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Cablegate: France Sets New Biodiversity Mechanism Initiative

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

071530Z Jul 05




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 119273

1. Summary. On June 28, France confirmed its desire to
facilitate the launch of an international multi-stakeholder
consultative process to assess the need for an
"international mechanism of scientific expertise on
biodiversity" (IMOSEB). An informal meeting hosted by the
GOF gave 40 participants an opportunity to express their
(divided) views about the relevance of an IMOSEB and raise a
number of questions related to the assessment process.
Discussions at the end of the meeting -- definition of
governance bodies for the consultative process, timeframe,
budget considerations -- confirmed the determination of the
GOF to set the initiative in motion without delay. End

2. Background information: A number of participants
commended the French organizers of the International
Conference on Biodiversity and Governance held in Paris in
January 2005 for bringing together a range of visions on
biodiversity challenges, for identifying research needs, and
for enhancing public awareness. During that conference,
President Chirac, recalling the work of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), proposed
the creation of a similar type of mechanism for
biodiversity. The conference final statement -- the manner
of vetting of which had raised many questions -- called for
the launch of an international, multi-stakeholder
consultative process to assess the need for such a
mechanism. The purpose of the Paris meeting, on June 28,
was to initiate the "next steps" consultative process.

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3. Hosted by the French Research Ministry, the Paris June
28 workshop gathered 40-45 participants. One-fourth of the
audience came from the French Research, Ecology, Foreign
Affairs, Education, and Overseas Territories Ministries.
Several members of the Scientific Committee in charge of the
January Conference also attended, as well as representatives
of CBD, UNEP, IUCN, FAO. The Canadian, Belgian, Brazilian,
Italian, Danish, German, Mexican, Japanese, U.S., British,
and Madagascan governments sent representatives either from
capitals or local embassies and the European Commission sent
two participants. Non-government organizations and the
university sector were also represented (e.g. DIVERSITAS,
the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF),
Missouri Botanical Gardens, the Zoological Society of
London, French National Center for Scientific Research
(CNRS), and the Universities of Chile and Mexico and
University of Stanford).

4. At the start of the workshop, the group elected as its
chairman Michel Loreau, ecology professor and head of the
January 2005 Biodiversity Conference Scientific Committee.
The second key person was Bob Watson, Chief Scientist at the
World Bank, and author of the note on international
scientific and technical assessments circulated prior to the

A divided audience
5. Initial discussions revisited the question of the need
for a new mechanism to address scientific information
related to biodiversity. From the outset, and repeatedly,
the U.S. representatives, Embassy Paris Acting Science
Counselor and Scientific Affairs Specialist, presented
clearly the negative views regarding the proposed mechanism
and concerns of the U.S. government, as contained in reftel.
A Brazilian government representative read an official
statement, stressing the role and importance of CBD as a
main international instrument and stating that the creation
of a new mechanism could weaken the Convention, an outcome
"not acceptable to Brazil." An EU Commission representative
noted that the January Conference final statement (calling
for a consultative process, para 2) was not a "consensus"

6. The idea that a new mechanism would be redundant and
even detrimental to the existing Convention on Biological
Diversity's Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and
Technological Advice (SBSTTA) found some resonance among the
audience. A number of participants acknowledged the
insufficient CBD coordination of scientific expertise and
the need for improvement, but also argued that interested
members of the world community should work on improving the
Convention, instead of developing new overlapping mechanisms
which might dilute investment and expertise.

7. Other participants opined that biodiversity issues are
not prominent enough and that the establishment of a new
mechanism would put biodiversity at the forefront. They
also highlighted the need for "external independent
scientific expertise" (i.e. outside the CBD), stating that
the real issue is not "whether SBSTTA can or cannot do the
job" but whether one should separate evaluation from
management. According to these participants, a new
mechanism would "strengthen, not weaken," and "complement,
not challenge" the CBD.

