Force’
expert group, this function expanded to have a dual role of also providing a mechanisms
for the management of knowledge, information and data within IPBES itself (IPBES
2013c: 20).
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C-EENRG Working Papers, 2016-2
2.1.3. Capacity building
The Capacity Building function of IPBES is intended to “prioritize key capacity-building
needs to improve the science-policy interface at appropriate levels”, as well as to establish
a ‘match-making facility’ to “catalyse nancing” these activities (IPBES 2013c: 2).
Capacity building is regarded by many member governments to be a major priority for
IPBES and was a key early negotiating point in securing broad intergovernmental support
(IISD 2009). The Platform is now piloting a draft program of fellowships, exchanges and
training (IPBES 2015e).
2.1.4. Policy support
The Policy Support function of IPBES is intended to identify “policy-relevant tools and
methodologies to enable decision makers to gain access to [them] and, where necessary, to
promote and catalyse their further development. (IPBES 2013c: 2) The policy support
function, as conceived in the current Work Programme, focuses on the development of
general guidance and the piloting of an online “catalogue of policy support tools and
methodologies” intended “to facilitate easy access by decision makers to tools and
methodologies promoted by the Platform” (IPBES 2014: 59).
2.2. The key structures of IPBES
2.2.1. Government members and Plenary
IPBES is legally independent from the United Nations system, but conforms to an
intergovernmental framework that upholds the sovereign rights of States as consistent with
the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD 1992). The Platform is currently governed by
a collective of more than 120 national governments, called the Plenary, which acts as the
Platform’s decision-making body (IPBES 2012a). During the rst Work Program, the
Plenary will meet formally once a year to negotiate and make decisions on the Platform’s
institutional arrangements, as well as the acceptance, adoption and approval of ocial
outputs as they are completed. National governments are also periodically invited to
submit requests of work to the Platform, provide review comments on documents,
nominate experts for the Platform’s work, and provide nancial and in-kind support
(IPBES 2013b).
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HOW IPBES WORKS: THE FUNCTIONS, STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES OF THE
INTERGOVERNMENTAL PLATFORM ON BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
2.2.2. Bureau and Multidisciplinary Expert Panel
Two subsidiary bodies have been established in IPBES, which facilitate oversight and
decision making outside of annual plenary meetings (IPBES 2012a). Administrative
functions are overseen by a small panel of ten nominated government delegates called the
Bureau: two representatives from each United Nations region, including Africa; Asia-
Pacic; Eastern Europe; Latin America and The Caribbean (GRULAC); and Western
Europe and Other (WEOG). The Bureau is appointed on a three-year rotation and two
members of the Bureau are also elected as Chair and Vice-Chair of the Platform.
Scientic functions of IPBES are overseen by the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel,
which is composed of 25 experts (ve per United Nations region) nominated by countries
and selected by the Plenary. The composition of the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel is
intended to be balanced with regards to region, gender and discipline (IPBES 2013a),
although this is yet to be achieved in practice (see analysis in Montana and Borie 2015
and account of Eastern European region MEP selection in Kovács and Pataki 2016). The
Bureau and Multidisciplinary Expert Panel meet in parallel three times per year to discuss
progress, make decisions and select experts for the Work Program (IPBES 2013b).
Individuals from the two subsidiary bodies are allocated to oversee the progress of each
deliverable.
2.2.3. Secretariat and Technical Support Units
The Secretariat, based at the United Nations Campus in Bonn, Germany, is the only
permanently located structure of IPBES. The Secretariat is responsible for administrative
functions, which include the drafting of working documents, facilitating communications,
preparing the budgets and coordinating the outreach activities of the Platform (IPBES
2013b).
The Secretariat is supported by a number of task-specic ‘Technical Support Units’
that “provide support for regional, functional or thematic aspects of the work programme”
and provide for networking across “regional or thematic centres of excellence in the work
of the Platform” (IPBES 2013c).
