Biodiversity synergies workshop, Geneva 8-11 February 2016: Institutional arrangements and coordination mechanisms

10 years of synergies among the BRS conventions

Distinguished participants and colleagues,

It is a great pleasure to represent the Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions here today.  I would like to thank and congratulate the CBD secretariat and Switzerland for facilitating and organising this workshop.  It is clear that there is much scope and hope for progressing synergies within the biodiversity cluster over the next few days

As Deputy Executive Secretary of the BRS Conventions I have been working on synergies in the secretariat for the last three years.  Before that I was very engaged in synergies from a Party perspective, co-chairing different working groups and COP sessions.  I feel very fortunate to have been involved from the start in this interesting, challenging and successful process.

In May this year, the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions will be celebrating the 10 year anniversary of our synergies process.  It all began in 2006 with the Stockholm COP 2 decision to join an ad hoc joint working group consisting of a total of 45 members.  There were to be 15 parties per convention that were selected taking due consideration of regional balance. 

It was clear from the start that in order to strengthen coordination and cooperation among the BRS conventions, the parties to all three conventions needed to feel that they were equally included and were entering a level playing field in the negotiations. 

Addressing fears and distrust among those that face change is an absolute necessity in any synergies process.  Needless to say, transparent communication is key.

The need to ensure inclusion and equal opportunity meant that already the establishment of the joint working group required some carefully crafted language.  The Stockholm COP was the first to address the issue and therefore suggested the establishment of an ad hoc joint working group as a possible way forward and then went on to invite the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel and Rotterdam Conventions to consider that option, and in the event of their endorsement, noted that it would agree to its establishment.

One decade later the synergies live on, with new challenges. 

We will know more about what these challenges are by the end of this year as we are just about to embark on a review of the synergies arrangements at all levels of implementation.  Based on the results from the review, the conferences of the parties to the three conventions should at their COPs in May 2017be able to define how the synergies arrangements could be enhanced and what needs to be adapted or modified in the future to increase the impact of the conventions. 

Let me remind ourselves of the initial objectives of the BRS synergies process.  The Parties stated clearly that what they wanted out of enhanced cooperation and coordination among the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions was:

  • strengthened implementation at the national, regional and international levels
  • promotion of coherent policy guidance
  • enhanced efficiency in the provision of support to Parties with a view to reducing their administrative burden
  • maximising the efficient and effective use of resources at all levels

The synergies process among the BRS conventions has always been, and still is, driven by parties, taking into account global concerns and specifically responding to the needs of developing countries. 

The joint working group therefore spent much time during its three meetings discussing what the specific needs of Parties are and these discussions subsequently guided the drafting of the COP decisions. 

The Parties were also very clear as to the fact that any institutional rearrangements had to be based on needs expressed. The notion of form follows function has always been at the core of synergies.  

Over the last decade the Parties to the three conventions have adopted some 20 decisions pertaining specifically to enhanced cooperation and coordination among the Parties. 

What have we achieved so far?

  • We have convened two sets of ordinary meetings of the Conferences of the Parties back to back in 2013 and 2015, and the third set of tripleCOPs will be held in May next year. 
  • We have also held two sets of extraordinary meetings of the COPs – specifically to look at synergies issues.  Thanks to the generous support of governments, we have been able to fund 2-3 developing country participants to the tripleCOPs, thus aiding national dialogue among the delegates.
  • Many countries also already have in place interministerial commissions or committees on chemicals and waste.
  • We also present information on national focal points in a joint manner on our websites, making it easier to link up with colleagues from the three conventions
  • As to the COPs’ programmes of work - some 20 cross-cutting and joint activities have been included allowing for lifecycle implementation of the conventions.
  • A joint technical assistance programme for the three conventions is in place, as part of which the secretariat arranges national and regional training workshops on how to increase coordination and cooperation.
  • We compile and highlight case studies on successful synergies at national level and thus facilitate processes on best practices and learning from others
  • There is increased collaboration between the scientific and technical bodies of the conventions, involving experts from several conventions, for example training of members of scientific groups, joint rosters of experts, guideline documents that address joint issues and intersessional work on environmentally sound management of POPS waste
  • Other issues dealt with in a joint manner include  legislation, linked obligations, enforcement, illegal traffic, information exchange and flow, customs, resource mobilisation, awareness raising, risk assessment and communication, import/export issues, and alternatives to hazardous chemicals
  • Through our regional centres under Basel and Stockholm we increasingly channel regional delivery for all three conventions as well as for the Minamata convention on mercury
  • We have adopted a harmonized approach to parties’ needs assessments, resource mobilization and international cooperation.
  • We have a joint calendar for all meetings of the conventions easily accessible on our web-page
  • We do joint communication and joint web-pages for the three conventions as well as a synergies webpage
  • The parties negotiate the three budgets of the conventions in a joint budget group and present the budgets in an overall format
  • Parties have also requested us to determine the feasibility of a joint single trust fund for staffing costs
  • The three secretariats have been merged into one, with one joint Executive Secretary and an Executive Secretary for the FAO part of the Rotterdam secretariat
  • The merged secretariat works in a matrix structure through its branches on technical assistance, scientific support and conventions operations as well as a unit on administrative services. Through the matrix we disseminate and develop best practices and processes across the joint secretariat.  We also hold regular matrix training sessions. 

I also hope that Parties and colleagues in the UN system as well as stakeholders find it easier to access and work with us now that we are one secretariat, a one stop shop as it were.

In conclusion, it is clear that the conventions have benefitted from joint action at the various levels of implementation. 

It is important, though, to note that the conventions and their decision-making bodies remain sovereign and autonomous. This is the firm foundation and another essential guiding principle of our work that has been clearly communicated by our Parties.

I wish you much success in your deliberations on this very important and engaging matter.

Thank you.