Okay, so now I have seen everything.
Japan, devastated by the tsunami and earthquake, reeling after Fukushima, is going to spend even more money on subsidizing its whaling fleet. ABC is reporting that around an additional 2 billion yen will be put into the overall support (some estimates put it at the equivalent of Aus$40 million) for the loss making fleet.
And the reasons reported for this. Japan does not wish to loose face in being seen to give into opposition to its whaling policy.
So Japanese people will suffer, areas of Japan will be rebuilt later, just because Japan cannot get over a cultural hurdle? What is so stupid is that the disasters of the last year are the perfect excuse for Japan to save face and get out of this preposterous business once and for all.
But no, Japan's pride in its unnecessary whaling is so important, that it must be put before the safety and future of millions of Japanese, many of who care little about whaling or are unaware of the global opinion about Japan's renegade whaling.
Yep, now I have seen everything.
Okay, so now I have seen everything.
All the discussion of the economic problems in the global economy is annoying. Not because there is not a problem, but because I feel that the media can sometimes move from 'reporting the issues' to 'hyping the gloom'. Just look how the markets react to the latest media reports on rumours and suggestions of countries defaulting on their loans. Now it may well be about to happen, but some reports seem to help it on its way by causing such gloom that it becomes a component of causation. I am sure the Greek Government would like people to stop stating that 'its going to default on its debt', as every published article or news piece seems to add another percentage point to its repayment costs - and so hasten the default.
Unfortunately it also happens in the whaling debate. Recently in Brussels it was reported that a member of the EU Commission seemed to be telling other colleagues and MEPs that the 'IWC needs fixing before it falls apart'. This is the kind of thing we hear when people are badly briefed and think that, they, despite all the efforts of others, can 'fix the problem'.
What plank of logic this is based on I don't know. Yes the whaling interests in Norway, Japan and Iceland have worked hard to create the image of a 'dsyfunctional IWC', but its their actions that has made the IWC a difficult place to work in. The conservation-led countries don't need to hype the problems, they need to help stop the whaling interests making it worse. The EU should definately not give the whalers what they want because its the 'easy option' or because its seen as a way of 'fixing' the IWC.
It's like rewarding a screaming drunk with another bottle of booze, after everyone has said its cannot have any more because its bad for them and those around them. But the drunk is stuck in the past and like a badly behaving child, will rant and flail until they get what they want. Some justify giving in by saying its the only solution (for an easy life), because otherwise the drunk will go and smash their way into the off-licence and take the booze themselves. So they break the rules, they bend the rules, - 'because what else can they do?'
Well there is a lot they can do. And they can start by listening to those who understand the history of the whaler's manoeurverings in the IWC, and not the panicked calls of a few bureaucrats. If they are not extremely careful, their ignorance of the issue will deliver the whalers all they want, and more.
When people start believing the hype they can make mistakes. The EU Commission needs to think carefully about where its getting its briefings from and Member States should not give into the rhetoric coming from some about a 'dyfunctional' IWC, - else they may well just help create one.
So, we have now had a little sleep (and some fresh air), enjoyed some daylight and we have been reflecting on this momentous meeting of the whaling Commission.
Sunday July 17th.
Most IWC delegates have now left the island of Jersey and are scattered across the globe again. A few of us linger on. Jersey is too pleasant for some not to tarry here! The herrings gulls are still crying overhead and occasionally sneaking easy meals amongst heavy crockery that offers these muscular birds little challenge. The British Booze Hounds still roam wild too but they can be easily avoided. Just a few minutes drive away from the many bars and seductive night life of St Helier, are quiet leafy avenues, picturesque sandy coves and, of course, green fields hosting the handsome eponymous cows.
The Great Hall and the corridors of the Hotel de France now only hold memories of what occurred there over the last two weeks. These include the numerous interventions on science and conservation that were never spoken; the faded promises of non-governmental interventions; the ghosts of commitments from nations that never reached the record; and great whirling gyres of marine debris briefings that failed to generate a single helpful word during the public plenary of the whaling commission. But all is not lost, indeed far from it, bear with us and we will explain.
Media attention of course focused on the dramatic mass-walk out of the pro-whaling block and this clearly served its purpose. It stopped the meeting in its tracks and attempting to get it back on the rails used up all the remaining time available to the annual meeting. Because of this the excellent conservation work being done within the various bodies of the IWC went un-aired. And this surely is what the whaling nations wanted. For example, no one was able to highlight and praise the excellent conservation work on ship-strikes led by the Belgian Commissioner, Alexandre de Lichtervelde. Similarly, nations were largely unable to probe the arcane but vitally important report of the IWC’s Scientific Committee; and we know that many questions were poised but never aired. Hence as a strategy, if the whaling nations wanted the public discussion of these matters to be blocked, and we think they did, they were successful.
It is also likely that they were to some extent punishing the conservation block for the passage of the UK/EU proposal on governance which many of them would have been very bitter about. We will come back to this.
However, there may be a significant price for the use of a tactic that stopped an international treaty body from functioning. Many legal experts will now start to meticulously analyse what happened in Jersey. Some are already suggesting that the Chair should have moved to a vote the first time this was proposed (which was actually by Russia) under the IWC’s own rules and, if he had done this, the matter might have been resolved in a few minutes. However, this is probably only a small issue and the Chairman was in a very difficult position. Of much greater significance are the wider consequences of this action by a number of democratic countries with commitments to the rule of international law, including Iceland, Norway and Japan. International law would grind to a halt if this tactic of walking out part-way through a meeting to destroy its quorum was an acceptable mechanism. Voting and agreeing by qualified or other majorities is the normal mechanism. This is not just about the whales but about the fundamental principles underpinning all international agreements. These principles were undermined by the actions of the whaling nations.
Returning to governance and, as we hope we explained in the blog, the passage of the UK’s proposals makes the 2011 Jersey meeting of tremendous importance. The acceptance of the package was an enormous success and we predict that some of the problems that have dogged the IWC for many years will now start to fade. ‘This was huge!’ as we said in the blog.
