INTERVIEW: Look ahead to the Triple COPs with the three COP Coordinators

INTERVIEW: Look ahead to the Triple COPs with the three COP Coordinators

Interview between Charlie Avis, BRS Public Information Officer, and the three COP Coordinators, respectively Basel: Alain Wittig; Rotterdam: Andrea Lechner; and Stockholm: Marylene Beau, Programme Officers with the BRS Secretariat.

Charlie Avis (CA): Good morning, Alain, Andrea, and Marylene, you must be very busy right now with less than a week before the Triple COPs, so thanks for your time. Tell me, how are the preparations going?
Alain Wittig (AW): Good morning, Charlie and thank you! Yes indeed we are all very busy with the final preparations of the organization of the Triple COPs - all is going well. We had the great pleasure of meeting the 3 COP Presidents in Geneva last week to finalize arrangements for these meetings. We discussed, among others, the rotation of chairing the various joint sessions on joint issues and the arrangements for the meetings of the bureaux and contact groups. The entire Secretariat is now working hard in finalizing the last arrangements to ensure that all is in place for the opening of the meetings next Monday to enable the successful running of the meetings of COPs.

CA: What does it actually mean “COP Coordinator”, what do you actually do?
Andrea Lechner (AL): Everything! Well, actually each of us is in charge of the COP-related work under one of the Conventions. In preparing for the COPs, we make sure that all meeting documents are prepared on time and that the organization of work provides sufficient time for discussing all agenda items. We also coordinate the intersessional work with the bureaux and the presidents of our COPs in terms of follow-up to decisions taken, bureaux meetings and ensuring that Convention-specific activities are incorporated into the Secretariat’s work plans and are duly implemented as requested by the COPs. 

CA: You seem to work very much as a team - which would suggest there is a lot in common to your individual responsibilities. Is this how you identify “synergies”?
Marylene Beau (MB): Indeed, although we have specific areas of responsibilities, we very much work together as a team to organize these meetings. The Conventions, through the synergies process, have a joint secretariat (UNEP part) which facilitates the implementation of consistent approaches and processes across the three conventions. This is done at different levels, e.g. programmatic or administrative levels. Regarding the servicing of the meetings of the COPs, a lot of synergies have been identified and the best practices have been retained and improved throughout the years to enhance the efficiency of the Secretariat’s functions in this regard.

CA: Let’s turn to the COPs themselves. Is the agenda for this coming Triple COP organised any differently to the previous one? Will there be joint sessions featuring all three conventions together?
AW: The Triple COPs this year will in many ways be organized in a similar manner as in 2013, but they will also feature some differences. For example, this year there will be no high-level segment or simultaneous extraordinary meetings. Regarding some of the similarities, the three COPs are again being organized back-to-back and will include joint sessions on joint issues. Another similarity is that the joint sessions will be followed by sequential sessions of each individual COP meeting, starting with the SC COP, followed by the BC COP and finally the RC COP. The last day of the meetings will again feature a joint session to consider the outcomes of the joint contact groups and would discuss any outstanding joint issues, before each COP closes its meeting.

CA: Can you describe the process: how do decisions get made in the COPs, and how does that eventually influence national implementation?
AL: Decisions at the COPs are generally taken by consensus. The texts for these decisions are prepared by the Secretariat and presented in pre-session documents or so-called Conference Room Papers. For more complex items, contact groups are set up at the meetings to prepare draft decisions for adoption in plenary. Having the three COPs meet during the same two-week period allows them to take harmonized decisions on common issues. After the COPs, it is up to each country to implement these decisions at the national level. For some more substantive decisions, such as those to amend the convention for example in order to list new chemicals, parties to the conventions might need to amend their national regulations in order to reflect the decision taken by the COP.

CA: So what is coming up next week, which is common to the three conventions?
MB: The upcoming COPs will include some joint sessions during which issues that are common to two or three of the conventions will be considered. The items for the joint sessions were agreed upon by the bureaux of the COPs. The objective of the joint sessions is to strengthen implementation and interlinkages between the areas of work under the different conventions or to address cross-cutting organizational matters. Items that will be considered in joint sessions include POPs wastes, technical assistance, financial resources, compliance under the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, international cooperation and coordination, programmes of work and budgets.  

 CA: Are there interesting things happening alongside the COPs?
AW: Yes, many interesting events will take place in the margins of the COPs! A science fair will take place in parallel to the negotiation process from 7 to 9 May 2015 under the common theme of this year’s Triple COPs - ‘From science to action, working for a safer tomorrow’. The aim of the Fair is to increase the understanding of the scientific basis and related processes of the three conventions and to increase awareness of the in-depth scientific considerations relating to decision-making under the three conventions. In addition to the science fair, more than 35 side events will be held during lunch breaks and in the evenings on major issues covered under the conventions. The Government of Switzerland will organize a number of events, such as a reception during the evening of Monday 4 May, and a boat trip on Sunday 10 May 2015, to give a warm welcome to delegates to Geneva.

CA: And the million dollar (chemicals and waste) question: what are your expectations for next week, what will be decided?
AL: There are a number of “standing” items on the agenda of every COP that we expect guidance on from the parties: These include for example the Secretariat’s technical assistance programme, financial resources for chemicals and wastes and last but not least the programme of work and budget for the next biennium. From COP coordinator side, the most exciting discussions at the upcoming COPs will be related to the adoption of technical guidelines under the Basel Convention, the listing of new chemicals under the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions and the possible adoption of procedures and mechanisms on compliance under the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. We look forward to the decisions parties will take on these matters.

CA: Any surprises in store?
MB: A lot of the issues at the agendas of the COPs have been consulted and discussed among regions and countries during the preparatory process leading to the meetings, either through the bureaux or the regional preparatory meetings that took place in March-April.  We thus feel much more aware about issues that could come up than in the past. However, for large meetings like the Triple COPs, we can always expect some surprises, which we hope will be good ones!  

CA: Thank you very much for your time, good luck next week.
AW, AL, MB: Thank you very much Charlie for this opportunity and we wish a successful COP to all participants.