Intergovernmental panel discusses training for biodiversity studies
October 15, 2014
By Karina Toledo
Agência FAPESP – The ability to generate cutting-edge scientific knowledge and make it accessible to help formulate public policies aimed at protecting biodiversity and sustainable development varies enormously among the world’s countries.
Aware of this asymmetry, members of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have approved their first work program, which includes activities scheduled for 2014-2018 – the establishment of a task force aimed at promoting professional and institutional capacity building needed to meet the demands of the organization.
Members of this task force met September 15-16, 2014 in São Paulo with academicians, representatives from the private sector, NGOs, United Nations (UN) environmental programs and other multilateral institutions to discuss strategies that allow raising the necessary technical and financial funds.
“The IPBES has four principal functions: perform an assessment of the status of knowledge on biodiversity throughout the world, offer guidelines for generating new knowledge and managing information, support the development of public policies, and, last, offer capacity building so that these three other functions can take place and ensure effective participation by all member countries,” explained Ivar Baste, member of the IPBES Board of Directors and co-coordinator of the capacity building task force.
According to Baste, the purpose of the São Paulo meeting was to understand how to make the capacity-building process more sustainable. “We want to use the lessons learned through previous experiences to understand how we can connect to capacity-building initiatives already in place and how we can more effectively communicate the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services in sustainable development and the progress of human welfare,” he said.
According to Carlos Alfredo Joly – who, in addition to coordinating the Biota-FAPESP Program, is a member of the IPBES Multidisciplinary Panel of Experts as well as a member of the capacity-building task force –, all 119 countries that make up the platform were consulted about their professional training requirements.
“We conducted a screening to select priorities and determine how we could meet the demand. In this meeting, we’ll be discussing initiatives similar to those developed by the United Nations Development Program Convention on Biological Diversity (UNDP) and other previous experiences to determine what new things we could add,” Joly said.
Discussions were aimed at providing information for a second meeting, also in São Paulo, September 17-19, 2014, in which task force members would develop work proposals for approval at the IPBES plenary assembly scheduled for January 2015.
One of the main proposals involves the creation of a matchmaking facility, or in other words, a tool that enables matching capacity-building demands on the part of the various partners to offers of support by institutions and individuals at the same time.
A similar initiative was presented by Richard Byron-Cox, capacity-building officer of the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and creator of the Capacity Building Marketplace portal.
“There is a huge demand for capacity building, and there are also many people and institutions ready to help. The problem is that demand is in one place and supply is in another. This online market is looking to serve as a point of convergence between those who have requests to make and those who have something to offer, be it training, volunteer or consulting work, or financial resources,” said Byron-Cox.
As one of the representatives of the private sector, Luiz Eugênio Mello, director of the Vale Technological Institute, emphasized in an interview with Agência FAPESP that the meeting explained the possibilities for identifying “common objectives” that allow “interaction between governments, academia and private initiative in achieving the platform goals.”
“Vale is a company that is present in 30 of the 119 member countries of the IPBES and is significantly interested in monitoring biodiversity in practically all of them. It also has very valuable resources. For example, it maintains a nature preserve in Linhares (ES), which is the largest contiguous area of low-altitude native forest in the Atlantic Forest. It also operates the world’s largest iron ore mine, maintained inside the Carajás National Forest (PA). Both are ideal locations for conducting inventories and training staff,” Mello said.
Stanley Asah, professor at the University of Washington, in the United States, also spoke during the meeting about how members of the IPBES could enhance communication to better engage partners.
“For members of the capacity-building task force, for example, it’s important to know how to show potential donors how they can benefit from the donation. But getting donations is the easy part; the hard part is maintaining them in the long term. For that, we need to examine how they are changing the motivations and interests of the donors, adapting the program so that they can continue to meet these expectations and the objectives of the IPBES.”
Goals for 2018
In an event open to the public at FAPESP headquarters on September 17, 2014, members of the IPBES presented an overview of the platform’s work program for the 2014-2018 period.
During the opening session, FAPESP President Celso Lafer noted that Joly’s participation in the IPBES initiatives is a result of his work on the FAPESP Research Program on Biodiversity Characterization, Conservation, Restoration and Sustainable Use (Biota-FAPESP).
Lafer also highlighted the contributions FAPESP has made to the process of decision making and public policy formulation through its three main research programs: Biota-FAPESP, the FAPESP Bioenergy Research Program (BIOEN) and the FAPESP Research Program on Global Climate Change (RPGCC).
“The relationship between science and the decision-making process is crucial, particularly in terms of the environment. Having participated as minister [of Foreign Affairs] at Rio 92 [United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development] and at Rio +10, I have always been very careful and attentive to this subject, and so I am extremely proud of the three major programs FAPESP supports and sustains,” Lafer said.
Baste noted that Rio 92 left an impressive legacy and was responsible for placing the world on a path of sustainable development.
In addition to the capacity-building task force, two similar initiatives are also in place in the IPBES work program, one aimed at improving the process of scientific data and information management and the other at integrating indigenous knowledge and local research studies into the scientific process and the assessment and accounting of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Also scheduled is a set of global and regional assessments on topics such as pollinating agents and their relationship to food, the problem of invasive species, and the processes of land degradation and restoration.
The idea is that by December 2018, they will publish the global assessment of the status of biodiversity and ecosystem services – a report that is expected to inform decision making at all area conventions.
“The regional assessments will begin to be conducted in 2015. In order for Brazil to effectively participate in preparing a good report about Latin America and the Caribbean, we will need a good national assessment of the status of the ecosystems and biodiversity, about how anthropic alterations change how they function, and the impacts on ecosystem services. Because we don’t yet have this assessment, we’ll need to work at both the national and regional levels simultaneously. This will only be possible with a strong commitment from the scientific community that works in this field in Brazil,” Joly said.
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