Something else of great importance also happened this year. For sometime we have raised concerns about the conduct of some subsistence hunts by indigenous people. This year the Commission finally agreed to initiate a programme that might tentatively be called ‘the road to reform of ‘Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling’, including working to ensure that indigenous whalers improve the humaneness of the hunts, address growing commerciality of products intended to meet subsistence needs, and provide adequate data in support of their requests for a whaling quota.
Whilst the whalers killed any public discussion of a priority issues for WDCS this year – the threat posed by marine debris to whales and dolphins – we did receive considerable support from many countries in the margins of the meeting. It was also highlighted in the Scientific Committee and has become a permanent agenda item for the Conservation Committee. Equally importantly the US plans to hold a special planning meeting on this theme in Honolulu in the coming year, and we thank them for this.
The UK, especially their legal expert (and Vicky’s minder) Jolyon Thompson, handled the whole complex issue of the governance proposal in the most exemplary manner. This was despite the fact that UK was ‘batting’ a largely new team this year, including their Commissioner, Richard Pullen. What an excellent start to his tenure in this role! We are grateful to the UK for the access that they gave to the NGO community both during the plenary, which was obviously very difficult during such a tense meeting, and before. We are also very grateful to Richard Benyon, MP, the British Minister, for coming to Jersey and bringing his passion with him. It is no secret that when he had to leave (on the second day of plenary) he was angry. He should now be feeling satisfied and pleased. There is still more to do but this was a leap forward.
We also salute our good friends Lorenzo and Yolanda on the Mexican delegation; the excellent Belgians, led by conservation-champion Alexandre, the outspoken and yet compellingly thoughtful Frederick Briand; the softly-spoken but formidable Donna Petrachenko; the determined Austrians, and also the many people who worked hard in the now largely forgotten meetings of the Scientific Committee back in Tromso including Naomi, Chris, Pierre of Luxembourg, Michael, Fabian, Uncle Frank, Bob, Justin, Jen, Russel, Miguel, Caterina and many more.
Last, but in no means least, in WDCS’s evaluation it is the Latin American countries that are now leading the conservation side for whales, along with Australia. Our compliments to you all in the BAG!
A special thanks this year to the many people, both within WDCS and outside, who helped ensure that a particularly stressful meeting for many of us, was filled with hugs, snacks, kind words and support. It is an honour to call you friends and colleagues.
Mark of WDCS (on the left) congratulates Richard Pullen, the no-longer-new UK Commissioner
The Belgian delegation, Els, Alexandre and Fabian
And finally - here is a very rare sighting indeed! Pictured below is the alternate Commissioner for Argentina, Miguel Iniguez, here accompanied by Carmen Asencio, the Spanish Commissioner (Carmen is on the left.)
Here ends the reporting from IWC 63.
A sudden outbreak of nothing occurs. The rumours are now rife around the corridors. Some believe that we will work until midnight. Others suggest that a special message is being crafted by a small group that will explain the status of the South Atlantic Santuary and how to conclude the meeting. The Chairman and Executive Secretary are currently sitting in the outer atrium surrounded by friends and sipping drinks. Many delegates have already left and will be reading this from airports and ferries as the make their ways home.
The remaining NGOs are wandering around listlessly lobbying each other. Similarly the remaining journalists (bored with the NGOs)are interviewing each other, themselves and even the flower arrangements. In the coffee areas, the huge coffin-like wooden boxes that are used to transport the essential items of Secretariat equipment are already being prepared. To the left of main stage in a largely empty great hall sits a mysterious draped item about six foot high. What is its purpose? Is it the next Chairman of the IWC? Will all be revealed? Only time may tell.
Apparently the small group now consists of Brazil, Argentina, Iceland and someone else.....
The gentlemen of Greenpeace
Niki Entrup of WDCS
The Ladies of AWI and Andy Ottaway of Campaign Whale
Else of Belgium (Argentina), Vanesa Tossenberger, and Roxana Schteinbarg
James Gray and Luke Warwick of the UK delegation
Whale-friendly Norwegians: Tanya and Linda
Thursday Morning Part Two
Will you block consensus Palau?
I did not ask for the floor, he says. There is no point in us getting our voting rights restored without using them, but we will not stand in the way of consensus.
Russia: this will destroy us but we will join consensus in case this is taken by consensus. We are against the proposal as it is. We do not want to break consensus but we will vote.
Iceland we will not take part in consensus. We will contribute to no vote taking place.
St Kitts and Nevis associates with Iceland.
Cameroon this should be left open, we support Iceland.
The Chairman asks the proponents how to proceed. Brazil says that he empathises now with what Great Britain went through in the last few days. He can feel a taste of it, he adds. He feels strongly on this matter and so do the whole Buenos Aires Group. I do not agree if we put this to the vote it will destroy the IWC. Voting is not a bad thing.
Argentina agrees. They have tried to be amenable and she asks the opposing countries to reconsider. This has been on the agenda for ten years and has been voted for before with a majority supporting. We are dramatising this.
The Chair asks for any other comments.
Japan says he speaks for the countries supporting the sustainable use of whales and would like to explain what they propose if we go for the vote. May I take more than two minutes? [The Chair nods.] We understand the importance of the proposal in front of us. We have made similar proposals about small type coastal whaling in the past. Yesterday we had wonderful progress and this morning we passed a resolution by consensus. Let us keep the dialogue of consensus and trust going. One thing different is that we think voting will have a negative effect. We don’t like to take hostile action but we are thinking of breaking the quorum of this meeting. He says it twice. Quorum would be 50% of the 89 members. When the sustainable nations leave this will break the quorum .This is not hostile, he adds mildly. [There is some laughter.]
So again I like to avoid any surprise and misunderstanding, Jogi concludes.
The spokesman for Japan on the big screen.
Colombia: We also hope to avoid voting but we must not be afraid of voting. The Buenos Aires Group will not abandon. Today… this year… some time… we will have to decide on this matter. This will define whether this conference will end, because we cannot understand that you can go in and out depending on the topics that we discuss. If the group that support’s Japan’s idea does this, it would put an end to this particular meeting.