2.2.4. Stakeholders and Observers
Stakeholders in IPBES include “individual scientists and knowledge holders as well as
institutions, organizations and groups” and have been broadly dened to cover “both
contributors and end users” (IPBES 2015d). This denition of stakeholders technically
includes government members, but is generally used to refer to civil society organisations,
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C-EENRG Working Papers, 2016-2
professional societies, and other representative groups. Multilateral Environmental
Agreements are also signicant stakeholders in IPBES and are provided with special
privileges in placing requests of work to the Platform (IPBES 2012b). Stakeholders are
invited to submit review comments on documents, nominate experts for deliverables, and
provide nancial or in-kind contributions (IPBES 2015d). Individual non-government
stakeholders may also participate directly as expert or authors (see Figure 1). A sub-set of
institutional stakeholders who have directly sought approval from the Platform are also
able to act as Observers at plenary meetings (IPBES 2012c).
2.2.5. Work Program expert and author groups
The deliverables of the IPBES work program are produced by formally selected groups of
experts and authors (IPBES 2015c). According to the IPBES Rules, selected experts
“should reect the range of scientic, technical and socioeconomic views and expertise;
geographical representation, with appropriate representation of experts from developing
and developed countries and countries with economies in transition; the diversity of
knowledge systems that exist; and gender balance. (IPBES 2015c: 9) In contrast to the
IPCC, where the disciplinary distribution of experts tends to be heavily siloed within each
of the working groups (Godal 2003), IPBES has sought to have disciplinary mix across
each of its expert groups. All experts must now adhere to the ‘conict of interest’ policy
and are unpaid: although the IPBES budget covers the meeting expenses of experts from
developing countries outside of the European Union (IPBES 2015c).
2.3. The key processes of IPBES
2.3.1. Plenary negotiations
The Plenary generally conduct formal decision making at annual plenary meetings. The
Rules of Procedure are a set of agreed statements that determine the way in which
experts, administrators and governments can legitimately act within the Platform (IPBES
2012c). As IPBES lies outside the legal framework of the United Nations, the Plenary has
negotiated all of its own operating rules: although those rules governing the operation of
the Plenary were based signicantly on the United Nations Economic and Social Council;
and rules governing other aspects of the Platform’s work were based signicantly on those
existing in the IPCC. Annual plenary meetings are limited in time, however, which has
resulted in key components of the institutional arrangements, such as the stakeholder
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HOW IPBES WORKS: THE FUNCTIONS, STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES OF THE
INTERGOVERNMENTAL PLATFORM ON BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
engagement strategy, to be left under negotiation over multiple years (see for example,
IISD 2013). In some cases where text has not yet been negotiated by the Plenary, ‘interim’
policies can prevail (as occurred with the conict of interest policy, see Larigauderie 2015).
The Plenary upholds consensus as a core principle of decision making. In IPBES, as
in other areas of the United Nations, reaching consensus does not require unanimous
agreement, but signies that there have been no objections to a particular decision (UNEP
2007). This framework takes into account the perspective of all members present and
allows workable solution to be reached even when outcomes are not seen as ideal by all, or
even any, of the individual parties involved. However, in situations where consensus cannot
be reached a vote mechanism can be enacted. The decision to select Germany as host of
the permanent Secretariat, for example, was carried out by a majority vote (IISD 2012).
In the negotiation of assessment reports and their summaries, three types of
decision are generally made by the Plenary. In brief, these are: acceptance, which is
recognition that the material “presents a comprehensive and balanced view of the subject
matter”; adoption, which is section-by-section endorsement of a document; and approval,
which is “line-by-line discussion and agreement” (IPBES 2015c).
2.3.2. Operational decision making
Plenary decisions often result in broad statements that require interpretation in order to
be operationalised for the work of the Platform. The Multidisciplinary Expert Panel,
Bureau and Secretariat are often instructed by the Plenary to interpret and operationalise
the rules and mandates established in the Plenary. This operational decision making is
vital to the functioning of the Platform, but is easily eclipsed by focus on the Plenary as
the central decision making process.
2.3.3. Integration of dierent knowledge systems
The IPBES conceptual framework provides a broad frame for biodiversity that recognises
diverse knowledge systems beyond the natural sciences, and spans both regional and global
scales (Borie and Hulme 2015, Díaz et al. 2015). In line with this conceptual framework,
the Plenary has requested the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel and a supporting ‘Task
Force’ expert group to explore approaches for bringing dierent knowledge systems,
including indigenous and local knowledges, into the Platform’s activities (IPBES 2012a).
