Summary report, 6–10 March 2017

Stakeholder Day and 5th Session of the IPBES Plenary

The fifth session of the Plenary of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES-5) was held from 7-10 March 2017 in Bonn, Germany. It was preceded by the IPBES-5 Stakeholder Day on 6 March 2017. More than 460 participants attended the meeting representing IPBES member and non-member governments, UN agencies and convention secretariats, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) and stakeholder groups.

The meeting adopted ten decisions on: capacity building; policy support tools and methodologies; development of a second work programme; indigenous and local knowledge (ILK); the scoping report for a thematic assessment on the sustainable use of wild species; enhanced participation of the European Union (EU) in IPBES Plenary sessions; review of the Platform; knowledge and data; assessments; and the budget.

The meeting was dominated by discussions on the budget and resulting tensions regarding whether three pending assessments in the Platform’s first work programme could be initiated, and in what order they should be initiated, if funds are insufficient to initiate all three. Due to insufficient pledges to the Platform’s Voluntary Trust Fund, delegates ultimately had to adopt a budget that does not allow for the initiation of any pending assessments to reduce the risk of incurring a budget shortfall in 2018, and allows for the Secretariat to proceed in “survival mode.” While some delegates expressed their frustration about the delay in initiating these assessments, others suggested that the workload of ongoing assessments was already exceeding acceptable limits, noting that the first IPBES work programme was overly ambitious. The decision not to initiate pending assessments also affected discussions on development of a second work programme and the review of the Platform because many delegates saw these to be linked to the timely completion of the first work programme. Some delegates highlighted that IPBES-5 nonetheless adopted important decisions, including, on capacity building and the general approach to the inclusion of ILK in all of IPBES’s functions.

Overall, delegates leaving the World Conference Centre in Bonn on Friday night were more concerned than satisfied with the meeting’s outcome. But many also recognized that being forced to focus on the assessments currently underway, including the global assessment, may be a “blessing in disguise” as it could improve their quality and scientific rigor.


IPBES was established in 2012 as a result of a consultative process initiated in response to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). Conducted from 2001 to 2005, the MA provided the first state-of-the-art scientific appraisal of the conditions and trends in the world’s ecosystems and the services they provide, as well as the scientific basis for action to conserve and use them sustainably. Among other conclusions, the MA showed that biodiversity and ecosystem services are declining at an unprecedented rate. Recognizing the need for strengthening the dialogue between the scientific community, governments, and other stakeholders on biodiversity and ecosystem services, in January 2005 the Paris Conference on Biodiversity, Science and Governance proposed to initiate, as part of the MA follow-up process, consultations to assess the need, scope and possible form of an international mechanism of scientific expertise on biodiversity.

IMOSEB PROCESS: Supported by the Government of France, the consultative process on an International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB) was conducted through an International Steering Committee and a series of regional consultations from 2005 to 2007. At its second meeting in December 2005, the Committee identified a series of “needs and options” to link science and policy in the area of biodiversity, which were summarized in a document for regional consultations held from January – November 2007. At its final meeting in November 2007, the Steering Committee reviewed the outcomes of the regional consultations and invited donors and governments to provide support for the further and urgent consideration of the establishment of a science-policy interface. It further invited the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and others to convene a meeting to consider establishing such an interface.

Following this invitation, there was also consensus among stakeholders that the follow-up to the IMoSEB process and the MA follow-up process initiated under UNEP in 2007 should merge. A joint meeting, “IMoSEB-MA Follow up: Strengthening the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Interface on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services,” took place in March 2008 to develop a common approach.

The IMoSEB outcome and the IPBES concept note were also considered in 2008 by the ninth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 9). In Decision IX/15 (follow-up to the MA), the COP welcomed the decision of the UNEP Executive Director to convene an Ad Hoc Intergovernmental and Multi-Stakeholder Meeting on an IPBES, and requested the CBD Ad Hoc Working Group on Review of Implementation to consider the meeting’s outcomes.

AD HOC INTERGOVERNMENTAL MULTI-STAKEHOLDER PROCESS: From 2008 to 2010, the establishment of a science-policy interface was further discussed in a series of Ad hoc Intergovernmental Multi-stakeholder Meetings. The first meeting (November 2008, Putrajaya Malaysia) recommended that UNEP undertake a preliminary gap analysis on existing interfaces on biodiversity and ecosystem services to facilitate the discussions, to be made available to the UNEP Governing Council (UNEP-GC). It also invited UNEP-GC to mandate a second multi-stakeholder meeting. The 25th session of the UNEP-GC/Global Ministerial Environment Forum (UNEP-GC/GMEF) (February 2009, Nairobi, Kenya) called on UNEP to conduct further work to explore ways and means to strengthen the science-policy interface on biodiversity.

The second Ad hoc Intergovernmental Multi-stakeholder Meeting (October 2009, Nairobi, Kenya) considered the findings of the gap analysis and developed options to strengthen the science-policy interface, and functions and possible governance structures of an IPBES. Participants adopted a Chair’s Summary of Outcomes and Discussions, which highlighted areas of agreement and reflected the differing views expressed during the meeting. The 11th Special Session of the UNEP-GC/GMEF, (February 2010, Bali, Indonesia) adopted a decision calling on UNEP to organize a final meeting to establish an IPBES.

At the third Ad hoc Intergovernmental Multi-stakeholder Meeting (June 2010, Busan, Republic of Korea), delegates agreed to establish IPBES. They adopted the Busan Outcome, which recommended inviting the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to consider the conclusions of the meeting and take appropriate action for establishing an IPBES. The sixty-fifth session of the UNGA (December 2010, New York, U.S.) adopted resolution 65/162, which requested UNEP to fully operationalize the platform and convene a plenary meeting to determine the modalities and institutional arrangements for the platform at the earliest opportunity. The 26th session of UNEP-GC/GMEF (February 2011, Nairobi, Kenya) endorsed the outcome of the third Ad hoc Intergovernmental Multi-stakeholder Meeting and called for convening of a plenary session for an IPBES to determine the modalities and institutional arrangements of the platform.

1ST SESSION OF A PLENARY FOR AN IPBES: At the first session of the plenary meeting for an IPBES (October 2011, Nairobi, Kenya), delegates considered the modalities and institutional arrangements for an IPBES, including the platform’s functions and operating principles, work programme, legal issues relating to its establishment and operationalization, and the criteria for selecting host institutions and the physical location of the Secretariat.

2ND SESSION OF A PLENARY FOR AN IPBES: At this session (April 2012, Panama City, Panama), delegates considered the modalities and institutional arrangements for the IPBES, including functions and structures of bodies that might be established under the platform, rules of procedure, and the platform’s work programme. Delegates selected Bonn, Germany, as the physical location of the IPBES Secretariat and adopted a resolution establishing IPBES.

IPBES-1: The first session of the IPBES Plenary met from 21-26 January 2013 in Bonn, Germany. Delegates: elected the IPBES Chair, the Bureau and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP); adopted an initial budget; and agreed on steps toward the development of an initial IPBES work programme, 2014-2018. IPBES-1 also requested the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Council for Science (ICSU) to convene a broad consultative process to develop a draft stakeholder engagement strategy. Other issues that were discussed but remained unresolved included the rules of procedure on the admission of observers.

IPBES-2: The second session of the IPBES Plenary met from 9-14 December 2013 in Antalya, Turkey. Delegates adopted the Antalya Consensus, which included decisions on: the work programme for 2014-2018, including fast-track, thematic, regional and subregional assessments and activities for capacity building; a conceptual framework considering different knowledge systems; and rules and procedures for the Platform on, inter alia, procedures for the preparation of the Platform’s deliverables. Anne Larigauderie was appointed as the first IPBES Executive Secretary. The draft stakeholder engagement strategy was forwarded to IPBES-3, due to lack of time.

IPBES-3: The third session of the IPBES Plenary met from 12-17 January 2015 in Bonn, Germany. Delegates adopted decisions, including on: the work programme for 2014-2018; a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy; a Communications and Outreach Strategy; the financial and budgetary arrangements; and rules of procedure for the Platform on, inter alia, the conflict of interest policy. Delegates did not reach agreement on procedures for the review of the Platform, and on policy and procedures for the admission of observers.