8. Chairman Loreau concluded the first part of the
discussion by noting a "consensus" on the part of the
audience that the system (of scientific evaluation) is not
working sufficiently well. He acknowledged the divided
views of the audience concerning the necessity for a new
mechanism and the type of structure needed, and underscored
that the purpose of the consultation process initiated by
France is "to explore the options and assess the need for a
new mechanism."

Scope of the assessment process
9. The second part of the "brainstorming" discussion
focused on the assessment process and proposed modalities
for stakeholder consultations. At this point, many
questions concerned the scope of the assessment, i.e.
whether it should emphasize biodiversity or encompass both
biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services; and whether
it should provide the scientific and technical basis for
CBD only or for all ecosystem-related conventions (CCD,
Ramsar, CITES, and CMS). Participants expressed concern
about the time needed to carry out "genuine" consultations
prior to finalizing the recommendations. They also
discussed relationships between the proposed assessment
and existing initiatives (notably the Millennium

10. The general conclusion to the second part of the one
day session was that the scope of the assessment process
should be "broad" and that the consultation process should
be given sufficient time and focus on identifying the key
functions which need to be strengthened.

Launching of the process: logistics
11. Governance bodies: The participants and the
organizers eventually agreed on the following:

-- Composition of the International Steering Committee
(ISC): the group should be expanded to include up to 80
participants gathering scientific and institutional
expertise, taking into account geographical representation
and a "balanced participation" of the types of actors on
biodiversity. The following three groups were established
from within the ranks of the International Steering

-- a small executive bureau: seven interim members,
including Chilean Mary de Arroyo, and French Chairman
Michel Loreau, were appointed, to be reconfirmed by the
Chairman of the ISC, once elected. This executive bureau
will make proposals to the ISC about new members.

-- a working group (5-6 participants) within the ISC to
draft a "concept paper" to reformulate the terms of
reference for the study and "stimulate the debate."

-- an Executive Secretariat (two staff) to monitor the
consultative process. The ES will be located in the
premises of French NGO, Diversitas Paris. Pending final
approval for a two-year funding commitment from the GOF
and in the absence of other proposals, the Executive
Secretariat is likely to be headed by Diversitas Executive

Director Anne Larigauderie.

12. Study timeframe and location of meetings: The ISC is
planning to develop a preliminary report for presentation
during the next Conference of the Parties of the CBD in
March 2006, and a final report by May 2006. Four meetings
have been scheduled for consultations, development of the
options, and finalization of the study. The first meeting
(June 28) and third meeting (December 2005) are hosted and
funded by the GOF. The location and funding for the other
two meetings (October 2005, March 2006) remain to be

13. Budget/Fund raising. Estimated costs for the study
approximate 420,000 Euros. France has announced it will
host two ISC meetings (out of four) and will also
"contribute" to the expenses of the Executive Secretariat.
Chairman Loreau made an appeal for other contributions,
but received no immediate offers.

14. Next steps and pending issues:
-- Drafting of a concept paper (para 11) and new terms of
reference. This document should be ready within 2-3 weeks
for review by the ISC.
-- Finalizing the composition of the ISC (up to 80
-- Designation of ISC chairman (to be elected by the ISC)
-- Budget and fundraising
-- Location of second and fourth meeting (one in Asia?).

15. Comment: The Paris workshop confirmed the
determination (steamrolling) of the GOF to create a new
international biodiversity mechanism for scientific
assessments despite calls, like that presented by the
U.S., that such a mechanism is not needed and would serve
to disrupt existing arrangements in existing biodiversity
agreements and treaties. Whether the Elysee-driven
initiative will gain momentum and obtain international
recognition and participation remains to be seen. Answers
to French appeals for financial and logistical commitments
will soon clarify the resonance and ownership of the
French initiative. Other pending issues include the size
and composition of the ISC, which may evolve in the near
future. This will determine whether it will remain both
manageable and legitimate as a representative body.
Embassy representatives requested to remain associated
with the Steering Committee in order to be in a position
to monitor developments.


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