In the absence of a formalised approach to working with dierent knowledge systems for
the rst assessments, expert groups have conducted pilot consultations to establish and
propose appropriate procedures to the Plenary (IPBES 2015f). In this sense, IPBES has a
role in not just synthesising existing knowledge, but creating new ways of conceptualising,
integrating and linking dierent knowledges. IPBES has also established an expert group
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C-EENRG Working Papers, 2016-2
to develop approaches to bridging dierent scales in biodiversity knowledge (IPBES 2015b)
and developing biodiversity models and scenario analysis for its future reports (IPBES
2015g).
2.3.4. Expert group selection
Both governments and stakeholders are invited to nominate experts, however current rules
dictate that each expert group cannot contain more than 20% of its experts from
stakeholder nominations, which ensures that at least 80% of experts are government-
nominated (IPBES 2015c). Expert selection is limited to ocially nominated individuals
and is overseen by the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel and Bureau, with advice from
report Co-chairs and Coordinating Lead Authors once they are selected. Aside from
principles of breadth and balance outlined above, at present there are no formal criteria
for selection. In cases where a balanced expert group cannot be achieved, additional
targeted nominations can be sought from governments and stakeholders in a follow up
process (IPBES 2016).
2.3.5. Assessment processes
The general sequence of events for IPBES assessments (IPBES 2015c) are summarised as
follows (see also Figure 1):
Scoping. Assessment reports are initially ‘scoped’ by members of the MEP,
normally with the assistance of a small expert group (also subject to formal
nomination and selection), and scoping reports are presented to the Plenary for
adoption. This adopted scoping report then functions as a mandate for the
assessment, guiding the selection of experts and drafting of chapters.
Expert selection. (See section on Expert group selection).
Author meetings. Author meetings tend to take place three times in the lifetime
of a report, generally following an open review process. Authors are placed into
categories: ‘Co-chairs’ oversee the entire assessment report; ‘Coordinating Lead
Authors’ oversee a given chapter; and ‘Lead Authors’ attend author meetings and
contribute to chapters. The selected authors are often supported by ‘Contributing
Authors’ who do not need to go through formal selection and generally do not
attend author meetings, but are invited to contribute specic text to a chapter.
Review processes. Draft assessment documents, referred to as the ‘First Order
Draft’ and ‘Second Order Draft’ are made available upon request via the secretariat
or Technical Support Unit. Review comments may be submitted and are compiled
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HOW IPBES WORKS: THE FUNCTIONS, STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES OF THE
INTERGOVERNMENTAL PLATFORM ON BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
for response by the author teams. Each review phase is overseen by ‘Review
Editors’, who gather input from invited expert reviewers and ensure that the open
review comments have been adequately addressed by author groups.
Plenary acceptance, adoption and approval. Assessment reports themselves
are hundreds, or even thousands, of pages long and if satisfactory are accepted by
the Plenary. Synthesis reports may also be subject to section-by-section
endorsement and adopted by the Plenary. Consistent with the IPCC, all IPBES
assessment reports will have a Summary for Policy Makers that is developed at the
Second Order Draft stage. These short documents are intended to highlight the
most pertinent items of interest to policy makers and other major ndings of the
overall report. This document is negotiated and approved line-by-line and is
expected to receive the greatest press and policy attention. While the Plenary can
negotiate the content and wording of the Summary for Policy Makers, the document
must remain consistent with the information presented in the main assessment
report, and consistency needs to be endorsed by the report’s authors, expected to
be represented in plenary meetings by the Co-chairs and Coordinating Lead
Authors.
Figure 1. The typical sequence of events of IPBES assessments and
opportunities for government and non-government stakeholder involvement
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C-EENRG Working Papers, 2016-2
2.3.6. Peer review
Peer review operates in IPBES on two levels. Firstly, the Platform brings together groups
of experts to assess and synthesise large volumes of published literature. This process is
intended to provide for the formation of a ‘scientic consensus’ amongst the author groups
during the report drafting stage. Secondly, the draft reports are also subject to a system of
‘open review’, in which draft documents are made available online for government and
expert comment. Review editors are also appointed who invite and synthesise reviews from
a small group of selected experts in the eld. This review process is intended to capture a
diverse range of perspectives and allow for open debate with comments and responses
made available online following completion of the report (IPBES 2015c). In practice, this
process relies on the eectiveness of communication channels through which
announcements are made about upcoming review periods and on the ability of reviewers
to dedicate time to review lengthy documents.