IPBES-4: The fourth session of the IPBES Plenary met 22-28 February 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The meeting approved the Platform’s first assessments and summaries for policy makers: a Thematic Assessment on Pollinators, Pollination, and Food Production; and a Methodological Assessment on Scenarios and Models of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. The meeting launched the global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and considered scoping reports for future assessments on: a methodological assessment on diverse conceptualization of multiple values of nature and its benefits; and thematic assessments on invasive alien species (IAS) and sustainable use of wild species. Delegates also adopted decisions on, inter alia: financial and budgetary arrangements; communication, stakeholder engagement and strategic partnerships; a draft set of procedures for working with ILK systems; draft additional procedures to fill gaps in experts; and terms of reference (TOR) for the further development of tools and methodologies regarding scenarios and models.


To continue to provide a forum for stakeholder engagement after the establishment of IPBES as an intergovernmental forum, Stakeholder Days have been organized prior to every session of the IPBES Plenary. Stakeholder Days bring together stakeholders from scientific communities, IPLCs and civil society organizations to receive updates about IPBES’s work and intersessional activities, exchange views regarding the issues on the IPBES agenda, and coordinate general statements and positions on specific issues.

Previous Stakeholder Days have addressed, among other issues: IPBES’s stakeholder engagement strategy and its initial implementation plan; lessons learned from stakeholder involvement at previous IPBES Plenary sessions; coordination of stakeholder activities during intersessional periods; concrete proposals for stakeholder contributions to the IPBES work programme; experiences from the first assessments conducted by the Platform; documents on admission of observers and conflict of interest procedures; and the creation of an open-ended inclusive network of stakeholders of IPBES stakeholders.


The following report summarizes discussions at IPBES-5 Stakeholder Day in chronological order, in line with the event’s agenda. A more detailed summary of these discussions is available at:


On Monday morning, Carolyn Lundquist, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research of New Zealand, and Günter Mitlacher, WWF, on behalf of the Open-ended Network of IPBES Stakeholders, opened the IPBES-5 Stakeholder Day. Underscoring stakeholders’ role in disseminating and using IPBES publications and tools, IPBES Executive Secretary Anne Larigauderie gave an overview of progress in implementing the IPBES work programme. IPBES Chair Robert Watson (UK) highlighted IPBES’s relevance in assessing progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Robert Spaull, IPBES Secretariat, provided an update on the IPBES communication and outreach strategy and activities, highlighting, the role of stakeholders to help spread knowledge on IPBES’s work. He also outlined the various communication phases for the launch of the four regional assessments and the assessment of land degradation and restoration.

Günter Mitlacher introduced the initiatives that different stakeholders and governments have undertaken to disseminate IPBES’s work and to support stakeholder engagement.


The facilitators of the four breakout sessions introduced each issue in plenary, followed by in-depth discussions in small groups.

Breakout Group I discussed further work on scenarios and models of biodiversity and ecosystem services, including the use of scenarios for disaster preparedness, “vision” exercises, education impacts, urbanization, and as a tool to “shock” decision makers into action. The group also discussed how models can be transformed and disseminated so that they are understood “across the board.”

Breakout Group II considered the methodological assessment on the diverse conceptualization of the multiple values of nature focusing on the work of the Technical Support Unit to date. Participants also discussed how to address value judgements implied by commonly-used approaches and terms, for example by replacing the term “benefits” with “contributions,” which is more inclusive since it includes the non-monetary and contributions of nature to human well-being.

Breakout Group III discussed the upcoming review of IPBES’s first work programme focusing on, among other issues: ensuring that the review contributes to the development of the second work programme; the review’s TOR; evaluation criteria; organization of an external review element; and how to ensure and independent and transparent review. 

Breakout Group IV discussed the proposed approach for working with ILK in IPBES. Participants discussed challenges of large scale ILK involvement, how to ensure a bottom-up approach, financial support, and strategic partnerships to improve ILK involvement. 


The facilitators of the breakout groups reported back to plenary. Mitlacher informed that stakeholders would have meetings every morning during IPBES-5 to discuss whether and how to engage with deliberations on various agenda items. He thanked participants for their contributions and closed the meeting at 4:20 pm.


On Tuesday morning, IPBES Chair Robert Watson opened the session stressing the important role that biodiversity and ecosystem services play for water, food security, and human well-being; and for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, and the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. IPBES Executive Secretary Anne Larigauderie updated delegates on IPBES’s implementation, highlighting: the launch of the global assessment on biodiversity; progress in the regional and land degradation assessments; and the increasing uptake of the Pollinators Assessment by national governments and international agencies.

Edoardo Zamdri, UNEP, suggested strengthening IPBES’s partnerships, including across the agriculture, energy and water sectors. Christiane Paulus, German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, lauded steps taken to act on the findings of the Pollinators Assessment. She urged that discussions on IPBES’s second work programme take budget limitations into account and be flexible to assist in implementing the CBD Strategic Plan. Reinhard Limbach, Deputy Mayor of the City of Bonn, said IPBES needs to build bridges between the many facets of the global environmental agenda, underscoring that the adoption of the global assessment will be one way to do so.

In his keynote speech, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Deputy Executive Secretary Richard Kinley urged both the climate change and biodiversity communities to focus on positive synergies to enhance “our” work. He suggested fully integrating the climate and biodiversity agendas with the implementation of the SDGs in national economic development and investment plans. He noted that the IPBES global assessment “can be an important input” for the next round of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.

Noting a recent “bend in the global emission curve” as global CO2 emissions have not risen significantly during recent economic growth, Guy Midgley, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, stressed that projections based on current NDCs would lead to a 3°C average temperature rise by the end of the century. He showed the significant role of land carbon sinks in mitigating warming, and emphasized ecosystem-based approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Cautioning against negative impacts to biodiversity, he urged careful assessment before making decisions on the use of “negative” carbon emission technologies such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage or afforestation.

In their opening statements, regions reported on activities to support IPBES or implement its findings. They highlighted, among other issues: IPBES’s relevance in supporting biodiversity conservation, policy-making and capacity building; IPBES’s impact on fostering initiatives and policy-making to reduce current risks for pollinators. Several regions urged launching the pending assessments on IAS, sustainable use of wild species and diverse conceptualizations of multiple values of nature to complete the first IPBES work programme and maintain IPBES’s relevance. Others cautioned against budgetary constraints and ambitious deadlines.

Mexico presented an overview of the outcomes of CBD COP 13, held in December 2016. He said 14 of the 40 decisions adopted mention IPBES, and underscored the urgency for IPBES to address issues raised by the CBD. The CBD acknowledged that the IPBES regional and global assessments will be key inputs to the fifth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook.

Kristina Raab, NeFo, on behalf of the Open-ended Stakeholder Network, provided an overview of IPBES-5 Stakeholder Day, and proposed to include the evaluation of the implementation of the Stakeholder Engagement Strategy as an explicit part of the Platform’s review.

Delegates then adopted the meeting’s agenda and organization of work (IPBES/5/1/Rev.1 and IPBES/5/1/Rev.1/Add.1/Rev.1).

This report summarizes IPBES-5 discussions in accordance with the meeting’s agenda. Unless otherwise noted, draft decisions were approved in one of the contact groups on Thursday and adopted in plenary on Friday.

REPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY: IPBES Executive Secretary Larigauderie presented an update on IPBES activities in 2016 (IPBES/5/2), including: work of the task forces on capacity-building, knowledge and data, and ILK, as well as the expert groups on policy support and the guide on assessments. She urged greater support for developed country experts as some are not sufficiently funded by their governments or institutions.

Several countries made suggestions for improving IPBES procedures. Mexico lamented underrepresentation of regions in task forces and limited progress on the three outstanding thematic assessments, including on IAS and the sustainable use of wild species.

Responding to inquirers, Watson confirmed that indirect factors, such as policies and incentives, are included in all IPBES work and that once a summary for policy makers is approved, changes to assessment reports are allowed only “in response to comments made in plenary.” IUCN suggested adjustments to the peer review process to maximize confidence. FutureEarth urged recognition of experts by various ways as is practice at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea reported on its second cycle of the regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, including socio-economic aspects.

