Outside it is cloudy. Inside are the clouds parting? Delegates head to the Golden Sands Conference Centre.
Small point of clarification – we normally give thanks to Commissioners and others for their contributions at the end of the meeting. However, further to earlier references to ‘Belgian Fan Dancers’, we would like to make it clear that this does not relate to the Belgian Commissioner for whom we have the greatest regard.
His recent work on small cetaceans and ship strikes is helping to set standards for conservation work within the commission.
Small paper fans have been distributed to delegates by a group of organisations who are in support of The Deal as a lobbying tool and our vague allusions to fan dancing relate to this activity.
Romantic encounters at the IWC
The halls are again filled with delegates. Sun glasses and swimming trunks are back in the closet and suits and ties are back in fashion.
Liverpool: Welcome back everyone [he does not add that he hopes everyone had a nice couple of days on the beach or perhaps in the lobby of the Atlantic Palace hotel, but he could have.]
He makes some introductory comments, noting that for almost a quarter of a century ‘our different views have dominated’ – to resolve this will not be easy.
He states that the last two days of ‘opening’ [closed] meetings have been conducted in a constructive manner, noting that the commissioners agreed to devote as much time as possible to this work. Ten groups have consulted with each other and he explains that there have been 30 sessions over the last 2 days – some of these groups have never met in a formal but private manner before – a wide range of issues have been discussed - and this was not limited to whaling – all of the groups reported that their discussions were very useful and conducted in a cordial manner. Some reported that they came closer together and they dialogued late into the night.
It has become clear, he says, that whilst we are very close to a consensus, more work is required. These include such matters as the moratorium, numbers of whales, special permit whaling, sanctuaries and trade, and table 4 (which contained proposed quotas as part of The Deal).
Everyone Loves Geoffrey.
Japan next takes the floor. Their spokesperson notes that the situation remains complex and that they support the spirit of sustainable whaling and protection of endangered stock protection. Japan appreciates Chairman’s efforts to address problems. She expresses heart-felt gratitude to Sir Geoffrey and Chairmen’s efforts – she notes that substantial compromises have been accepted by Japan. Japan respects science – she is ‘disturbed and alarmed’ that members support management based on science but oppose takes where science says OK because of public opinion. Some members she adds think only aboriginal subsistence hunts are OK and that ‘even taking single whale is not acceptable.’
This important body needs to rise above domestic politics. Some members are unhappy with the chair’s proposal ‘unfortunately’, she concludes.
Uruguay speaks for the Buenos Aires group of Latin American countries. He refers to the statement he circulated a couple of days ago and how open they have been to discussion. They have raised 13 points which all can share.
He eloquently stresses the need to work on conservation; and given the unlikelihood of finding a consensus, a minimum consensus on future opportunities should be found.
Argentina then takes the floor and says that exchanges have shown the need to reach a balance; there is only one promise – in the future we may discuss amending articles 5 and 8 [whaling under objection and scientific whaling]. In conclusion, the proposal does not meet the needed of the countries that we represent. However, they recognise the need for dialogue – the positive results of implementing the moratorium and highlight the work of the conservation and scientific committee, including work on climate change, emergent diseases and pollution. She greatly appreciates the role of the Scientific Committee and suggests it should be separated from the Commission.
The USA Commissioner, Monica Medea, takes the floor, after nearly 3 years of discussion, it appears that our discussions are at an impasse – or at least it feels this way, she says. We have given our unwavering support to the moratorium and we have helped to refocus the IWC on conservation. Unfortunately, we have not achieved as much agreement as we hoped. We have enjoyed – I think – a wonderful dialogue; future dialogues can build on this. I am always optimistic and we can find out way out of the difficult situation we have found our way in. I hope we can continue to work in the way that we have in the small working group and over the last few days.
Australia in the form of its minster Peter Garrett, thanks Morocco and Liverpool. He does not repeat Australia’s well-known position but he associates with Argentina. He says we should focus where our views converge and build on that. Some have claimed that the IWC is dysfunctional and will collapse, but he does not share that view. Many countries have put great effort into discussions and he thanks them. The product of this process will not attract consensus support. This has been a good departure from acrimony he add reading from his lap-top. Future discussions can also take place in a mutually constructive manner.
