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The Greenland Vote Approaches

This is the blog from the team at IWC 64 in Panama.

Many delegates, now too tired to vocalise, raise eyebrows to each other in greeting and look to the heavens (or at least the roof of the great hall) as they proceed to their places.

UK Minister, Richard Benyon MP, is swift to his seat and quickly in consultation with UK Commissioner, Nigel Gooding, and the rest of the team. A few IWC scientists are again at their seats ahead of the political teams and enjoying the familiar landscape of the great hall where they live.

There are some early microphone problems and then Chairman Bruno opens the meeting and tells us that we will be working through today. This will include a vote on the Denmark/Greenland request [for more aboriginal whales for their popular restaurants and aboriginal peoples] and Bruno does not want to see any more hand-raising today – the special microphone is working. [No it isn’t]

Monaco now takes to the floor and does not want to wait too long to have his resolution considered and encourages the assembly to move along. Bruno suggests that this will be after lunch but he reminds delegates to be brief.

He then throws the microphone to Dr Debi Palka, the redoubtable chair of the Scientific Committee. She tells us about the Scientific Committee’s work on climate change. Is anyone interested? No, not this year; no comments and we move on to Ecosystems Modelling. Anyone care about this? Again, there are no comments and Debi turns the Scientific Committee report to page 83, where we look at issues in the Arctic and the Committee has suggested some recommendations about an Arctic workshop that was originally focused on oily matters. Anyone interested? Can we see the alternate Commissioner for the US reaching towards his button… Yes.

Thank you Chair says Mr Wulf, the US looks forward to the workshop and will work with others to finalise the agenda for the workshop over the next few months.

Cyprus ‘as usual’ on the behalf …. support the workshop and that it should be expanded to all threats and continue to focus on Arctic species.

Next we hear: “Good morning, my name is Richard Benyon and I am the UK environment minster. I thank the Government and people of Panama for hosting this meeting and for their warm welcome and to you Chair for the smooth running of this meeting. I welcome all the efforts being made to address environmental and health concerns and for the work of the Scientific Committee to look at ways in which to address these issues.

I would like to reiterate the UK’s support for the moratorium, and our fundamental position against scientific whaling now or by countries who wish to go down that road in the future. I welcome the increasingly important work of the conservation committee and countries continuing to look for constructive ways to work together to address the increasing threats to all cetaceans.

In particular, I follow with great interest the progress made on welfare issues, including those associated with the entanglement of large whales and marine debris, and the ongoing work by the Commission in the development of whale watching worldwide.

I believe there is cause for optimism in the way we have worked together this week and hope this spirit of cooperation continues as we look at ways to reduce threats to whales.

Cyprus… is worried about harm to ecosystem services and the toll being taken by environmental threats.

And then, quite suddenly, we find we are taking about the resolution from the EU about pollution and human and cetacean health. Australia likes the resolution but also wishes to change some language relating to non-lethal research.

St Kitts finds the resolution (which you can see on the IWC website) useful. However he heard that human lives were not an issue for the IWC yesterday when we were discussing ‘safety at sea’ and that it should be dealt with by the IMO. ‚This is hypocrisy‘ and maybe we should discuss safety at sea again for this reason. He wants a level playing field.

Germany a co-sponsor of the resolution has no doubt that the proposal remains serious and a top priority. He requests the scientific committee to work more on the health of cetaceans.

The Chair, speaking as Switzerland, supports the resolution. [Is this allowed?]

Norway moves to make some amendments that, in effect, cause the resolution to refer to the threat from some cetaceans only. The point being that the meat from only some populations is highly contaminated enough to constitute a threat to human health. Whilst countries cogitate on this, Simon Brockington, the Executive Secretary, wishes us a good morning and tell us about his interactions with the WHO – World Health Organisation which have been successful.

Colombia likes the resolution. New Zealand likes it and all the amendments. Others speak in support. Palau likes all the amendments offered except that from Australia. Brazil indicates that the BAG is happy.

There has been some running around the room during this debate – a small NGO delegate is seen humbly approaching the US delegation during the session but is swiftly shushed back to the seating in the wings where she belongs. A distinguished scientist is seen moving unusually fast to consult with an NGO colleague at the far end of the room. A Danish delegate cranes her neck to watch the activity.

Is this to do with the Danish proposal?

Tanzania does not like the proposal from Australia.

Chairman notes there are some proposals on the table but he is hopeful that we can reach consensus. Cyprus… agrees that we should keep this open and come back to it.

We go on to the important issue of ‘Other’ but there is no other to report and suddenly with just thirty minutes to coffee break we are in Greenland.

The Danish delegate complains that Switzerland should speak from his flag and not the stage. Then the Acting Commissioner, Ole Samsing, reports that he has not accepted a roll-over position [i.e. the status quo of the existing quota]  – there is no consensus to help him from at least two groupings at the IWC. He has tried everything that is humanely possible to achieve agreement. He will not speculate why there has been no support for a compromise and so he requests a vote.

The US supports the quota and says its meets all the requirements for an aboriginal allocation.