Update on the classification of nature’s contributions to people by the IPBES: Subsequent to the Report of the Executive Secretary, Chair Watson informed delegates that the Bureau had made a change in the terminology used in the IPBES conceptual framework. He explained that the term “nature’s benefits to people” has been replaced with “nature’s contributions to people” to reflect a pluralistic approach combining both western and “mother earth” views. During the meeting several members suggested that Plenary should discuss and approve this change.

Contact Group I discussed this issue on Friday morning, and decided to capture discussions in the decision on knowledge foundations. Chair Watson reported that the MEP felt that the term “nature’s benefits to people” was more appropriate in the context of the IPBES conceptual framework because it: includes negative contributions of nature to people as well as non-material contributions; integrates a more holistic view; and recognizes the pervasiveness of cultural aspects in the service sectors, using the multiple aspects of food as an example.

On procedural concerns, Australia suggested that in the future the MEP report to plenary on any evolution in its thinking. The US stressed that decisions to change the conceptual framework and its enshrined concepts should be taken by Plenary, not the MEP. Delegates then agreed to Chair Watson’s proposal to include a reference to this effect in the decision on knowledge foundations and approved the text with minor amendments.

Final Outcome: In the final decision on knowledge foundations (IPBES/5/L.11), the Plenary takes note of the outcome of the Expert Group mandated to take into account the evolution of thinking on ecosystem services and the transition to nature’s contributions to people, to be in line with the inclusive approach of the IPBES conceptual framework. The Plenary also notes that nature’s contributions to people will be used in the Platform’s current and future assessments.


ELECTION OF MEP MEMBERS: On Tuesday, Latin America and the Caribbean nominated Marcelo Cabido (Argentina) as an alternate MEP member. On Friday, Cameroon, for the African Group, nominated Mariteuw Chimere Diaw (Senegal) as an alternate MEP member. Bosnia and Herzegovina, for the Eastern European region, nominated Mersudin Avdibegovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Katalin Török (Hungary). They were elected by acclamation.

 STATUS OF MEMBERSHIP OF THE PLATFORM: On Tuesday, Chair Watson welcomed Estonia and Romania as new IPBES members.  

Slovakia, for the EU IPBES Members, introduced a proposal to grant the EU enhanced observer status (IPBES/5/INF/27), providing the right to: speak in turn; reply; introduce proposals; and provide views regarding implementation support, including financial support. Chair Watson explained these rights would be exclusive and would not grant voting rights, noting a similar practice at the IPCC. The matter was further discussed throughout the week in a Friends of the Chair Group facilitated by Fundisile Mketeni (South Africa) and informal bilateral and multilateral consultations.

On Friday, Contact Group I, co-chaired by Diego Pacheco Balanza (Bolivia) and IPBES Chair Robert Watson (UK), considered a draft decision. Argentina, for Latin America and the Caribbean, presented textual amendments that resulted from informal consultations, which members agreed to. Senegal proposed, and members agreed to, text clarifying that this issue originated from a request by the EU, with the EU IPBES Members asking to reference the relevant document.

Cameroon and Ghana inquired about the meaning of the reference to “the ability to provide support.” The US, New Zealand, Norway and Australia clarified that this was legal standard language, and the EU IPBES Members confirmed that the language would allow for the triggering of financial support. India, opposed by the EU IPBES Members, proposed adding “technical support.”

The decision was adopted during Friday’s plenary. The EU underscored IPBES’s importance for implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and noted the EU can now support the Platform’s work in a manner similar to the support provided to the IPCC, including through direct and indirect contributions.

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.9), the Plenary decides, inter alia:

  • to allow the enhanced participation of the EU in its capacity as observer in the sessions of the Plenary of the Platform;
  • that this includes the right to speak in turn, the right to reply, the right to introduce proposals, the right to provide views, and the ability to support the implementation of the work programme of the Platform through financial support, among other means; and
  • that this be applied on an interim basis, pending the resolution of the status of regional economic integration organizations in the Platform in the rules of procedure.


CAPACITY BUILDING: On Tuesday, the Secretariat introduced IPBES/5/3, including the executive summary of the draft IPBES rolling plan for capacity building and reported on the second IPBES capacity-building forum (IPBES/5/INF/3).

On Thursday, the contact group considered the draft rolling plan, including: strategies; priorities and criteria for implementing strategies; and options for organizations wishing to contribute. They decided to insert a section on the rolling plan’s approach to building collaboration and engagement not yet reflected in the executive summary. On collaboration and effective use of resources, delegates agreed to add two principles to a section on leveraging impact, “working collaboratively” and “using resources efficiently,” without providing examples.

On the draft decision on capacity building (IPBES/5/1.Add.2), delegates clarified that all governments and stakeholders can contribute to reviews, but only IPBES members and observers may participate in regional consultations to do so.

The group also decided to request: the Task Force on Capacity Building to “transparently” enhance collaboration in implementing the rolling plan; the Bureau, with the support of the Task Force, to leverage additional support; and IPBES-6 to consider the need for a third meeting of the Task Force. On Friday, during plenary, delegates adopted the decision with an amendment requested by the US stating that implementation of the rolling plan is subject to the availability of funds.

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.2), the Plenary, inter alia:

  • welcomes the capacity-building rolling plan, noting it is a living document intended to guide the Platform’s work;
  • requests the Task Force on Capacity Building to implement, subject to the availability of funds, the rolling plan and report on progress at IPBES-6;
  • encourages member states and observers to take advantage of the regional consultation meetings in 2017 to enhance their contribution to the finalization of the regional assessments;
  • requests the Task Force to further enhance collaboration transparently with other organizations in the implementation of the rolling plan; and
  • requests the Bureau, in collaboration with the Task Force, to consider what would be the most effective way to leverage additional support for capacity building, consider whether a third meeting of the capacity-building forum is needed, and report on its work to IPBES-6.

The annexed Executive Summary of the IPBES rolling plan for capacity building consists of five sections on: rationale and objectives; strategies; priorities and criteria for implementing the strategies; approach to building collaboration and engagement; and options for organizations wishing to contribute.

INDIGENOUS AND LOCAL KNOWLEDGE SYSTEMS: This item (IPBES/5/4 and 5/INF/4) was introduced by the Secretariat on Wednesday, and discussed in Contact Group I from Wednesday through Friday and in informal consultations.

Discussions focused on the proposed approach for integrating ILK, which, with respect to assessments, provides for four phases: defining problems and goals; bringing together evidence and data from multiple sources; appropriately engaging IPLCs in reviewing draft assessments; and “giving back” knowledge and insights to IPLCs. Views diverged on how to better define the elements of the approach and introduce the principle of consent.

EU IPBES Members said the approach should focus on ILK at a meta-level. Colombia, Pakistan and Uruguay cautioned on only using web-based consultations. The International Indigenous Forum on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IIFBES) proposed a workshop on values with IPLCs. The contact group refined language by, inter alia: clarifying that “giving back” knowledge refers to a “sharing of knowledge”; providing examples of different forms of ILK. They also referred to the “appropriate” representation of ILK experts and experts on ILK in the expert groups, with the understanding that ILK experts are from IPLCs and experts on ILK are not necessarily from IPLCs.

On the overall framework and considerations of the approach, members agreed on text noting that “besides funding that may be available from the Trust Fund, the approach will rely on in-kind support from, and collaborative activities with, strategic partners.

On knowledge and data in the context of the approach, they agreed that “in line with its mandate regarding knowledge and data, IPBES, within the present approach, identify in coordination with ILK holders, ILK experts and experts on ILK, a set of practices to help manage evidence and data, which will be collected in the assessment.”

Members also discussed, and eventually agreed on, a proposal by the US, supported by Guatemala and the EU IPBES Members, to specify that this approach will be undertaken “in line with the rules of procedure of IPBES” and in accordance with “internationally recognized” rights of indigenous peoples and relevant commitments related to local communities. IIFBES, opposed by the US, noted this should not, however, substitute a more specific reference to the Mo’otz Kuxtal guidance on prior informed consent and benefit-sharing from the use of traditional knowledge adopted by the CBD.

On the issue of free, prior and informed consent in the context of the overall proposed approach to recognizing and working with ILK, members worked on a textual proposal provided by the IIFBES. Antigua and Barbuda, with the Russian Federation, opposed the qualification introduced by the US of free, prior and informed consent to be sought “as appropriate” for accessing ILK.