Another Latin delegate takes the floor and passionately comments on the ‘overwhelming majority’ in favour of the proposal. We want consensus. We want an area or zone as a sanctuary – a powerful attraction for research. This will help to fight poverty. Please understand this!... voting is a highly valid democratic method. If you leave during voting this would not be acceptable and would be a lack of transparency.
Mexico supports his friends in the BAG.
Monaco believes in democracy and he reminds everyone here that the right to vote was hard won in many countries; why should we be deprived of this.
We continue in similar vein for a while.
The Chair now calls on Brazil and Argentina.
Brazil says that we should vote.
Very many delegates now start to leave the room. The Norwegians, the Russians, the Caribbeans, Africans and Palau quietly leave.
We think that the last mass walk out was at the Anchorage meeting, but we cannot recall the message.
After a while, a private Commissioner’s meeting breaks out. Some hours later, Greg Donovan Head of Science takes to the stage to tell the remaining delegates (those not already at lunch, getting a haircut or shopping) that the Commissioners are still meeting. We wait and the clock ticks increasingly loudly. How many agenda items are still left? Fifteen.
Tick, tick, tick, tick.........
14.46 There is a Herman-alert.
The Chairman is briefly sighted in the public part of the meeting forum. The slowly mounts the stage.
He says, I don't know who invented lawyers but the procedural matters are complex and we will be at least another hour. He makes to leave.
A small NGO delegate rushed forward to award him a well-deserved biscuit.
Tick... tick... tick....some delegates are seen to be leaving already.
‘This is huge!’
The reality of what was concluded last night is still sinking in. Some are suggesting that this is the most significant development since the moratorium went into place in 1982, or perhaps since the Southern Ocean Sanctuary was established.
In short the UK/EU reform package that was agreed despite some dilution coming from negotiations does the following:
- the issue of cash payments was addressed by inserting requirements for bank transfers from state institutions or government accounts
- audited financial statements will be available on the IWC public website
- mechanisms will be put into place to ensure that the decisions of the Commission are accurately reflected in writing; this applies to both consensus decisions and for decisions taken by a vote
- all documents produced during the meetings will be more accessible on the IWC public website
- there is also a mechanism by which countries cannot join at the last minute and vote; they need to be a member for at least 30 days prior to the meeting and have paid their dues prior to the first day of plenary
- the Commission will also make information more accessible and transparent via their website
The only great loss in the negotiations were the proposed improvements in participation of civil society (the NGOs). We could perhaps take it as a compliment that the voices of the NGOs are so feared that they need to be constrained here and severely limited. It is sad that the final wording did not improve the participation of civil society, but a working group has been agreed to that will review the issue and hopefully lead to improvements.
There are 16 items still on the agenda. The meeting will have to break the land-speed record for Multilateral Environmental Agreements to get through its business. Three other items on the agenda are two ‘possible tea breaks’ (without biscuits, obviously) and a ‘possible lunch break’.
Stand by, this is going to be fast and furious.
The NGOs did manage a reception last night. The indistinguised International Director of Science of WDCS, camouflaged in bowtie and matching waistcoat, welcomed everyone and introduced three speakers. These were the Commissioners for Mexico, Argentina and Belgium. There was much hilarity because the altitudinal disparity between the speakers and master-of -ceremonies required significant adjustment to the microphone.
There were three toasts during the evening – the first being the loyal toast - in the correct Jersey form - to ‘Her Majesty the Queen, the Duke of Normandy’; the second to ‘Mr Perfect’ the alternate Commissioner for the UK, who retires this year; and the last to the ‘IWC family’, WWF concluded the formal part of the evening by showing their video ‘Don’t be a bucket-head’ and generoulsy handing out ear-plugs and sleeping masks, which were much appreciated.
Mainly everyone had a nice time and celebrations and co-ordinations went on late into the night.
In reception-mode (from the left: Claire Bass of WSPA, Sue Fisher and Mark Simmonds of WDCS.
Part of the US delegation enjoying the NGO reception.
The one failing of the reception - which of course provides a place where observers and country delegates can meet and talk, was there was not enough food. Soon a queue of distinguished delegates, including several commissioners, forms outside the pizza shop around the corner from the reception.
A distinguished queue for pizza.
Anyway…. Back to the last day. Up the steep steps decorated with congratulatory snail trails. Past the British bobbies standing amiably outside the Hotel de France and into the Great (window- and biscuit-less) Hall.
‘Good morning. I expect that you will be pleased when this is finished.’
‘Good morning – my feet will be! replies the beaming policeman rising up on his heels in traditional manner.
Delegates mill and then distil into their seats
Good morning says Herman O, the Chair who sounds more that a little hoarse this morning.
We return to the issue of safety at sea. Japan has prepared a new resolution on this theme. Australia speaks up to support peaceful protest at sea and calls for consensus and other similar things. For example, India is deeply concerned and opposed to violent protest at sea by any individuals but they support peaceful protest.
The resolution text on lime green paper states (amongst other things) that the Parties ‘Agree that the resolution of differences on issues regarding whales and whaling should not be pursued through violent actions that risk human life and property at sea’
Can we adopt this by consensus? Cautious applause breaks out, then builds.
I take it that we do then says the Chair.
We move to the issue of Sanctuaries and there is a proposal from Argentina and Brazil for a Southern Ocean Sanctuary. Brazil presents it.
This is an issue presented repeatedly over the last few years and never passed. Will they move to a vote today?
Delegates are carefully stepping around Vicky who has already dropped off today.
Brazil notes that 60% voted in favour the last time we voted. Since then in the spirit of consensus they have not moved it to a vote again and they have improved the proposal in these years. They now think that it is again time to bring this matter to a vote. We hope by consensus. Perhaps, he adds after some discussion over coffee. [There is laughter.]
Brazil believes that the science is with him.
Argentina has been silenced (someone has broken the wire again) a gentle bell rings in the background… are we to fasten our seatbelts; are we landing?