We move to a roll call vote. All the European nations present vote no. Switzerland abstains. Togo … electronic whistling and then ‘yes’. US yes. The BAG counties vote no. Australia no. China – yes. Iceland shouts yes with great vehemence and Simon Brockington repeats it very calmly. Israel votes no. Monaco says no. Mongolia yes. Morroco yes. Naru yes. Netherlands No. New Zealand No. Norway yes. Oman (now with voting rights) abstains. Russian Federation – yes. South Africa abstains.

The vote is that 25 said yes; 34 no; 3 abstains. And so the request from Denmark/Greenland for an increased quota is refused.

Some countries speak to explain their vote or in effect to scold other countries that voted differently from them, and the Chairman allows this.

St Kitts and Nevis wants us to know that we now need to reflect on the harsh winter season that is coming and that we are depriving the people of Greenland of their right to food and their right to existence – we should return and reflect in our capitals about this. We should consider what we are doing to humanity and this is a regretful day.

Iceland suggests we are making the oceans a no-go zone.

Mexico notes a long list of problems with the Greenland proposal.

St Lucia says that as we have not given them a quota they have will have to go elsewhere.

St V and G emphathises with Greenland and their just right to food.

India explains its vote: they endorse subsistence whaling as long as there is no commercial take and they did not support increasing the quota.

Japan says that this is a very sad conclusion and for those in GL you are depriving them of very important source of food. Very scientifically valid and those that say no do not believe in science and we think these people have a right to subsistence living.

Palau regrets that the IWC 64 has just deprived GL of its main source of protein.

Tanzania adds that the proposal was science-based and economical, traditional.

Denmark says ‘what a pity’ that they will go home and reflect on what will be done. The Danish government will decide in coordination with the Greenlandic one what to do. ‘What a pity’ he adds again and comments that some governments have acted outside their jurisdictions.

Greenland adds that she regrets the lack of responsibility accepted here. The IWC is having hard work to survive and for many years we have seen that the IWC cannot fulfill its obligations. 

The Greenlandic delegation adds a few words but we miss them.

The Chairman now says no one can be satisfied on the outcome. No one to be blamed – it is all.

‘Point of order’ is shouted.

Ah yes says the Chairman – ‘point of order, St Kitts and Nevis, of course’.

We cannot be blamed for this says the St Kitts and Nevis Commissioner for this year, Daven Joseph, so please clarify.

The Chairman replies humbly that his English is not as sophisticated as that of the Commissioner and clarifies that he meant that we could not reach a consensus on a very important point. We should not blame for failure on one or another, it is the blame of the whole. We need to go home and reflect.

The debate is perhaps closed, although it is not entirely clear that this is the case as we head for coffee.

The British Minister sweeps majestically from the room with his aides and an entourage of small NGOs on his tail.

We now enter that part of the meeting that deals with the report from the Finance and Administration Committee, chaired by the Australian Commissioner, Donna.

Here a couple of key matters will be discussed – one being how quorum is achieved and the other whether or not the IWC which has previously met annually for 64 years should move to a two year cycle.

As scribes and others blog helpers are summoned to various meetings, we will just record the outcome of these discussions here and you don’t need to read all the interventions congratulating Donna on her leadership or the to and fro of this debate.

The quorum rule remains unchanged and it seems we will not meet next year [hurrah].

We move to the role of observers. This is always fun. We have heard from a few observers to date and the catapult has not yet been deployed.

F&A Chair, Donna explains that 30 minutes was allowed for observers in total and that the Chair was given discretion to manage this. At the private Commissioners meeting on Sunday this was agreed.

Ryan Wulf of the US thanks Donna for her excellent work. He supports transparency and observers and notes that the process this year allowing observers to speak – as times allows and after contracting government have spoken – has gone very well. We should use this as the first step to the ultimate goal of allowing more fulsome interventions.

Brazil says 30 minutes should be seen as a minimum. NGOs should reflect a balance of views and regional representation.

Cyrus/EU remains convinced that governance reforms have improved the Convention and they will also reinforce the spirit of partnership.

I have seen St Kitts and Nevis, says the Chair in a slightly worried tone.

Do you wish the floor?

No I don’t he replies profoundly.

Colombia speaks up for observers. Mexico, too. France insists that NGOs enrich discussions.

Japan says only when time allows; need to give priority to Parties. We have exhausted discussion time over the last few days.

Monaco associates especially with France. He likes civil society. He suggests 5% of time should be given to NGOs and we should be given the opportunity to take note of these interventions.

A Caribbean country says that there is nothing wrong with civil society making interventions. But he is concerned that sometimes ‘we hear 8-9 countries making the same interventions’. They should associate with themselves and not make repetitious and unnecessary interventions.

Eight or nine Caribbean countries now rush to agree with him [no only joking] Chile thinks civil society should be given more time.

Antigua and Barbuda thinks there is a roll for civil society but cautions that these groups need to satisfy the requirements of national and international law and be properly constituted NGOs. We do not want people who are not registered anywhere to fulfil their aims/agenda.

The distinguished alternate commissioner for Argentina likes Donna’s work and he would like more contributions from the NGOs. In Argentina they are very open to working within their democracy with other institutions.

St Kitts and Nevis would just like to associate with Antigua and Barbuda.

Other speakers follow. Most appreciate Donna and NGOs and then suddenly we are in a lunch break.

Über Laura Zahn

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