Final Outcome:In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.6), the Plenary, inter alia:

  • approvesthe approach for recognizing and working with ILK and requests the MEP, supported by the Task Force on ILK, to implement it;
  • invitesIPLCs and their representatives, as well as experts on ILK, to engage in the activities described in the approach, in particular through the participatory mechanism;
  • invitesgovernments, stakeholders, strategic partners and others to support activities that mobilize ILK where such knowledge is needed but not available in readily available formats, and that increase the capacity of IPLCs to engage in and benefit from the Platform; and
  • requeststhe Executive Secretary to make the arrangements necessary to implement the approach, including for the establishment of the participatory mechanism, subject to the availability of resources.

The approach for recognizing and working with ILK is annexed to the decision and contains three sections: overall framework; overall approach; and institutional arrangements and the participatory mechanism supporting the implementation of the approach.

The overall framework affirms that the “approach will be undertaken in line with the rules of procedures of IPBES and in accordance with internationally recognized rights of indigenous peoples and relevant commitments related to local communities.”

The section describing the approach begins with the overarching three elements, that: the approach applies across the four functions of IPBES; within the approach, free, prior and informed consent will be sought, as appropriate, for accessing ILK, and the activities should not occur where they would prejudice the internationally recognized rights of indigenous peoples and interests of local communities; and best practices and ethical guidelines, as appropriate, should be consulted to make decisions regarding the use of ILK.

The section then sets out activities for each of the four functions and addresses: assessments; knowledge and data; policy support tools and methodologies; and capacity building.

KNOWLEDGE AND DATA: On Wednesday, the Secretariat introduced the proposed work plan for the Task Force on Knowledge and Data for 2017 and informed on work done thus far (IPBES/5/5 and IPBES/5/INF/5). On Friday, Contact Group I engaged in further discussions and considered draft decision text.

On indicators, many called for: broad accessibility; avoiding duplications; and aligning them with work under the CBD and the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. On web-based infrastructures, the African Group called for developing a repository. Switzerland suggested a common approach be used among experts to facilitate internal work.

On catalyzing knowledge generation, many parties said identification of knowledge gaps is a continuous process. The Republic of Korea suggested a workshop on this issue in his country, and offered financial support. The US cautioned that identifying research gaps may not be appropriate within the Task Force on Knowledge and Data but be better addressed within work on assessments. India supported feedback from the scientific community, and suggested industry feedback could also be useful.

On Friday, Paul Leadly, MEP, informed members of, inter alia: close collaboration between the CBD and IPBES with regard to indicators; challenges in getting approval from “indicator holders” to use them; and a formal strategy for obtaining access to a broad set of publications.

Members considered the draft decision and agreed to additional language, proposed by France: encouraging the Task Force on Knowledge and Data to develop TOR to specify the modalities of its collaboration with any partner organization to which specific tasks are assigned.

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.11) on knowledge foundations, the Plenary, inter alia:

  • requests the Task Force on Knowledge and Data, subject to the availability of resources, to further develop the work plan with clear deliverables and milestones for 2017 and 2018, in consultation with relevant multilateral environmental agreements, international processes and organizations, to provide further updates during the intersessional periods through the Platform website and to report on progress to IPBES-6 and IPBES-7;
  • encourages the Task Force on Knowledge and Data to develop TOR to specify the modalities of its collaboration with any partner organization to which specific tasks are assigned; and
  • takes note of the outlined work plan for the Task Force on Knowledge and Data for 2017 and 2018, annexed to the decision.

ASSESSMENTS: Initiation of Pending Assessments: This issue was addressed on Wednesday in plenary and in Contact Group II, chaired by Ivar Baste (Norway), on Wednesday and Friday. Discussions focused on whether and when to initiate work on the three pending assessments on the sustainable use of wild species, IAS and diverse conceptualizations of multiple values of nature.

In plenary, Executive Secretary Larigauderie said the Bureau’s recommendation was not to launch new assessments in 2017, due to financial and capacity constraints. IPBES Chair Watson said each assessment would cost approximately US$1 million based on a minimum number of authors, meetings and experts required to ensure report quality. Germany, Norway and the US preferred not to initiate assessments in 2017. Many countries said the assessments should be undertaken subject to available budget and capacities. The Eastern European Region suggested the decision also be subject to the capacity of, inter alia, the MEP, governments and IPBES to disseminate their results.

France emphasized the need to ensure the quality of assessments and suggested postponing new assessments to the second work programme, which Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru and the African Group opposed. Mexico and the African Group said the assessments should not be referred to as “new,” since they are “pending tasks” from the first work programme. South Africa suggested exploring innovative ways to carry out the pending assessments more efficiently, including partnerships with organizations and governments. 

During discussions in the contact group, three potential scenarios were discussed: one in which additional funding resources are gathered to launch the three assessments; another, where financial resources are insufficient to undertake any of the pending assessments; and one in which funding resources are obtained but are insufficient to launch all three assessments. Delegates identified options: one on approving the undertaking of the pending assessments; and another considering the issue at IPBES-6. They forwarded the decision for consideration by the plenary, subject to the outcome of the decisions of the Budget Group. In the final plenary, during discussions on the budget, delegates agreed that, “IPBES-6 will consider the pending assessments, subject to the availability of sufficient funds.”

Many countries expressed reluctance to delay the initiation of the pending assessments until IPBES-6, should additional resources become available. The US stressed that a decision on the budget must be adopted by the Plenary before deciding to launch the assessments and that no financial decision can be delegated to the Bureau, as suggested by South Africa. Delegates also discussed who should decide which assessment to prioritize, in the event that financing becomes available. Brazil, with Peru, proposed the pending assessments be implemented “following this order: sustainable use, followed by values and IAS.” The US preferred prioritizing the assessment on IAS, and Denmark, the assessment on nature’s values. South Africa suggested elaborating principles to guide prioritization. France and Belgium suggested that prioritization is premature. The US said once the funds are available, the Plenary will prioritize the order in which they are implemented. Delegates reached no agreement on prioritization.

Noting the gap in time between the call for experts and the actual initiation of expenditures for assessment activities, South Africa suggested that preparatory work for the initiation of the pending assessments be undertaken, with Mexico supporting early identification of potential experts. The US suggested that such activities should not have financial or “human resource” implications. Denmark suggested that only “minor” human resource implications be allowed in preparatory work. Delegates in the contact group eventually agreed to Denmark’s proposal and forwarded the text to plenary, pending the budget decision. 

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.12), the Plenary decides to request the expert group on scenarios and models to continue its work and report to IPBES-6 and IPBES-7; and extends the mandate of the Expert Group on Values until IPBES-7, and requests it to report at IPBES-6 and IPBES-7.

The Plenary also decides that IPBES-6 will consider the pending assessments, subject to the availability of sufficient funds.

Scoping report for a thematic assessment on the sustainable use of wild species: This issue (IPBES5/7) was addressed in plenary on Wednesday and in Contact Group II from Wednesday through Friday.

Mexico, with Colombia, the African Group and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), supported adopting the scoping document for the assessment on sustainable use at IPBES-5 to enable its initiation as soon as resources become available. Noting the lack of financial resources to launch the assessments, some countries preferred postponing the revision of the scoping document.

On relevant questions to decision makers, Costa Rica proposed considering impacts on food safety and nutrition. On the coverage of the assessment, France suggested specific reference to marine systems. On addressing environmental aspects and the implications of the use of wild species, Switzerland proposed reference to past and current trends of the use of wild species.

Belgium inquired which criteria would determine the selection of wild species addressed. Brazil suggested reference to consumptive and non-consumptive uses, covering diverse situations and continents, and Germany proposed considering the species’ risk of extinction.

Mexico suggested the assessment look at, inter alia, the status and trends of wild species traded and lessons learned to provide positive advice. Sweden suggested clarifying the relationship of the collective actions of IPLCs with the sustainable use of species.

Costa Rica called for clarifying how proposed indicators relate to IPBES’s goals. Mexico suggested looking at existing indicators in international instruments and data sets, such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Other issues discussed included the definition of “wild species”; whether to refer to “benefits” or “contributions” of wild species; and whether to refer explicitly to consumptive and non-consumptive uses, with some highlighting the importance of the latter for local communities.