The Commissioner for Argentina is given a microphone – she speaks eloquently and with gentle passion of the breeding area of the Southern Right whale and that this proposal is to establish a non-lethal management zone. Argentina has the longest constant study – over 40 years – on Southern right whales she says proudly. They seek long term protection and recovery. This proposal is not new – we last asked for a vote in 2007. We have been patient over the last few years. We seek consensus. For five years the Buenos Aires group has spoken of its support for this proposal.
The Chairman reminds all of the 2 minute rule and that we will be hearing from NGOs in due course. [Or will we…. There are some herds of giraffes on the way.
The Chairman reads a list which includes the mysterious countries of ‘Spare 1’ and ‘Spare 2’.
Various countries speak in support. These include the Latin Countries and the USA (their support is ‘unqualified’ states their Commissioner and she hopes for consensus). Australia concludes a statement in support within ‘four seconds’ of the Chairman’s deadline and stresses the conservation benefits.
However Palau states that he will vote against; as he has before. He is not convinces that the whales in the area are critically endangered. The UK says that their position is clear. Sanctuaries are a key conservation element and the IWC should both create and respect them. They support Brazil and Argentina.
Chile speaks of his hope for consensus (was he not listening to Palau). India too hopes for consensus and asks Palau to re-consider their position.
Russia (there is a gentle sigh): our position is well-known. We support the creation of sanctuaries in the areas where it is needed and on a case-by-case basis. The proposal from Argentina and Brazil interferes with the process of the 'Future of IWC’. There was a decision to take this as a process. We do not support global sanctuaries whilst the moratorium is in force. We request Brazil and Argentina to withdraw the process if they do not want to destroy the future process. This kills the future process by ‘unhumane methods’.
The Chair invites Uruguay because their microphone is not working ‘to move to another country’. There is some laughter
Uruguay moves to ‘Spare One’ and gives his full support to the sanctuary and congratulates the Chair on his election and process. He also thanks the Secretary.
Iceland recalls that the proponents were not eager to establish the sanctuary when we were working on a package deal and there is no scientific basis and justification for a sanctuary.
New Zealand likes consensus and says we should work towards this.
Denmark has repeatedly announced its positive stance towards real sanctuaries. However, the Danish parliament has announced that we have to vote yes on this proposal if it is put in front of this body. In the future, we are clear that sanctuaries must have a positive support from the Scientific Committee and all coastal states must support.
Israel is considerably more positive about the sanctuary.
Monaco says ‘Bonjour’ and he is loud and strong in support of the sanctuary. Monaco overwhelmingly supports the proposal. Consensus is a process that works on the majority of most.
Switzerland has been to Patagonia. He worked there in 87, and he has been back since, and he knows the efforts made there to protect the whales and the importance of local people and whale watching there. Finding consensus takes a lot of time here and we may not have time to do this here. We should leave this item open. We do not need to decide today.
St Kitts and Nevis says he sees this as an emotional response and wants a more thorough discussion.
Portugal hopes that we do not have to go to a vote.
Spain says that much time has passed since we last voted. Last time we supported and we noted at this time that consultation with coastal states was needed. In the intervening 11 years this has been remedied She too prefers not to vote.
Cameroon wishes to keep the item open.
Now we move to the NGO interventions. Each will get four minutes and be cut off. A speaker on the behalf of Latin American NGOs says that it is a well known fact that whales were affected by the whale Olympics of previous years [whaling]. The moratorium allowed recovery but more decades are needed for recovery. She makes her case eloquently and concludes with the hope that this highly restrictive means of NGO participation will be revised.
Someone from the IWMC organisation thanks Brazil and Argentina and says we should consider the broader view. The way one species is managed affects how other species are manged. We must use best tools. Whale sanctuaries are a blunt instrument because they cover all species. They are not a tool because cover all specie including those that are not endangerted. No whale haunting takes place within the boundaries of the sanctuary this situation is magnified and this sanctuary is largely symbolic. This will be used by those opposing whaling… Ultimately these measures affect fisheries and … give the impression that all environmental effects have been addressed. We need a management system based on science on which whaling can be managed – the purpose of this organisation – and whale sanctuaries will be unnecessary. This lacks scientific justification. We were told that the Southern Ocean Sanctuary was a failure with a little rationale behind and there is no clear recommendation from the Scientific Committee that…[he is cut off but can still be faintly heard in the distance bemoaning this and that].
I am sorry said the Chair.
The Chair asks us if a cup of coffee would be a good idea.
Brazil says that he could use some coffee.
A long coffee break follows. The Buenos Aires Group meets in one corner. The UK NGOs meet with the UK Commissioner in another. Press people rest in their special place – a gallery high about the hall where they can watch all the comings and going and with the aid of a small telescope quite possibly read all the delegates' computer screens below.
Will the NGOs have their reception? Will anyone come? Will the EU resolution survive?
Whilst we wait let’s have a look at a new paper that has arrived in the pigeon holes:
‘Information Note on RMP tuning and Catch Limits Calculated by the Scientific Committee’ submitted by Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand and United States.’
It provides a more detailed explanation of the discussion yesterday and adds a comment to clarify this in the Chairman’s summary. In particular it notes this ‘Discussions and comments on Monday afternoon in relationship to questions relating to the North Atlantic Fin whales may have left some delegations with the impression that the catch limits for different tunings had an equivalent scientific basis. Such an impression would be incorrect.’
Conservation and Welfare NGO delegate are running around trying to save their planned reception this evening. Can the food and drink be brought from the Royal Hotel to the Hotel de France? (How much Tupperware have the NGOs between them.) The latter hotel agrees – so far so good - but the former has a health and safety issue with the food making its way down the road on its own. This is not unreasonable.
There is a fifteen minute walk between the two hotels. Will delegates be given long enough to get there, get fed and watered and canter back, before something exciting happens? Or will harassed delegates, go there, not get enough food and get back just after a key vote?
Ok and we are back in the room.
The Chairman says – we are nearly ready. A revised version of the document is brought into the room and a lone but fast-moving member of the Secretariat armed with a stack of lime-green papers can be seen moving across the floor of the meeting hall. No wait, a second member of secretariat staff is here too. Then a third: Redoubtable old Bernard is whizzing around too. ‘Excuse me’ calls out the European Commission ‘As I did the typing, can I have one’!