2.3.7. Reporting uncertainty
In advance of its rst assessments, IPBES has developed a preliminary system of metrics
to acknowledge uncertainty through ‘strength of evidence’ and ‘levels of agreement’
measures (IPBES 2013b). This mode of reporting uncertainty is not dissimilar to the
quantitative and qualitative measures of condence and uncertainty established in the
IPCC (IPCC 2010).
2.3.8. Financing
IPBES has a variable operational budget of approximately US$3-10 million per year and,
to date, has received the majority of contributions from government members (IPBES
2015a). The Platform is dependent on future nancial contributions to complete its Work
Program and fundraising was recognised at the Fourth Plenary meeting as an important
future priority (IISD 2016). IPBES also relies on signicant support from in-kind
contributions, including the volunteered time of all participating experts and the provision
of international technical support and facilities for its meetings.
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HOW IPBES WORKS: THE FUNCTIONS, STRUCTURES AND PROCESSES OF THE
INTERGOVERNMENTAL PLATFORM ON BIODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES
3. CONCLUSION
The functions, structures and processes of IPBES, summarised here for the rst Work
Program, are inevitably complex, incomplete, and subject to interpretation. However, their
framework provides a basis for establishing agreement – or disagreement – amongst IPBES
administrators, participants and external analysts about what the Platform is and how it
should operate.
As outlined in the introduction, I suggest that understanding these institutional
arrangements can act as a powerful and multipurpose tool.
Firstly, the IPBES arrangements operate as a map for navigating the process by
participating experts. In a Platform that seeks to be inclusive of all regions, genders and
disciplines, ensuring that new experts can provide input despite the short timelines on
which IPBES deliverables are produced is crucial. Lack of experience and knowledge of
processes is likely to be a signicant barrier to new experts putting themselves forward for
nomination by governments or stakeholders. It can also restrict the eectiveness of
participation by new experts who may take a period of time to informally learn about the
Platform. Having a basic framework of understanding in advance is likely to be a valuable
aid in eective participation.
Secondly, the IPBES arrangements can operate as a blueprint for commentators to
scrutinise and take critical stances on the Platform. Although the formal decisions that
establish the institutional arrangements are made in the Plenary, outside inputs through
published opinion pieces, for example, can and do inuence these decisions and their
subsequent interpretation. However, the qualities of IPBES will vary from dierent
perspectives,. Arguments for the Platform’s success or failure in conforming to norms of
independence, credibility, legitimacy, relevance, or otherwise, will be inescapably relative
to certain normative positions on who and what the Platform is for. How the success of
IPBES should be evaluated – and by whowill emerge over time, but creating space for
diverse perspectives on the Platform is likely to be important to this deliberative process.
Finally, the IPBES arrangements, presented here, oer a rough sketch of the
Platform, which can be used by scholars that may wish to investigate it in more detail. In
this endeavour, it can be worth remembering that the realities of implementation are often
messy, power imbalances in ostensibly egalitarian processes are rarely explicit, and
apparently clear demarcations become blurry when looked at in increasing detail. This
working paper provides a rough, and partial, basis for more detailed future analysis.
If IPBES achieves similar international standing for biodiversity as the IPCC has
for climate change, it will have increasing inuence over international discussions about
the governance of nature and its benets to people. In light of this, it should be
19
C-EENRG Working Papers, 2016-2
remembered that knowledge is not a neutral input to decision making in environmental
governance (Turnhout et al. 2016). As such, paying greater attention to the precise
mechanisms of knowledge production can be understood as another signicant part of the
deliberative process (Miller 2007). In order to contribute to this process for biodiversity
governance, this working paper draws attention to the institutional arrangements of
IPBES with the purpose of facilitating broader participation, greater accountability, and
more extensive scholarly analysis on the Platform.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, UK (PhD
Studentship Award). The author would also like to thank Bill Adams, Chris Sandbrook
and anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper.
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