Finland proposed language to address concerns on overlaps between assessments. The US proposed requesting the Plenary to reopen approved scoping documents for the pending assessments, in order to modify the scope based on other IPBES assessments prior to implementation. Sudan, Germany and Sweden opposed, with Sweden noting that the scoping document already has a provision to avoid overlap with other assessments. South Africa said incorporating the findings of other IPBES assessments is a requirement for all the assessments. Sweden, with Switzerland, Belgium, Colombia, Mexico and France, said these assessments should commence as soon as possible. They cautioned against subjecting the assessments’ launch to the reopening of the already-agreed scoping document. Colombia suggested the MEP should review the need to modify the approved scoping documents based on major scientific findings.

Brazil suggested requesting the MEP, in consultation with the Bureau, evaluate the need for any modification within the approved scoping documents. The US supported that the MEP report to the Plenary if any modifications are made. Switzerland indicated that only the Plenary has the authority to modify a scoping document. The US suggested, and delegates eventually agreed, that the MEP report to the Plenary if any modifications in the scoping documents are necessary. Countries eventually agreed to request the MEP, in consultation with the Bureau to evaluate the needs of any modification within already approved scoping documents and report to the Plenary on any significant modifications needed.

During the final plenary session, delegates agreed to include a question on who the likely beneficiaries of the sustainable use of wild species are. They also replaced references to “socio-ecological aspects” with “socially sound and within ecological limits.”

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.12), the Plenary: approves the scoping report for the assessment of the sustainable use of wild species; requests the MEP, in consultation with the Bureau, to evaluate the need for any changes to already approved scoping documents based on major scientific findings of other Platform assessments, and to report to the Plenary if any significant modifications are needed.

The scoping document is annexed to the decision. It covers: the scope, coverage, rationale, utility and methodological approach; the chapter outline; indicators, metrics and data sets; relevant stakeholders and initiatives; capacity building; and process and timetable.

POLICY SUPPORT TOOLS AND METHODOLOGIES: This item (IPBES/5/8 and INF/14) was introduced in plenary on Wednesday and further discussed in Contact Group II on Thursday. On Wednesday, the Secretariat presented a prototype online catalogue of policy support tools and methodologies, noting delegates should: consider the suggested approach for further content development; and whether to extend the mandate of the expert group on policy support tools and methodologies.

In the contact group, reflecting that time between the launch of the prototype catalogue and IPBES-5 had been insufficient to review the catalogue, delegates discussed how to conduct a formal review before IPBES-6. Contact Group II also discussed the need for a more task-specific expert group, given that some of the requests made at IPBES-4 were not completed. Delegates agreed to reiterate the relevant IPBES-4 decision, including a request to reconvene a task-specific expert group, subject to availability of funds.

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.4), the Plenary takes note of the development of the online catalogue and the support provided by the Expert Group. The Plenary also requests the MEP, in consultation with the Bureau, supported by a reconstituted task-specific expert group on policy support tools and the Secretariat, to continue, subject to the availability of funds, to inter alia:

  • submit the prototype online catalogue for review by IPBES members and stakeholders;
  • further develop the catalogue in cooperation with relevant international processes and partners;
  • work with the Task Force on Capacity Building to explore ways to more effectively promote and facilitate future use of policy support tools and methodologies; and
  • undertake an evaluation of the use and effectiveness of the online prototype catalogue in the context of the IPBES review and report to IPBES-6.

COMMUNICATION, STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT AND STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS: On Wednesday, the Secretariat introduced this item (IPBES/5/9, INF/15, INF/16 and INF/17). Executive Secretary Larigauderie reported progress in forming strategic partnerships, noting memoranda of understanding (MOUs) signed with the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), CITES, the Ramsar Convention, IUCN and FutureEarth, and adding that MOUs with other organizations are being prepared. CMS said the MOU is an incentive and opportunity to strengthen collaboration.

France proposed an MOU with the IPCC. Larigauderie said the Plenary needs to provide a mandate to the Secretariat to establish MOUs with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and UNFCCC, but no such mandate is needed for the IPCC.

The Secretariat then presented upcoming activities under the Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Strategy, including developing a brand strategy and media outreach plan, and a three-phase communication plan for launching the regional and land degradation assessments, including publishing “opinion pieces and editorials.” Responding to concerns raised, he explained “opinion pieces” do not advocate specific positions or policies.

Germany, with Belgium and Sweden, asked to permit wider use of the IPBES logo and acronym, which was opposed by the US. The Secretariat clarified that the Plenary decided that the Secretariat must authorize all logo and acronym usage. Noting the IPBES’s guidelines for logo usage and the diverse views on logo use, Chair Watson suggested that the Bureau develop a proposal to address the concerns raised.

The Plenary took note of the information presented.


Plenary initiated discussions on the budget on Tuesday, when IPBES Executive Secretary Larigauderie presented the IPBES budget and draft fundraising strategy (IPBES/5/10 and annex). She highlighted that a realistic estimate of current IPBES activities, without launching new assessments and assuming a regular level of national contributions, will require an additional US$3.4 million for 2017-2019 to complete ongoing activities.

Chair Watson said the Bureau considers launching new assessments infeasible due to funding limitations and constrained expert capacity. Sebsebe Demissew, MEP, advised against starting new assessments in 2017.

The budget was subsequently discussed throughout the week by the Budget Group, chaired by Spencer Thomas (Grenada). Discussions centered on the initiation of pending assessments and the financial gap constraining both current activities and ongoing assessments. Some developed countries supported prioritizing ongoing assessments rather than launching new ones. South Africa expressed concerns over relegating the three outstanding assessments and called for carefully assessing both the work programme and the budget to identify opportunities for their launching. Latin America and the Caribbean, with the African Group, acknowledged resource limitations but said that IPBES is “in debt with developing countries,” as the thematic assessments, which they deemed a priority, had already been postponed. The African Group cautioned that limiting work on programme activities may limit IPBES’s impact. Colombia stated funding should not be earmarked.

On Thursday, Budget Group Chair Thomas reported to the plenary: “the financing gap remains significant and immediate, which has impacts on the current activities and ongoing assessments, as well as significant implications for the future of the Platform.”

On Friday evening, Thomas reported back to plenary that the group “failed to successfully conclude its work,” and submitted to plenary the draft fundraising strategy and decision containing outstanding text. IPBES Executive Secretary Larigauderie presented a table displaying the estimated risk of budget shortfall associated with different budget options. Chair Watson called for fiscal responsibility, a balanced 2017 budget and accepting a reasonable risk for the 2018 budget. South Africa asked for scenarios for including the pending assessments: “Starting with a conservative budget for 2018, with the possibility of undertaking none or one pending assessment, leading to a more optimistic budget outlook that includes the possibility for initiating two or three of the pending assessments.”

The US: viewed the estimated risks presented by the Secretariat as “unacceptable.” She lamented that “the work programme was too ambitious” and stressed that “the issue at hand is not a lack of commitment but an inability to understand fiscal reality.” She proposed a 2018 budget figure, which the Secretariat estimated would only cover the costs of some of the Secretariat staff and one Plenary session. New Zealand and Germany preferred being less risk averse. Referring to “financial support commitments” expressed by the EU equivalent to the support provided to the IPCC, Argentina, in anticipation thereof, called for a more optimistic budget. Australia underscored the need to at least deliver the global assessment, which it identified as “IPBES’s core product.”

After lengthy discussion, parties agreed that IPBES-6 should provide more room for discussions on addressing IPBES’s financing gap, and that “subject to the availability of sufficient funds, IPBES-6 will consider the pending assessments.”

Final Outcome: In its decision, the plenary agreed, inter alia: on a balanced budget of US$8,732,772 for 2017 and a US$5 million budget for 2018; to “request the Secretariat to examine the implications of a US$5 million budget and options both above and below that number;” and to delete references to a 2019 budget.


This item (IPBES 5/11) was first introduced on Wednesday in plenary and subsequently addressed by Contact Group I on Thursday and Friday. Discussions focused on: the timing of the review; whether the review should focus only on the Platform’s process or also on its overall effectiveness or impacts; internal and external review elements; management options for an external review; associated costs; and a draft questionnaire.

