‘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.