Nairobi, Kenya, 3 October 2011 Your Excellency the Vice President of Kenya, Kalonzo Musyoka,
Distinguished delegates, members of the international scientific community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to Nairobi and to the headquarters of UNEP and a wide range of UN organizations and agencies dealing with technical, scientific and humanitarian issues locally, regionally and globally.
Let me thank the Government of Kenya for their ongoing support to this process and the governments of Norway, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, France, Germany, Sweden, the Republic of Korea and the European Commission for their important contributions towards this meeting.
Indeed this meeting and the hugely diverse participation would not have been possible without your support.
The Spirit of Wangari
I believe it is also appropriate to pay tribute to a great Kenyan, great woman, a great environmentalist, a great friend of UNEP's and many in this room and a real leader in the true sense of the word?Professor Wangari Maathai.
Meetings like this will sorely miss her cheerfulness, humanity, intellect, oratory skills and above all that downright dogged determination to not let the small things get in the way of the big picture and what needs to be done.
It is precisely that kind of spirit that should guide this meeting en route to the second and final session next year.
Getting Down to Business
For those of you who may be new to IPBES, let me first say it has been a long and sometimes challenging road.
Three years ago in Putrajaya, Malaysia, governments and the international community came together for the first time to discuss the idea of an Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
It followed the conclusions of the International Mechanism of Scientific Expertise on Biodiversity (IMoSEB) consultations and the ongoing work in the follow-up to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of 2005.
Since Putrajaya there has been a further two meetings. Here in Nairobi in 2009 and in June of last year in Busan, Republic of Korea.
The outcome from Busan was clear and governments, many of which are here today, all worked late into the night making compromises on all sides to ensure that an important agreement was reached.
In many ways it was the United Nations at its best.
The agreement from Busan was 'that an intergovernmental science policy platform for biodiversity and ecosystem services should be established to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.'
So it has been an effort and an additional challenge in an increasingly busy and overloaded calendar of international, regional and national meetings and events.
But it was very much worth it given the science and the reality of a world nearly 20 years after the Rio Earth Summit and with some eight months to go to Rio+20in June 2012.
A world where, later this month, the seventh billionth person is expected to be born?an increase in the global population by over 20 per cent since 1992.
Indeed it is our collective responsibility to now bring this long but fruitful process to its final conclusion?putting this agreement into action.
As requested by the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly and subsequently the UNEP Governing Council in February this year ?modalities and institutional arrangements in order to fully operationalize the platform to be discussed and agreed upon - at the earliest opportunity.
And UNEP has been working in partnership with UNESCO, FAO, UNDP, MEAs, NGOs and the scientific community to facilitate and assist you as the decision makers to this end.
The agenda ahead of you all this week is a full one and must respond to that request to fully operationalize the platform.
Important issues such as what this platform will look like, how it will be run and how you will decide where it will be located will need to be discussed.
Ensuring that IPBES is set up in a way which strengthens the scientific underpinning that addresses the ongoing and increasing declines in global biodiversity and the continuing degradation of ecosystem services will be vital.
The Needs of Governments to Scientists and the MEAs are Paramount
This platform needs to work. It needs to make a difference. And to do that it needs to be operationalized in a manner where the best science can be brought to bear on informing policy making at the global, regional and national levels in a way which is relevant but not prescriptive.
The platform must respond to the needs of governments and take into account the needs of other stakeholders.
In particular it needs to be operationalized to respond to the needs of the Multilateral Environmental Agreements ?many of which have taken decisions in their Conferences of the Parties or subsidiary bodies welcoming the establishment of IPBES to help meet their needs.
In Busan four overarching functions for IPBES were agreed upon and are set out around the room on these banners.
These are knowledge generation; assessment; policy support; and capacity building.
I would urge you to keep these four functions in mind when discussing these more structural and procedural issues so that the body you operationalize can actually deliver at the highest standards possible.
There have been different interpretations of the UN General Assembly resolution text on IPBES.
Whilst recognizing that there does need to be agreement on the legal basis for IPBES as a prerequisite for the platforms' operationalization, I urge you to focus this week on the many additional elements that need to be agreed upon.
This will allow us to move forward to ensure that this platform is operationalized and can start its critical work on helping to address biodiversity loss and ecosystem services degradation.
I will not revisit with you the many reasons why you agreed in Busan that IPBES is needed. Everyone in this room knows this and has acknowledged it by your willingness to travel across the globe to be here today.
I am sure we will see considerable progress here this week at the end of this first session so we can all springboard to next year's second part of the process.
One that builds on this week's discussions and finally turns the efforts, requests and ideas of scientists and committed governments dating back often decades, into the living breathing Platform.