EU IPBES Members expressed concern on timing of the review, noting that it provides crucial inputs for designing the second work programme. Colombia expressed concern that an early review would undermine its purpose to assess the first work programme, with Brazil and Mexico reminding of pending deliverables of the first work programme. The African Group expressed concern over the review costs. Mexico suggested first defining “what we want to measure” and to then look at “who” should measure and “when.” He supported assessing the administrative efficacy and scientific quality of products and their impact on decision-makers. Chair Watson noted that a review on impacts would require waiting until the uptake of IPBES outcomes by policy makers can be assessed. Members eventually clarified that the review will evaluate, inter alia, the effectiveness of the implementation of the budgetary and financial arrangements, and of the processes of stakeholder engagement and communication.

Many members supported an internal review. The US, however, did not see an internal review as necessary. Australia said the review should be completed before proceeding with new assessments. IPBES Chair Watson explained the internal review would complement, not substitute for, an external review. On managing the internal review process, many suggested hiring an external consultant or organization. Chair Watson said once the review’s TOR have been finalized, a call for organizations to manage the process would be released.

On selecting the external review panel, members agreed that the Bureau, with input from the MEP, select the review panel. Antigua and Barbuda called for ensuring inclusion of IPLC representatives. The Stakeholder Network urged ensuring the external review’s independence, and the US its transparency. Agreeing that the review process should ensure independence, EU IPBES Members asked to clarify the potential relationship of an external professional organization with the external review panel. While some countries preferred employing an external agency to manage the external review element, they expressed flexibility given budgetary constraints. Norway supported hiring an administrative officer. Senegal expressed concern that this could affect the review’s independence.

On Friday, IPBES Chair Watson noted that the Budget Group had decided to eliminate funding for an external review for 2017 and thus presented two options for the Plenary to consider: a one- or two-year review, both delayed until 2018. Delegates agreed to a one-year review, to commence in 2018.

Mexico expressed concern with the review process as the three pending assessments may not be completed. Chair Watson, noting that the review is only to assess the efficacy of the Platform’s processes and not its impacts, stated that other outputs would be available to consider, including the Pollinators Assessment, and the regional and global assessments. The US reiterated that the second work programme should not commence until the review is complete. Mexico urged that national focal points be included to assess take-up of IPBES outputs.

Outlining the budget implications, given the decision for a one-year review, Chair Watson stated that: there is no longer dedicated funding for focus groups; the revised cost is US$183,160 rather than US$200,070; and there is a 10% leeway in the budget if a suitable organization is found that is slightly higher than the budgeted costs. Delegates agreed to the revised text.

In the related draft decision, Senegal requested language ensuring regional representation, and EU IPBES Members asked for language stating that the review address financial and budgetary arrangements, including fundraising strategies.

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.10), the Plenary, inter alia:

  • approvesthe TOR for the review of the Platform at the end of its first work programme and the conduct of an internal review by the MEP and the Bureau and the transmission of its conclusions to the external reviewers;
  • requeststhe Bureau, in consultation with the MEP, to revise the questionnaire and, after review by members and stakeholders, to finalize it;
  • requeststhe Executive Secretary to call for the nomination of candidates for the review panel, with a view to ensuring regional representation, and to conduct a competitive bidding process for an external professional organization to coordinate the review with a view to initiate the work of the organization by the beginning of 2018, subject to the availability of financial resources; and
  • requeststhe internal review panel to provide a final report to the Plenary.

Annexed to the decision is the TOR for the review of the Platform, with sections on: objectives, timing and expected outputs of the review; institutional structure of the review; methodology; budget; and, in an appendix, the draft questionnaire for the review of IPBES.


Process for developing the Platform’s second work programme: This issue was addressed in plenary on Wednesday and in Contact Group I on Thursday. Main issues discussed addressed whether to adopt a modality for a rolling work programme and how to address the pending tasks of the first work programme adopted in 2013.

Executive Secretary Larigauderie presented the possible initiation of the development of a second work programme for IPBES (IPBES/5/12). EU IPBES Members emphasized that any work programme should be responsive to the relevant international conventions and UN processes and, supported by the US, proposed a rolling work programme. Brazil and IUCN suggested delaying a second work programme by “at least one year.” South Africa highlighted the need to: first identify priority issues; be fiscally responsible; and emphasize quality over quantity. Guatemala and Mexico, with other developing countries, underscored that pending assessments and all deliverables agreed to in 2013 must be completed within the first work programme.

Delegates in the contact group agreed on referring to “a framework for a rolling work programme,” and discussed whether to request the MEP and Bureau to draft initial elements, including, inter alia: potential structure; guidance on calls for requests; and preliminary cost estimates.

On guidance for particular considerations in this task, such as timing, the group engaged in lengthy discussions, in particular on referencing the Paris Agreement, which the US and Turkey opposed. They agreed to consider a 10-year horizon, which would allow the second work programme to inform “the evaluation of SDG implementation in 2030,” and “the Rio Conventions” and ongoing processes related to biodiversity and ecosystem services.” During the final plenary, Brazil suggested referencing the CBD, instead of the Rio Conventions, which the US opposed. Chair Watson underscored the difficulties in addressing all the specific relevant conventions, appealing to keep the plenary discussions “politically neutral.”

Delegates agreed to the draft decision pending the outcome of informal consultations on prioritizing outstanding deliverables from the first work programme and opportunities arising through strategic partnerships. Due to insufficient time, delegates were unable to address the outstanding language on the list of considerations that the MEP and the Bureau should address in developing the initial draft elements of a framework for a rolling work programme. In particular, this concerned: giving priority to completing assessments whose scope was already approved in the first work programme; and that no new assessments be initiated prior to the pending assessments being initiated.

Final Outcome: In the final decision (IPBES/5/L.5), the Plenary requests the MEP and the Bureau to develop, for consideration by IPBES-6, initial draft elements for a framework for a rolling work programme, including a potential structure, guidance on a call for requests, a process for receiving and prioritizing requests, and preliminary estimates of costs and human resource needs.

In doing so, the Plenary requests taking into account consideration of, in particular:

  • the time frame for the second work programme in the context of a 10-year horizon, the SDGs, the UNFCCC, UNCCD and CBD, other biodiversity-related conventions, and other biodiversity and ecosystem service processes;
  • strategic partnerships;
  • options for number and timing of assessments, with the provision that flexibility by the Plenary is required for arising needs;
  • that the work programme should reflect the implementation of the four functions of IPBES, based on the results of the review; and
  • the need to build on early outcomes of the review of the first work programme, in particular, the structure of technical support, task forces and expert groups, and the composition of the Secretariat.

Dates, Venues and Agendas of IPBES-6 and 7: On Wednesday, in plenary, Executive Secretary Larigauderie presented the provisional agendas and organizations of work for IPBES-6 and IPBES-7 (IPBES/5/12). Members agreed, by acclamation, to accept Colombia’s offer to host IPBES-6.

On Friday, in plenary, Chair Watson noted that the heavy agenda of IPBES-6 may require extending the meeting from seven to eight days. He suggested the Secretariat work with the Government of Colombia to accommodate this need.

Final Outcome: In the decision (IPBES/5/L.3), the Plenary:

  • decides that IPBES-6 will be held from 18-24 March 2018 and accepts the offer by the Government of Colombia to host IPBES-6 in Medellin;
  • requests the Executive Secretary to negotiate the host country agreement;
  • invites Member States to consider hosting IPBES-7, scheduled to take place 13-18 May 2019; and
  • takes note of the draft preliminary agenda for IPBES-6 annexed to document IPBES/5/12.


On Wednesday, Executive Secretary Larigauderie introduced a report (IPBES/5/INF/18) on actions in the context of the collaborative partnership arrangement between the Platform and UNEP, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to foster the Platform’s work programme.

The Plenary took note of the information presented.


The closing plenary convened on Friday afternoon at 3:30 pm. The Contact Group Co-Chairs reported on several draft decisions with outstanding text pending the outcome of the budget discussions. Budget Group Chair Thomas reported that the Budget Group had yet to agree on the 2017 and 2018 IPBES budgets. Chair Watson alerted delegates that closing the session without adopting a budget was unacceptable.