Soon all the copies are exhausted and none have reached the NGO benches. But we don’t care: For we have tables and water and we can read emails and watch You-Tube and have our own co-ordinations and irritate each other and so forth.
The co-ordinator of the informal drafting group (New Zealand) is called on to report back. A small group met over the last few hours and will now take everyone through the document.
He lists some changes and gives some of the explanations behind them. You can find the amended document on the IWC website here: http://www.iwcoffice.org/_documents/commission/IWC63docs/63-8rev%202.pdf
Paper copies start reaching the NGO benches at 17.31.
New Zealand ploughs on through the changes. Here is a key part ‘unless the payment has been made and the Commission is satisfied that the delay in receipt is due to circumstances beyond the control of the Contracting Governments’. This is new.
The Chair opens the floor for comments.
There is a pause… are there none?
The USA says that when get together with a consensus for working together progress can be made.
The UK states that the text was modest before but they are content and commend it to other delegates for adoption by consensus.
Iceland thanks the Commissioner for New Zealand and the other participants and he is pleased that his expectations were met by working together to find consensus in the small working group.
St Kits and Nevis: Thank you Mr Chair. Thanks to the distinguished Commissioner for New Zealand and the members of the group and commend them, including myself [laughter]. There seems to be a will now to reach consensus and I hope this is a test of the way forward.
Palau is pleased with this too and Japan says it is a ‘fine piece of work’ and asks for one more thing. Assuming this is accepted as an adopted adopted by consensus is should be seen as a resolution that is an achievement for this body as a whole. It is not a victory of one party over another.
Ghana says let us carry this consensus on to the end. He feels more comfortable this year than last.
The UK Commissioner too feels that it has been a good day and he sincerely hopes it is adopted by consensus and we Some of us would have liked to have gone further on observers. We have all had to show willingness to compromise. So I would also like to pay tribute to all the people involved and in particular my colleague Jolian Thompson (the UK Legal Expert.) He echoes Japan is saying that this is a win for all of us here.
Can we adopt by consensus.
Pause. There is a whirring of the air-conditioning. Sea gulls cry far away. Even further away giraffes roam.
This document is adopted by consensus.
Vicki, who has earlier been off for a swim with a Norwegian animal welfare group, is startled by the action, stands up and appreciatively wags her tail.
A private Commissioners meeting is called. In which ‘the only matter of business’ is the order of business.
The Executive Secretary announces that the NGO reception will go ahead in the Royal Hotel from 7pm.
Meanwhile it is not raining on the Belgians and Luxembourg has had a significant hair cut.
There is a pause.....
The Chairman returns to tell us that Commissioners will have two minute interventions and then be cut off by the technicians. We will finish F&A, then Aboriginal Subsistence, Small Type Coastal Whaling (where Japan usually asks for a relief quota) and so on.
But no clue on any dinner break. Somewhere some food is being prepared and many NGOs are running around to prepare a Reception that seems unlikely again.
A good night for snails.
The sun is shining. Delegates from lesser hotels around St Helier make their way up the steep steps leading to the Hotel de France, home to IWC63. A medical centre has been built conveniently adjacent to these steps to cope with those that do not quite make it.
One small delegate is seen heading determinately in the wrong direction having arrived without the badge that allows his entry.
Many snails have left their shining trails across the steps. Is there a message here, can anything be read into the shining loops and zig-zags sprawled across the concrete? Does if spell ‘Save the Whales’ or ‘Stop the Bloody Whaling’? Probably not; perhaps the snails don’t care.
Fortunately the many conservation and welfare NGOs gathering now inside the great hall care greatly. Many have devoted significant parts of their lives to this issue and for them, each year the Moratorium survives – for all of its flaws – is a success and those of us that work inside the halls are no less committed, no less engaged and feel no less passion than those that serve the cause by protesting outside.
Here are the big questions for today:
1. Which animal welfare organisation or distinguished scientist will be tasked with walking Vicky today.
2. Did the Commissioners resolve the issue with the UK/EU resolution in the never-ending coffee break yesterday?
3. How many members of the EU are actually here?
The Chair calls for order and we are off: I don’t want to restrict speaking rights. Keep comments brief.
UK Commissioner: My distinguished colleagues will talk through the proposal. He then lists all the countries that are cosponsoring it. If we are to have a real prospect of modernising the IWC we need to work together. We need a common goal of putting the IWC reputation behind us. Put the time that we wasted yesterday behind us. These matters have been discussed in the F&A committee last week, here yesterday and in the private commissioners meeting. I should reinforce the message from my minister that the package presented here is the bare minimum.
The Commissioner passes the microphone to his legal expert who takes us carefully through the revised proposal on governance from the UK and EU. He comments that after yesterday’s discussion and confusion on the sponsors that should have taken only a couple of minutes; we have submitted a new proposal with the co-sponsors. … and he list the nations of the EU who are signed on.
He repeats that these proposals are the modest and the bare minimum and accepted elsewhere. The interest generated in this proposal says much about this organisation
The Scientific Committee regularly updates its procedures and we have reflected this. We also ask the SC to continue their good work in reviewing their practices. There is a proposal about developing countries (as proposed by the Secretariat yesterday) – we all support the need to support developing countries and we should support such a system here, which the Secretariat should look into further.
There is a new paragraph on observers. Originally we proposed the participation of observers in plenary debate. Having heard the debate in the F&A committee, we have removed all the previously proposed amendments relating to this. We regret this. Instead we have put in place a working group to look at this matter and report back next year..
On the issue of the designation of alternate commissioners: The idea is to have a constant point of contact with government. Buy we have heard that this might cause difficulties and so we have increased the flexibility in this. Now we propose an alternate, focal or contact point – the latter could even be an email address. This allows for great flexibility in this.
We propose a change in decision-making and we had a good discussion on this in F&A. Essentially this is designed to allow texts/decisions that we will adopt to be shown on a screen. This will help ensure that all know what we are adopting. This was supported by the secretariat. The authentic text of any decision will be the English version.