He continues that there is a need to make sure that whale populations stay healthy and viable components of ecosystems and a further need to redefine the IWC to ensure the long term conservation of whales. The Chairs’ document has helped us move along – but we now need to close it and build on collaboration – e.g. capacity building around the world; we need to take steps to ensure that the Commissioners have time to study the result of the scientific committee – and we should fully embrace critical conservation work for example on western Gray whales, disentanglement, western gray whales, depleted populations and governance gaps to ensure transparency and enhance accountability. The future can only be assured with best practice management.
‘A Troubled Old Creature’
New Zealand in the form of redoubtable Sir Geoffrey Palmer then associates itself with the remarks by Peter Garrett on the need for cultural change [and as far as the scribe can tell no other of his remarks]. As chair of the support group [which has been working on The Deal] he makes a number of obervations – the support group is over and it should not be revived. We need to look at where we have come from and where we are going– the IWC is a ‘troubled old creature’. He lists the various well known problems – Article 8 scientific whaling; despite the moratorium thousands of whales have been killed and so forth. NZ is a strong advocate of the conservation of whales. He provides a little history: For many years we focused in the RMS – but no conclusion – in 2002, the conservation committee was set up but not everyone takes part. Matter became increasingly undiplomatic and our impasse stopped our business. After the carriage of the St Kits declaration [a resolution passed in favour of whaling] – something needs to be done to make the IWC work better; many meetings occurred ‘I have been to so many meetings that I cannot recall so many’ – he continues to detail the actions. [Does he perhaps sound a little tired?]
Now we are in a situation where no nation was satisfied. Hence, the chair’s proposal being considered here. He suggests that there was a common consensus on many matters, if ONE LEAVES OUT THE ISSUE OF NUMBERS. He acknowledges the major contributions made by Monica and US team and he also pays tribute to the Government of Japan, especially to Jogi Morshita for the diplomatic process. There can be no doubt, he adds, that Japan showed a real willingness to compromise (gentle applause). We can go no further. There is an absence of political will to compromise – but interest in the IWC has increased through this period; we now have 88 members.
He continues with the thought that the NZ point of view is one of caring for whales. Every Christmas the conflict in the southern ocean causes outrage. One of our people is even in a Japanese jail –because he wishes to protect whales. Our focus has been to remove whaling from the southern ocean but we have not succeeded.
He suggests that there are three ways forward:
Acting Chairman Liverpool reminds delegates to please take their translation headsets off before speaking. [This explains some of the irritating noise during Sir Geoffrey’s contribution.]
The report provided here is not verbatim but is intended to capture the gist of what is said. We welcome corrections if we got anything wrong.
Further to these seminal contributions many other took the floor. Here we shall provide only an outline of what they side highlighting any new matters and, of course anything amusing.
India is in favour of whale conservation and he opposes lethal takes and violence at sea… he suggests a renaming of the body to the ‘International Whale Commission’.
Liverpool reminds speakers to take their headsets off again,
Mexico says very eloquently the Commission must respond to the problems of the 21st century. Discussions have been fruitful but we cannot support anything against the moratorium or catches bigger than those provided by the best science – which is the RMP.
[The man from the BBC, Richard Black, is stalking across the centre of the room. The media is meant to be corralled at the back of the room (or in their tent with the cat). Will the Moroccan security guards swoop? No.]
Mexico supports a ‘time to think’.
Spain now speaks for the whole EU (25 member states)– she thanks the hosts and highlights the excellent facilities; she thanks the Chair for his role and also Sir Geoffrey. The EU has come with willingness to negotiate – they want an effective IWC and believes the discussions have been useful.
In Praise of ‘Friendly Chatter’
St Kitts and Nevis, who it is always worth listening to (as his rhetoric is often highly entertaining) has serious misgivings about the latest turn of events that stops us from further considering the Chair’s proposal. He is sorry that we have not found a way forward… international negotiations require compromise. During the course of negotiations, positive things have come including ‘friendly chatter’; Developing nations have strengthened their roll. We, he stresses, have been subject to many accusations. People have asked, why are you here and, as coastal states, we see the oceans as vital to food security.
But, he adds, there is continued speculation about why developing nations are here. It is timely for putting a number of matters into context – we have been accused of being proxies for other countries – this is wrong. We have no choice, as developing nations, but to support sustainable development….This document [The Chairs’ proposal] represents the furthest we have reached, so we should look very carefully at this document. [There is weak applause]
Coffee follows soon after this and in the coffee area under the watchful eye of the whale shark.