Delegates then adopted all decisions except the budget. At 6:55 pm plenary was suspended to allow the Budget Group to finalize the budget.

Plenary reconvened at 8:30 pm. Budget Group Chair Thomas explained that the Budget Group was unable to agree on a budget for 2017-2018. Delegates discussed several options, including a “minimum survival budget” to guarantee the continuation of IPBES’s operations, and a “high risk” budget with a significant chance of incurring a budget shortfall should additional contributions in 2017 and 2018 be insufficient. Delegates eventually agreed to adopt a medium-sized budget allowing for IPBES operations to continue but not allowing for the pending assessments to be initiated. Delegates agreed to authorize the rapporteur to finalize the meeting’s report based on comments to be provided by Member States within two weeks.

Chair Watson gaveled the meeting to a close at 10:55 pm.


You can’t always get what you want/ But if you try sometimes well you just might find/ You get what you need

~ Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

“Science can help ensure that decisions are made with the best available information, but ultimately the future of biodiversity will be determined by society.” This key message from the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was one of the main drivers of the international community’s desire to establish an inclusive platform for policy advice on biodiversity and ecosystem services, ultimately leading to the establishment of IPBES. After almost a decade of preparatory work, the Platform began to claim its space in the international science-policy arena when it delivered its first two assessments at IPBES-4 in 2016. The assessment on pollinators has received widespread acclaim and is being taken up by decision-makers around the world. With no new assessments to release, IPBES-5 provided an opportunity to focus on other IPBES deliverables, such as work on ILK. The meeting also offered space to review and take stock of the implementation of the Platform’s first work programme.

Delegates soon realized that such introspection was more important than many originally thought as concerns about the budget increasingly dominated the meeting. Those who had hoped that IPBES-5 would launch the three pending assessments on sustainable use of wild species, invasive alien species, and diverse conceptualizations of multiple values of nature were disappointed as the Plenary was only able to adopt a budget barely covering the Secretariat’s day-to-day operations for the completion of ongoing assessments. The perceived “relegation” of these assessments to a status of less importance sparked tensions among IPBES members with many lamenting that IPBES is not receiving the (financial) attention it deserves. This analysis takes a deeper look at the Platform’s ambitions, the available resources and capacity to realize those ambitions, and the prospects for balancing these two sides in the future so that IPBES can get what it needs.


IPBES wants to be no less than the equivalent of the IPCC, the universally recognized reference and go-to source for advice on biodiversity and ecosystem services. This comparison, however, ignores that the scope of IPBES is broader than that of IPCC as it includes functions beyond assessments. One function on knowledge and data supports knowledge generation to enable the inclusion of all forms of knowledge and respect different worldviews in its assessments. IPBES-5 clarified that this includes catalyzing the mobilization of ILK “where such knowledge does not exist in readily available formats.”

IPBES’s ambition is further driven by the opportunity to provide input to several important milestones of the global environmental policy agenda, including the review of implementation of the CBD’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2021 and the development of its next Strategic Plan; the review of implementation of the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the SDGs, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Another driver of IPBES’s aspiration is the need to serve the diverse interests of its members and stakeholders. The first work programme was a delicate balance between the preferences of different country groups and stakeholders interested in assessments regarding the most pressing issues in their countries or regions.

The combination of these drivers is reflected in a very ambitious first work programme that aims to conduct no less than eleven assessments within five years. With two assessments completed, six assessments underway and scoping work for the three pending assessments finalized, IPBES nonetheless appears to be on its way to achieving these objectives. In addition to assessments, the work programme contains tasks relating to the Platform’s other functions: knowledge and data, policy support tools and methodologies, and capacity building. At IPBES-5 members were expected to focus on ILK and capacity building, initiate follow-up work on the assessment on scenarios and models for biodiversity and ecosystem services, and also tackle the Platform’s review.


Completing the work programme requires substantial human and financial resources. Each assessment takes approximately three years from inception to completion, involving between 60 to over 150 authors. This means that, to date, approximately 1,300 authors and experts have contributed to the Platform’s work, with many working simultaneously on multiple assessments. These “in kind” contributions, as estimated by IPBES Secretariat, amount to approximately US$14 million. Executive Secretary Anne Larigauderie noted that this number is proof of the scientific and expert community’s commitment to the Platform.

The downside of this commitment is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit new experts as many are already involved in one or multiple assessments. The Bureau and the MEP argued that IPBES is “overstretching the limits of available human capacity and recommended postponing pending assessments. Stakeholders begged to differ. They reminded that to comply with IPBES’s requirements for regional and gender balance, and academic and cultural diversity IPBES must build the capacity of IPBES members to more effectively mobilize experts that are qualified and willing to contribute pro bono. In reality, many experts face constraints such as lack of funding by their institutions, lack of translation services, or they may simply be unaware of the opportunity to participate in an IPBES assessment.

Financial resources are another challenge. To complete the ongoing assessments and other work, excluding the three pending assessments, requires raising approximately US$10.7 million over the contributions received to date. Based on past revenue, the Secretariat estimated that the Platform could incur a total deficit of US$8.4 million over the next two years. The difference between what is pledged and what is needed is stark. There are too many demands for scarce resources, and with a review of the first work programme looming, in addition to the assessments, these resources are being stretched even more.

With very few new pledges announced during the meeting, the Budget Group was unable to present a balanced budget and adopting the budget became a desperate race against the clock. Proposals during the final plenary ranged from a “minimum survival budget,” which would have put the Secretariat on life support, and leaving it without resources to continue its work, to a “high risk” budget, which would enable continuation of all current activities, but run a significant risk of remaining underfunded―a risk many donors considered “unacceptable.”

Ultimately, delegates agreed on a compromise, emphasizing fiscal responsibility for 2017 and accepting a manageable level of risk for 2018. If fully funded, the Secretariat will be able to complete most of its tasks, but the risk of incurring a deficit is real.

The decision not even to consider initiating pending assessments led to notable tension throughout the week as several developing countries felt that donor countries had pushed at IPBES-4 to prioritize their preferred assessments at the expense of those favored by developing countries. One developing country participant said that constantly stating “it’s a budget issue” is not going to help, as the pending assessments are more relevant for his country. Not taking them up could “negate” the importance of IPBES for his country, and potentially his region, he added. Donor countries rebutted that the regional assessments and the assessment on land degradation already underway were high priority for developing countries.

The full picture may be more complex than that. While land degradation was the priority for African countries, Latin American countries prioritized the assessment on sustainable use. The same is true for donor countries. The assessment on invasive alien species is of highest importance for countries like Australia and the US, whereas European countries are more interested in the assessments on values of nature and on sustainable use. The wide range of issues covered in the first work programme does not reveal the distinct interests and needs of IPBES members. All members supported the package as long as their favorite issue was funded. The prospect of leaving some issues by the wayside, however, has led to a resurgence of mistrust.


Reflecting on the tensions over the budget, one delegate noted “it is sad that we are once again talking about ‘us’ versus ‘them’ when in fact it is all about ‘us,’” meaning that biodiversity, is about all life on earth. Several delegates argued that they need certain assessments to show their governments that they are getting “value for money,” while others had specific user communities in mind when arguing for their preference. This approach, as one stakeholder observed, undermines the overall mission of IPBES to provide advice on the entirety of the world’s biodiversity and ecosystem services. “Methodological, thematic and spatial assessments should reflect the complex and local nature of biodiversity, not the particular interests of IPBES members. Countries are losing the common objective,” she opined. 

Other delegates highlighted that “we are in this situation because we keep on kicking the can down the road, but there is also a risk in failing the audience that we have engaged with if we do it again.” Delegates agreed, saying that at IPBES-6, the financial situation of the Platform needs to be “seriously” addressed. The Platform would send a very bad signal if it cannot produce anything and falter at this stage. The agreement on a fundraising strategy and the offer of a fundraising expert from the French Government could allow for a more informed debate when trying to resolve the matter in a sustainable manner. Discussions on the fundraising strategy are expected continue exploring how to leverage strategic partnerships with other organizations, and how to raise funds from all members.