Concerning voting rights – suspension applies until fees have been received. We have clarified that rights will only be available to those that have paid their dues. [There is some vagueness in the existing rules that this could in some circumstances be waved.]
Concerning the public website: here we make it clear that the website is part of the Executive Secretary’s duty.
In new clause 4.B: this is a provision for scientific advice. We have heard that the Scientific Committee could hold its meetings in good time ahead of the Commission meeting. With this intervening period – say 100 days – we need to make clear that it is Scientific Committee advice from the SC that we need to consider.
Another new rule asks for decisions to be posted on the website in good time.
Communications from the Secretariat will also be provided to observers and published on the website with some exceptions of confidential issues.
He goes on to detail the proposed financial changes. This includes the new rule that cash, cheques and credit cards will not be accepted. And payments will not be accepted until funds have cleared. He stresses the need to regularise payments and put the organisation beyond reproach. Our proposal is modest, simple and should not be controversial and we should all be able to agree this by consensus.
Finally, he notes that previously the UK had suggested changes to rule of debate to allow improved participation from observers. These are no longer there.
The Chair says that he will take comments on the various amendments in term.
Costa Rica supports the financial changes but regrets the loss of the section on observer participation.
Japan appreciates the efforts made by the UK or EU to be flexible. His delegation has a series of questions and some procedural proposals. He will just handle the resolution part at this stage. He asks for some amendments in the operative part of the Resolution.
St Kits and Nevis joins with the last speaker and graciously congratulates the United Kingdom. The proposal has ‘some merits’ and will help this organisation. Some provisions in this proposal need changing and he provides some details.
The Chair says we are only looking at the resolution now.
But St Kitts and Nevis gently continues to make a series of comments across the whole proposal. … He thanks the Chair for allowing the debate yesterday. He would not call it time-wasting; it allowed us to ensure that our rules are steadfastly adhered to by all parties. He thanks all the delegations who worked tirelessly on this to ensure that we all work within the rule. Any international organisation must seek to improve its transparency. We must work by consensus. He continues on similar theme for sometime. Whatever we agree must not be discriminatory or punitive, he stresses.
The UK calls for the microphone to clarify some points. Their legal experts points again at the relevant paragraph and carefully addresses some of the other points raised. In terms of meeting the abilities of contracting governments, he believes that all countries here (there are 89 members) should be able to make a transfer.
Mexico regrets that the observer clauses have been lost and believes that NGOs often help with knowledge gaps. He supports the revised resolution. Argentina makes similar sentiments. The Buenos Aires Group supports the participation of all observers. For security reasons, money transfers should be by bank transfers.
Germany emphasises that what is at stake today is the reputation of the IWC; concessions have been made and we regret these. Germany would be very reluctant to postpone any arrangements here to next year… we need to rebuild public confidence.
The Commissioner from the USA says she will be brief. The US is glad that this organisation has a diversity of members from around the world. They too are disappointed about the withdrawal of the clause of the speaking rights of observers. She strongly supports the changes to the financial rules but wishes to discuss further some aspects of bank transfers. We need to discuss this further and patiently work through this.
Sweden is happy to be a supporting country and the proposals are completely in line with their views.
France is also supportive and Colombia feels we need to reach agreement on this for the good of the IWC, and supports the UK.
Brazil wishes to broaden the participation of civil society and regrets this has been lost. We are here proposing to make a ‘small step’ and we need to keep working on these proposals in the future. However, we need to allow for countries that cannot get their payments in before the meeting opens but bank transfer only needs to be accepted.
New Zealand speaks for further work to resolve the fundamental disagreements between us.
Poland stresses this is a modest proposal and Monaco thanks the UK and everyone for sponsoring the resolution. He has nothing to add There is nothing and he recognises that the UK had to make many sacrifices and he calls for more work on transparency.
Chile thanks the UK and the EU; they too preferred the first version. But ‘perfect is the enemy of the good’ and he knows that compromises had to be made.
Iceland now comes to the microphone. He thanks the UK for putting the proposal in order with respect to form and for their substantive proposals. He can go along with many of them but will need to make some changes to reach consensus. From the private commissioners meeting he took it that we would work on the basis of consensus. Iceland has seen on its own skin the special circumstances where back payments may be difficult and so we need to arrange for special circumstances.
Equador thanks the UK and associates with the Buenos Aires Group.
The Chair asks if anyone wants to comment on the resolution part of the EU Resolution and Antigua and Barbuda wants to amend some clauses. She has 3-4 suggestions and the Chair asks if the UK wishes to reflect but they are waving and wish to respond now.
The UK says that they accept the earlier suggestion from Japan to ask the secretariat to report to the Commission 100 days ahead of the next meeting. He accepts some of what A & B proposed, but not all.
Is this acceptable? Says the Chair.
St Kitts and Nevis comes forward. He has always been concerned with the motives of this resolution and if we are moving towards consensus we need to refrain from the pointed accusations here – some of the language here is disrespectful and “almost discriminatory”– alluding to vote-buying – we will not be able to join in any consensus.
Iceland: I think it is important that we are favourable to amending some matters – he wishes to remove the word ‘environmental’ in the preambular text, so it just refers to multilateral agreements; he identifies some other possible changes.
We break for coffee and the Chair asks the UK to meet with a few countries; so no coffee break for them!
It is raining on the Belgians!
We move towards the popular issue of the participation by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the Commission meetings. Examples of NGOs dear reader would include the World Wide Fund for Nature. The International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and so forth.
However, Morocco wishes to say something about the visa situation. He suggests that the inability of some delegations to come to host countries is not just a handicap but discrimination by the host country. He asks that the host country commits to all the arrangements that will ensure the participation of all contracting members.
Vicky, who has now been returned to the great hall, has pricked her ears up at this.
The Chair leads us back to the participation of NGOs
This has been discussed for years says Norway. Three years ago NGOs were given trial participation and it was also on the list of issues to discuss under the Future of the IWC process. The Future of the IWC process was about normalisation and we have still not achieved this - it is still not an organisation that is able to fulfil its basic management mandate – it still needs to be ‘normalised’.