The booming voice of the Pew Foundation's, Sue Lieberman, can be heard in coffee area inviting delegates and press to come and to a briefing from her organisation and some friends. Many delegates head determinedly in the opposite direction.
After a hasty coffee, various countries are waving their flags, including the UK which is finally recognised by a nod from…. from Madam Secretary of the Commission Nicky Grandy, sitting alongside acting chair Liverpool up on the podium at the front of the room.
[Dear Nicky – you would be sad if we did not acknowledge you in this way – and whilst we are having this little side-bar interlude, thank you so much for all your help and kind support through the years. Wishing you a happy retirement. The WDCS team. ]
We resume deliberations on item 3.
Korea appreciates the Chairs’ efforts and Sir Geoffrey Palmer. Their commissioner loudly says that ‘the moment of truth is approaching’ and ‘the train is heading for the tunnel’.
Iceland says it is a shame that we did not agree numbers and he agrees with Sir Geoffrey, that this is because of lack of political will. He too likes Sir Geoffrey; and like the Australian minister he does not think that this is the end of the world. Dialogue has been good and a one year break will let us clear our minds and reflect on matters.
Monaco takes the floor. He is concerned about bipolarisation here – but this is a ‘caricature’. There are not two groups here – there are at least a dozen views here and this, he says, enriches us. There have been constructive dialogues. But he supports closing the door on the document … but we do not start from scratch here; catch limits should be defined by science. Various areas of work have been productive. Monaco proposes a brand new way forward – a new paradigm – we need a win-win context. Limited whaling will have to be sustainable; Norway has demonstrated this is possible he suggests and whaling could occur in limited areas. Monaco is of the view that whale stock sustainability is compromised when you harvest far from your territory; you can behave like ‘a careless tourist’ far from home. His ‘assessment after many years’ is that resumption should be restricted to sovereign waters – is there any other globally satisfying compromise to propose. At least this option should be on our future road map.
St Lucia is appreciative of the Chairman’s hot seat and gets the scribe rather lost in a story about ‘climbing Mount Difficulty’ and eating in small passage ways.
Belgium does not want a new cooling off period and suggests that the Chairs consensus document should still guide our discussions.
Panama likes the moratorium and the Conservation Committee but welcomes constructive dialogue. He calls for an intersessional meeting to review the cooling down period.
South Africa likes cooling off too.
Grenada recalls the St Kitts and Nevis Declaration (a famous resolution passed a few years ago when the whalers had the majority) and is very disappointed that we have not come to a conclusion. He speaks of science and respect for cultural diversity.
Tanzania says that we should continue to strive for as consensus, but cool off could follow if this fails.
Costa Rica eloquently acknowledges the work of the IWC in the world of whales. The Chair’s proposal was a working document and helped to identify differences, she stresses.
The new commissioner for the UK, Nigel Gooding, makes his maiden speech in the IWC plenary. He graciously thanks the host and notes that the UK as a member of the EU fully supports the EU statement. He welomes the dialogue that has taken place and which has helped to clarify matters. For the UK key issues include trade, sanctuaries, science and welfare standards are important. The UK will continue to work constructively in this body.
[He does not ask, as some had hoped for a suspension of this plenary this afternoon to allow in-depth study of the football: Slovenia will be playing England.]
Denmark calls for some salt.
Denmark is taken by ‘surprise’ when asked to speak. He suggests that Denmark maintains a position in the middle of the IWC, so it is with great sadness that he hears the interventions today – but perhaps they have been a bit more polite. He adds that we still have nations dreaming of a brave new whaling world; others wish respect for the management aspect of the organisation. He says he is in a ‘gloomy mood’ and he wants to comment on the EU – the presidency said she spoke on the behalf of the 25 member countries but really this is Denmark speaks for the Faroe and Greenland, so the claim that Denmark present is part of the EU family should be taken with a big pinch of salt.
The redoubtable German Commissioner suggests we should constructively use the cooling down period to try to work out how to go forward.
Portugal doesn’t want us to cool off either – he too wants hard work.
France confirms that Spain spoke for the 25 nations – France is especially concerned about trade and sanctuaries and points to the EU declaration.
Kiribati congratulates the chairman on rising well to the challenge and she commends able Sir Geoffrey.
Cote d’Ivoire looks for the common ground to ‘save the IWC’.
And this continues for a little while until we drift off for a ligh lunch.