Biodiversity from terrestrial, marine, coastal, and inland water ecosystems provides the basis for ecosystems and the services they provide that underpin human well-being. However, biodiversity and ecosystem services are declining at an unprecedented rate, and in order to address this challenge, adequate local, national and international policies need to be adopted and implemented. To achieve this, decision makers need scientifically credible and independent information that takes into account the complex relationships between biodiversity, ecosystem services, and people. They also need effective methods to interpret this scientific information in order to make informed decisions. The scientific community also needs to understand the needs of decision makers better in order to provide them with the relevant information. In essence, the dialogue between the scientific community, governments, and other stakeholders on biodiversity and ecosystem services needs to be strengthened.
To this end, a new platform has been established by the international community - the 'Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services' (IPBES). IPBES was established in April 2012, as an independent intergovernmental body open to all member countries of the United Nations. The members are committed to building IPBES as the leading intergovernmental body for assessing the state of the planet's biodiversity, its ecosystems and the essential services they provide to society.
IPBES provides a mechanism recognized by both the scientific and policy communities to synthesize, review, assess and critically evaluate relevant information and knowledge generated worldwide by governments, academia, scientific organizations, non-governmental organizations and indigenous communities. This involves a credible group of experts in conducting assessments of such information and knowledge in a transparent way. IPBES is unique in that it will aim to strengthen capacity for the effective use of science in decision-making at all levels. IPBES will also aim to address the needs of Multilateral Environmental Agreements that are related to biodiversity and ecosystem services, and build on existing processes ensuring synergy and complementarities in each other's work.
Specific discussions on IPBES started following the final meeting of the multi-stakeholder international steering committee for the consultative process on an International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB) in November 2007. The consultation towards IMoSEB decided to invite the Executive Director of UNEP - in collaboration with governments and other partners - to convene an intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder meeting to consider the establishment of an intergovernmental mechanism for biodiversity and ecosystem services. There was also consensus among the stakeholders involved in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) follow-up initiative that the follow up to the IMoSEB process and the MA follow-up process should merge. It was the coming together of the MA follow up process with the follow up to the IMoSEB consultations that led to the present process on IPBES.
Three intergovernmental and multistakeholders meetings (Malaysia 2008, Kenya 2009, Republic of Korea 2010) were held to discuss ways to strengthen the science-policy interface on biodiversity and ecosystem services. At the first two meetings, the gaps and needs for strengthening the science policy interface were identified, and at the meeting in June 2010, in Busan, Republic of Korea, governments decided that an IPBES should be established, what the focus of its work programme should be, and agreed on many of the principles of its operation as part of the Busan Outcome.
The Busan Outcome was welcomed by the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya in October 2010, and was subsequently considered at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). UNGA passed a resolution requesting UNEP to convene a plenary meeting to fully operationalize IPBES at the earliest opportunity. This resolution was then taken on board by UNEP in a decision at the 26th session of the UNEP Governing Council meeting, held in February 2011.
The plenary meeting was held in two sessions. The first session was held from 3 to 7 October 2011 in Nairobi. The second session of the plenary was hosted by UNEP, in collaboration with UNESCO, FAO and UNDP, in Panama City from 16 to 21 April 2012. There, many of the modalities and institutional arrangements for the Platform were finalised and 94 Governments adopted a resolution establishing the Platform as an independent intergovernmental body.
The first meeting of the Platform's Plenary (IPBES-1) was held in Bonn, Germany from 21 to 26 January 2013, hosted by the Government of Germany. The final outcome document of this session is available as IPBES/1/12, which includes decisions on the next steps for the development of an initial work programme, the status of contributions and initial budget for the Platform for 2012, the IPBES administrative and institutional arrangements, and the procedure for receiving and prioritizing requests put to the Platform. In addition the report includes the updated rules of procedure for the plenary of the Platform.
The intersessionnal process towards the second session of the Platform's plenary (IPBES-2), which might be held in December 2013, is contained in decision IPBES/1/2. More on the intersessional process here.