The blog scribe is pleased to recognise the return of the previously popular mantra of normalisation and efforts to normalise the IWC and its inhabitants.
Anyway, the Norwegian spokesman continues that under these circumstances it does not make sense to increase the number of voices –and his experience with NGO participation is not entirely positive. With this background, he is reluctant to endorse the idea of NGO participation.
Chair: do you agree we go ahead with the proposed way we have discussed? Norway nods in reluctant agreement.
The UK (in the form of its minister, Richard Benyon) now replies on the visa issue. He states that there are clear instructions on the IWC website for countries to apply in good time for a visa. There is no attempt being made to block applications and there is no evidence that there are visa problems.
Nonetheless, St Kitts and Nevis takes to the floor to state that this matter is of significant importance to those countries who were not given the opportunity to be here and it is of significance to countries who would normally engage in discussions with those countries. He is very disappointed with the way the secretariat wants to move forward on this issue – this is urgent but the secretariat says we have to wait until tomorrow. The explanation given has not been adequate and this issue is not being treated with the urgency that it deserves. He appeals to the Chair to indulge us in this discussion now.
The Chairman says that at the private commissioners meeting it was agreed to discuss this tomorrow!
But Antigua disagrees - the issue was raised and the secretariat said he would need a few days but we did not agree to this. This is a regrettable way of handling this matter. A number of delegations will be affected by decisions made here in their absence and they are absent for no fault of their own. The UK Minister’s response lacks compassion and empathy and has a certain terseness that is inappropriate in these circumstances. I was not intending to be here in Jersey but then decisions were made by my government that meant I had to be here in place of Antony Liverpool – these are the kind of circumstances we must be able to anticipate and deal with. We do not expect this from a country such as the UK which prides itself as being the centre of democracy and rules and is the head of the commonwealth. A significant number of West African countries have been denied the right to participate in discussions on key and critical issues that are important to them. The silence that penetrates this room since Sunday demonstrates a lack of humanity. We have been at a cross roads, valiant efforts of many to normalise [the Commission] have been met with fierce resistance – to continue to conduct this meeting in this current atmosphere and in the absence of key constituents would be a travesty of justice, this body should take a decision to postpone decisions and discussion on issues which will impact delegates who are not able to be in this room through no fault of their own. He She concludes by asking the secretariat to bring us the information on this by the end of this meeting today.
The Chair reveals that he has suffered visa difficulties himself (but presumably not on this occasion). We must try to get everything done by consensus, he adds hopefully, and says that he will try my best not to have to go to voting.
We move to the report from the Finance and Administration.
The Russian Federation is not happy with F&A. If the decision goes to the vote we cannot wait on the Secretariat report.
The Chairman says the report will come this afternoon and then we will discuss this. We should not point fingers but look to the future. There will be no votes or decisions today. He tries to move on…
Australia starts to make the report from the Finance and Administration Committee (F&A) Committee which was chaired by their commissioner. This is a long and complex report and we will only give some highlights here.
Timing of the annual meetings is discussed. The F&A Committee recommends a separation between the Scientific Committee and the Commission meetings. It also recommends holding the Commission meeting itself biennially (although some concerns were raised about this); the Scientific Committee would still meet annually.
Apparently the great hall is now leaking. The Belgian delegation – at least on its scientific left flank is getting wet. We will be offering umbrellas later. Outside protestors are now behind the barriers by the busy road in the pouring rain. The skull and crossbones is flying there and passing cars are hooting their support.
Iceland, New Zealand, Colombia and others wish to take part in a working group to look at the details of separating the meetings. Japan wants to be involved in the meetings too.
The proposals from F&A up to this point are agreed
We move on to the development of the website. Monaco is particularly pleased with a section for children that is planned. (‘How to kill your own whales for the underfives perhaps’.) It seems all are pleased with what is proposed.
We move to the issue of the review of the financial arrangements of the Commission. This includes the rules that cover cash payments made to the Commission by member nations. This is where the key UK proposal to this meeting comes up. This also extends to the use of scientific advice.
The UK proposal is a package stresses the minister. Included is the issue of NGO participation, including speaking rights. Other IGOs allow NGOs to speak at the discretion of their Chairmen/women. A dedicated NGO session was attempted last year. Some countries spoke in support of these changes during the F&A meeting, others opposed. No consensus was reached.
A document based on the UK proposals has now been tabled by Poland on the behalf of the whole EU.
The US reaches for the microphone. Their Commissioner takes a moment to thank Donna (the Australian Commissioner for her work on F&A). The USA supports the presence of observers in F&A but also that it can go into closed session if necessary. We need to evolve our practices on speaking rights, she adds
The Chair next reads out a long list of speakers who are interested in the issue of observer participation.
Argentina thanks Donna for her report. It has been said many times – as in the opening statement from the Buenos Aires Group (BAG) of countries – that we need to improve transparency. Israel too would like to bring the IWC in line with other organisations.
Iceland – we represent civil society in our country. It is often said that we do not here represent civil society but we do. We are not in favour of support NGO participation in the meetings. Various countries speak in a rather predictable manner in favour or against NGOs. A selection follows.
Colombia wishes to hear from all players.
Denmark says that we have seen this morning how fanatical some NGOs can be. They are not accredited NGOs here but this is the reason for treatment of NGOs here. We need to be convinced; a revision such as the one you have here – 3 points with 3 sets of NGO interventions would be acceptable.
Monaco has been looking at the division of time here and says that we are offering only some 2.5% of time to civil society; let us offer a fuller participation.
The UK minster respects the Chairman’s decision to take the EU proposal later but this issue needs to be taken as part of a package on governance… it is essential to adopt this package as a whole. On the issue of NGO participation this was part of our (UK) original proposal, now modified. Our package is about governance, not whales and we hope that our proposal attracts support from all members. The proposals here should at least bring us into line and EU proposals should be accepted by consensus. I have made these changes to allow for this and I am grateful to colleagues from the EU to allow this. We have been willing to compromise but the package is still the bare minimum. We need to show the world that the IWC is a functional body.
