Friday, September 18. 2009
The last day of this important meeting for Europe’s cetaceans starts with the Chairman asking the meeting to keep interventions to the minimum. Along with many other delegates, he is hoping to finish at lunchtime and get an early flight home. The two working groups that met yesterday give reports on their work and then, one by one, the resolutions that endorse new actions, workplans and conservation plans reviewed in these working groups are subject to their final review. With very few comments each is passed. WDCS asks for a couple of minor changes – for example to make it clear that the steering group aiming to make a new engagement with fishermen is led by the Chairman of the Advisory committee (thereby allowing it to get on with its work) – and our suggestions are agreed.
This may not be the most exciting aspect of conservation work (no sea-spray in the face here) but it is potentially important. Firstly we have to agree actions that are likely to improve the situation for cetaceans, then we have to have the relevant countries (or ‘Parties’ as they are called here) agree to them, then – of course – the actions really need to happen. This last thing needs to happen far beyond the meeting room of the United Nations in Bonn, but here we can at least conclude the first two steps.
Denmark remains concerned about wording that relates to introducing consideration of all cetaceans (rather than just small cetaceans) into the Agreement. The Chair nimbly eases some compromise language into place. Norway, which has not signed the agreement but present here as an observer, is probably interested in this matter; its delegate has publicly indicated that Norway is interested in joining the agreement (this has come as something of a surprise as this country has not shown interest in ASCOBANS for many years). The only major area of work that has not been successfully concluded is the education and outreach plan but this will be looked at by the Advisory committee in some six months time and (hopefully) finalised then.
Denmark is also concerned about some procedural matters. She proposes that the Advisory Committee meeting before the next ASCOBANS meeting in three year’s time should agree any resolutions before they come to the MOP. However, there is some concern that this would in effect make the Advisory Committee the key decision making body and how would the MOP deal with matters that arise at the meeting itself? It is agreed that this matter will be further looked at but not revision is made to the MOP’s rules of procedure at this time. The biggest debate turns out to concern the press release that will be put out by the Secretariat at the end of the meeting. Some parties find the original draft too dramatic and a new version is swiftly agreed.
Then, suddenly, it is all over. The Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary are thanked. The representative of the United Nations Environment Programme also graciously thanks the non-governmental observers and after much hand-shaking (and even some hugging) the meeting room is again left empty. With conservation plans that have been several years in development now agreed; a mechanism to look at the western Baltic area that falls between them; a new plan for engagement with fishermen empowered and a budget for the next three years in place, ASCOBANS looks again ‘fit for purpose’. However, the WDCS team leaves with the comment of one of the regions’ cetacean experts ringing in its ears – Dr Peter Evans in an insightful speech following his receipt of the ASCOBANS education award – commented that the cetaceans in the region has yet to feel any benefit from the Agreement.
This needs to change.
An interview with part of the WDCS team at the COP talking about the issues and the meeting can be found on the website of Deutsche Welle (in English) here.
Good bye again Bonn. Thank you valiant ASCOBANS Secretariat for your hard work and compliments to the Parties and our fellow non-governmental organizations for moving the process along.