Some participants suggested that the review of the work programme could generate better arguments to support IPBES. Reviewing the success of the first work programme could reassure members that investment in IPBES “generates great returns,” as one member noted in the opening plenary, stating that each dollar spent produced three dollars in in-kind contributions. The timeline of the review aligns with the release of the global assessment. One seasoned observer mused “this is not a bad thing,” anticipating that IPBES-7 will also prove its performance during the first work programme.


IPBES is clearly not getting what it wanted when the first programme was adopted. As a result, discussion at IPBES-5 focused on the resources the Platform needs to continue its work. The review of the Platform and the funding strategy offer opportunities for making a better case for IPBES support. Some delegates also felt that “we should not let the dark mood of the final plenary overshadow our successes!” IPBES-5 adopted a decision on ILK that was welcomed by IPLCs as an “important step forward.” Most of all the success of the pollinator assessment shows that IPBES seems to have found its niche, as it tries to distill and communicate the many facets of biodiversity loss to policy- and decision-makers, and the broader public. The next wave of regional assessments will further enhance its position, if the Secretariat is enabled to complete them, given budgetary constraints. Finally, the global assessment will reinforce the perception among policy makers that IPBES is a common undertaking of the international community that delivers tangible benefits for all.

So, while delegates may have felt that they could “get no satisfaction” at IPBES-5, they should keep in mind that the Platform is only getting started.


Sixth meeting of the ITPGR Working Group to Enhance the Functioning of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit-sharing: The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR) Working Group is tasked, among other objectives, with elaborating a revised Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) and the development of a subscription system. The sixth meeting of the Working Group will be held in Rome, Italy. Regional consultations will take place on 13 March, followed by the Working Group. dates: 13-17 March 2017  location: Rome, Italy contact: ITPGR Secretariat  phone: +39-6-57053441  fax: +39-6-57053057  email: pgrfa-treaty@fao.orgwww:

Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon: The Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon (GSOC17) is a scientific meeting, aiming to contribute to the efforts of ending hunger and malnutrition, climate change adaptation, reversing land degradation, and overall sustainable development while linking sustainable soil management and climate change mitigation and adaptation.  dates: 21-23 March 2017  location: Rome, Italy  contact: FAO  email: www:

BBNJ PrepCom 3: The third meeting of the Preparatory Committee established by General Assembly Resolution 69/292: Development of an international legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction will address marine genetic resources, area-based management tools, environmental impact assessments, capacity building, transfer of marine technology, and crosscutting issues.  dates: 27 March - 7 April 2017  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UNDOALOS)  phone: +1-212-963-3962  email: www:

The Marine Environment and UN Sustainable Development Goal 14: The 41st Annual Conference of the Center for Oceans Law and Policy will convene under the theme, “The Marine Environment and UN Sustainable Development Goal 14.” Through Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, the international community agreed to aim to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”  dates: 17-18 May 2017   location: Yogyakarta, Indonesia  contact: University of Virginia Center for Oceans Law and Policy  phone: +1-434-924-7441 fax: +1-434-924-7362  email: www:

Global Soil Week (GSW) 2017: Held under the theme “Catalysing SDG Implementation through a Soil and Land Review” GSW 2017 will look at the SDGs to be reviewed in-depth at the fifth meeting of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF 5) through the perspective of land and soils, providing an integrative perspective across the SDGs. The event also provides a forum for different actors to express their priorities regarding SDG implementation. dates: 22-24 May 2017  location: Berlin, Germany  contact: IASS Potsdam  phone: +49-331-288223-00  fax: +49-331-288223-10  email: www:

International Day for Biological Diversity 2017: The 2017 International Day for Biological Diversity will be celebrated under the theme, “Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism,” coinciding with the designation of 2017 by the UN General Assembly as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. date: 22 May 2017  location: worldwide   contact: CBD Secretariat  email: www:

14th International Symposium on the Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms: The goal of this symposium, organized by the International Society for Biosafety Research, is to advance the standing of biosafety research around the world and shape the ways in which GM technology is applied and regulated. The 2017 theme is “Environmental risk assessment of GMOs: past, present and future.”  dates: 4-8 June 2017  location: Guadalajara, Mexico  contact: NataliaBogdanova  email: www:

Ocean Conference: Our Oceans, Our Future: Partnering for the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: This high-level UN Conference, co-hosted by the governments of Fiji and Sweden, will coincide with the World Oceans Day, and seeks to support the implementation of SDG 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development).  dates: 5-9 June 2017  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: Permanent Missions of Fiji and Sweden to the UN  phone: +1-212-687-4130 (Fiji); +1-212-583-2500 (Sweden)  www:

Fifth Session of the Global Soil Partnership Assembly: The Global Soil Partnership (GSP) Assembly is the main, annual meeting of the Partnership charged with reviewing and prioritizing GSP actions, and facilitating a balanced regional decision-making process. The GSP brings together members of the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS), the GSP Executive Secretariat, and representatives and FAO partners.  dates: 20-22 June 2017  location: Rome, Italy  contact: FAO GSP Secretariat  phone: +39-6-57051  email: www:

HLPF 5: The fifth session of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, convening under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), will be held under the theme “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world.” As decided in UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution A/70/299, HLPF 5 will conduct in-depth reviews of the implementation of five SDGs, including SDG 14 (Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development).  dates: 10-19 July 2017  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact:  UN Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs  www:   

BBNJ PrepCom 4: The fourth meeting of the Preparatory Committee established by General Assembly resolution 69/292 (Development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction) will address marine genetic resources, area-based management tools, environmental impact assessments, capacity building, transfer of marine technology, and crosscutting issues.  dates: 10-21 July 2017  location: UN Headquarters, New York  contact: UNDOALOS  phone: +1-212-963-3962   email: www:

CITES Animal and Plants Committees: The 29th Meeting of the CITES Animals Committee will take place from 18-21 July, followed by a Joint Session with the CITES Plants Committee on 22 July. The 23rd Meeting of the CITES Plants Committee will take place on 24-27 July.  dates: 18-27 July 2017  location: Geneva, Switzerland  contact: CITES Secretariat  phone: +41-22-917-81-39/40  fax: +41-22-797-34-17  email: www:

UNCCD COP 13: The thirteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the sixteenth session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 16), and the thirteenth session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST 13) will be held in September 2017. A high-level segment is scheduled on 11 and 12 September 2017. dates:  4-15 September 2017  location: Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China  contact: UNCCD Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-2800  fax: +49-228-815-2898/99  email: www:

19th Annual BIOECON Conference: Held under the theme “Evidence-based environmental policies and the optimal management of natural resources,” the nineteenth BIOECON Conference will provide a platform for the dissemination of high-quality research on the economics of environmental protection and biodiversity conservation.  dates: 21-22 September 2017  location: Tilburg, Netherlands  contact: Ms. Kristel Suijs  email: www:

CMS COP 12: The 12th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 12) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) will be held under the theme “Their Future is Our Future – Sustainable Development for Wildlife & People.” The meeting will emphasize the services provided by migratory species, including as sources of food and medicine, as pollinators and seed dispersers, and as a means of pest control.  dates: 23-28 October 2017  location: Manila, Philippines  contact: CMS Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-2401  fax: +49-228-815-2449  email: www:

 Fourth International Marine Protected Areas Congress: This conference will gather participants from multidisciplinary backgrounds to discuss recent activities and trends in marine protected area management and science including, among other issues, management tools, conservation biology, ecology, fisheries, climate change, monitoring, enforcement, community development, communications, education and business administration.  dates: 4-8 September 2017  location: La Serena, Chile  email: www:

UNEA 3: The third Meeting of the UN Environment Assembly will be held from 4-6 December 2017, with the high-level segment taking place on 5-6 December, and the Open-ended Committee of Permanent Representatives from 29 November to 1 December.  dates: 29 November - 6 December 2017 location: Nairobi, Kenya  contact: Jorge Laguna-Celis, Secretary of Governing Bodies  email: www:

IPBES-6: The sixth session of the IPBES Plenary will consider for approval four regional assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem services and the thematic assessment on land degradation and restoration. The plenary is also expected to conduct regular elections of the MEP and consider the review of effectiveness of the Platform.  dates: 18-24 March 2018  location: Medellin, Colombia  contact: IPBES Secretariat  phone: +49-228-815-0570  email: www:

Further information


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