Ghana: shall we speak here about paying contributions.
No says the Chair, and he stresses that he has ended the list. The F&A report has concluded that there was no consensus on observers and there was already considerable debate about this in that committee. Meanwhile it is still raining in Jersey and in Belgium.
We next enter that part of the F&A report that deals with subscriptions from developing nations. Several countries stress how important this is to them.
But first a little light lunch and lobbying in those famous margins.
Just a reminder, as we start day two of blogging from the IWC annual meeting, that our reports are not verbatim but generally paraphrased. We endeavour to give the gist of what was said and strive for accuracy. We welcome corrections and comments. Readers will also notice that blogs often get revised as we go along.
The day starts dull and soggy. Delegates living in hotels with lesser numbers of stars pass by those breakfasting in the Hotel de France.
Even the gulls – normally pristine in their white plumage – seem a little bedraggled today, but they linger outside the meeting hoping for the odd wayward snack. There are no protestors outside yet but significant crash barriers have appeared on the road that leads towards the meeting hotel.
The issue of voting rights continues to be in play here. Who will be able to vote and is there really a problem for some getting visas?
Inside the meeting room the technicians are once again rehearsing the Japanese video about ‘violence on the high seas’. This was previously rehearsed during a coffee break yesterday. (In effect this means delegates coming into the room are getting a sneak preview of what will follow. One slide describes the tactics of the ‘SS’.)
In the pigeon holes we find a paper labelled ‘IWC/63/12 ‘Proposal to Establish an Ad Hoc Subsistence Working Group, Submitted by Demark, Russian Federation and the United States. The paper gives draft terms of reference for the group and an instruction to the Scientific Committee to provide advice to the next Commission meeting on ‘revising the current 5-year period for adopting’ the aboriginal quotas. We shall come back to this.
There is also a rather nice colour leaflet from WDCS in circulation entitled ‘Marine Debris and Cetaceans – a important role for the IWC’ (we apologise for the grammar slip in the title; someone was tired but the leaflet is otherwise jolly interesting).
There is a very brief delay in the opening of the meeting as Chairman Oosthuizen has misplaced his spectacles. Meanwhile European nations are notably whizzing around the floor co-ordinating their positions. Eventually the delegations settle, and the Chairman introduces the promised presentation on Sea Shepherd (SS). The presentation includes some audio of people shouting and the quiet voice of the Japanese Commissioner cuts in to describe the ‘violent activities’. Slides show the various boats being used and one details the ‘Harmful Assault Weapons of the SS’ which include ropes and cables to entangle propellers claims the Commissioner. The Animal Planet camera crew is also identified in the images. Despite the earlier rehearsals, the audio with the footage drowns out some of the comments made by the Commissioner. Amongst other things, Japan describes how the projectiles from the SS have penetrated nets and cloths used to try to protect their vessels.
Unfortunately one of the two giant screens at the front of the meeting fails part way through the presentation. The Japanese delegate goes on to name individuals involved and concludes with an invitation for people to contact them for more information…
No sorry, not concluded: another delegate explains that Japan’s research activities had to be truncated and that no lawful nation could condone such acts. Five activists are now on Japan’s international wanted list and arrest warrants have been issued for them.
Sometime later, Russia takes the floor to ask the two countries that Sea Shepherd is registered and flagged to, to comment. It is important to work with mass media and National Geographic that made the documentary about SS. He adds that we did not see in the [documentary] films the actions of violence shown here today.
The Netherlands states that this item should not be on the agenda of the IWC but on the agenda of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). They support peaceful demonstration including on the high seas. Safety at Sea must never be jeopardised. They have had several bilaterals with Japan in which they have stated these views. Safety of human life at sea is the higherst priority.
There is also concern this morning that Vicky may have been thrown off the UK delegation for bad behaviour (perhaps associating with the wrong NGOs), as she is nowhere to be seen. Several NGOs have offered to take her onto their badges, if this is the case. It was notable yesterday that she was playing a significant role in the proceedings as virtually all delegates stopped to pat and stroke her.
Kiribati congratulations the Chairman on the assumption of his role and supports the position taken by Japan.
The Australian Minister speaks: Australia shares the same safety perspective as Japan. He stresses that the IMO is the appropriate forum for safety at sea.
Korea regrets hearing these kinds of reports over and over again. We last had a resolution by consensus on this in 2007. We all recognise different views on whaling and the right to disagree. As a student of international law, he sees the issue as one of utilising marine recourses… from a legal point of view he must agree with Iceland that as long as it is sustainable from the view of science it is OK. He continues for sometime, getting increasingly loud… every NGO and contracting government must comply with the rules of the IWC and the use of force or violence is strictly prohibited under international law and cannot be condoned….
The Chairman notes that he needs interventions to be kept short. He then reads out a long list of those wanting to speak and repeats that Japan wishes to speak on this. He will close the speaking list after Iceland (and before Japan).
Here we will now merely note who speaks and who they associate with. Morocco associates with Japan’s concerns. Mexico basically associates with those saying that this should be considered by the appropriate bodies and countries. New Zealand takes safety at sea very seriously. Norway expresses its unconditional sympathy for the Japanese scientists and stresses the legal and moral responsibility of the flag and port states.
The USA says that safety is a high priority and associates with Australia and others.
Portugal says that whilst many believe that the research programme does not conform to international standards, safety at sea is still important.
Our focus should not be on the terrorist organisation being discussed but on the flag and port states. He is disappointed by the statements coming from those nations.
Chairman: So Japan why do you wish to keep the item open and do you have any response to comments from the floor.
Japan says again that violence must not be condoned but condemned and this is relevant to the IWC and we should ask the relevant countries to take action. The IWC has carried out various measures but the terrorist activities continue and are escalating. We are working on a message that we might all agree here so please give me a couple of days to work on this.
The Chair will keep the agenda item open.
St Kitts and Nevis asks for the floor and ‘asks a pointed question’ for the flag and port nation…
Chairman: The speaking list was closed.
St Kitts and Nevis. But the matter remains open, perhaps we can seek comments from them when the matter is next discussed. The Chairman agrees.