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© Elena Gladilina

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One day until the Commission opens

This is the blog from the WDCS Team at the sixty fourth meeting of the International Whaling Commission

Daybreak is gray here in Panama City. A few black vultures hang high above the tower blocks; weird specs circling high in the sky possibly searching the streets for the odd prone body left over from the excesses of the night before. At ground level the long-tailed grackles are dancing on their big feet as they sift through the rubbish. There is no doubt that Saturday night is a big party night here. Long lines of limousines and large four-by-fours (most complete with blackened windows) were witnessed streaming into the casinos last night.  A bus load of young female dancers were also seen to be delivered at the main door of one establishment. Then through into the early hours, loud music blared from the local bars and the streets were full of revelers, crazy driving and much honking.

Now, in the early hours of Sunday morning, it is much quieter for a while and then the loud and enthusiastic bells of the of the near by beautiful gothic Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Carmen (Church of our Lady of Mount) shatter that quiet and call the faithful to prayer. Along the streets leading to the El Panama Hotel, which is hosting the IWC, some bleary-eyed club and shop propertiers fail to meet that call and instead are busy sweeping and hosing down the pavements. The air is already hot and humid.

Soon, in the El Panama Hotel itself many key strategic meetings are happening behind closed doors. European nations are probably in coordination somewhere; the ‘like-minded’ (the pro-conservation countries) may also be meeting at some point and, from mid-morning, we can be sure that the famous commissioners-only meeting which runs the day before all IWC meetings will be tackling those sticky issues of chairing, quorum, agenda and so forth. To what extent these closed meetings achieve agreements that set the scene for what goes on for the rest of the week is unclear but we can be sure that they are doing something important in there.

Meantime back in the El Panama lesser delegates and non-governmental observers (sometimes referred to here an NoGoes or more usually NGOs) listlessly roam the halls meeting and greeting and gently lobbying each other. In the big pool in the centre of the El Panama many delegates – malingering scientists and others – have donned their bathing costumes and are forming small but no doubt strategically crucial working groups out in the water. This may be their last chance to see daylight for a few days so they will be trying to make the most of it.

Elsewhere in the city there are events today to celebrate the whales and the largest of these is an event at the Clayton in Ciudad del Saber (City of Knowledge) – an aerial display in support of the proposal for the South Atlantic Sanctuary.

But come early afternoon and just when we expect an important closed-door IWC commissioners-only meeting should be occurring, we find a large number of these very same commissioners and their staff propped up on the tables around the El Panama pool bar. What has drawn them here and why are they not locked in fierce debate in some firmly-sealed overly air-conditioned room somewhere out of the public eye? The answer is apparent on the big TV screen behind the bar where Spain can be seen trouncing Italy at football.

Apparently the closed-door meeting is enjoying a prolonged coffee break to allow the distinguished delegates to enjoy the match, and watch the heavy rain falling a few feet away. (The rain has also blissfully reduced the humidity and the heat.)  So stay tuned. Will there be a Chair, an agenda, a functional meeting. Stay tuned!

Über Laura Zahn

Unternehmenskooperationen - Laura Zahn ist bei WDC Deutschland verantwortlich für die Kooperationen mit Unternehmen.