A joint NGO briefing on the IWC's Conservation Committee



Posted on 07 June 2005  | 
At its 55th Annual Meeting in 2003, the International Whaling Commission voted to establish a Conservation Committee. The adoption of Resolution 2003-1, the "Berlin Initiative on Strengthening the Conservation Agenda of the International Whaling Commission", was strongly supported by IFAW and other NGOs. The establishment of the Conservation Committee is fully consistent with the first objective of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, namely "the interest of the nations of the world in safeguarding for future generations the great natural resources represented by whale stocks", as well as with the overwhelming part of the work devoted by the Commission to that objective during the previous 25 years.

The Initiative was aimed at organizing, rationalizing and supporting the work of the Commission in the pursuit of its objective by devising an appropriate agenda to place special emphasis on its benefits for conservation ("the Conservation Agenda").

Specifically, Resolution 2003-1 adopted by IWC 55 charged the Conservation Committee with:
(1) the preparation and recommendation to the Commission of its future Conservation Agenda;
(2) the implementation of those items in the Agenda that the Commission may refer to it; and
(3) making recommendations to the Commission in order to maintain and update the Conservation Agenda on a continuing basis

The Resolution further specified that the Committee meet before the 2004 Annual Meeting to organize its work and prepare a draft Conservation Agenda for consideration by the Commission for adoption. The Committee did make tentative steps towards the development of a Conservation Agenda at its first meeting, identifying six items of common interest. There was further progress with discussions on the further Terms of Reference for the Committee and relationships with other bodies within the Commission and with other organisations. The Committee also recorded the desire to move forward through an open and inclusive process. Any decision on further work required to clarify the work of the new Committee rests with the Commission as a whole or its Chair. The report of the Committee was adopted by consensus in plenary at IWC56.

Below, we the undersigned conservation organisations make recommendations about the nature of the Committee and its operation. Following the initial discussions at IWC56 there are still several key areas needing clarification and agreement.
 
This briefing is offered in support of:
- the ongoing operation of the Conservation Committee under Resolution 2003-1, and
- any intersessional work undertaken to take forward discussion on the Terms and Reference and Conservation Agenda.

Terms of Reference

Differing views were expressed on the ways to move forward with Resolution 2003-1, the definition of ‘conservation’ and further Terms of Reference for the Committee. These disagreements slowed progress in agreeing a list of priorities issues for the Committee to begin working on. Whilst we hope that Contracting Government’s will participate fully in any intersessional discussions on the Terms of Reference etc, these should not be used as a reason to halt progress towards the development of and work under the conservation agenda.

The Committee already has Terms of Reference to guide such work. The consensus report of the Committee recognises Resolution 2003-1 as a legal fact and the basis for the Conservation Committee’s operation until such time as it might be modified. This includes the Terms of Reference for the Committee as established by Resolution 2003-1 (listed above).

Conservation Agenda

The report of the first meeting of the Committee notes six key themes to be addressed on the agenda of future meetings and eight items currently being addressed by the Scientific Committee that should be of interest to the Conservation Committee. However, these were not unanimously endorsed and further development is needed.

In light of this, in the Annex to this briefing we make initial suggestions for regular items on the Conservation Agenda. They do not exhaustively cover the threats facing cetaceans but are considered to be areas where the Committee could usefully make progress in the short term. We call for these topics to be discussed and the IWC to agree a Conservation Agenda so that work on the substance of the topics can begin.

The Conservation Agenda will need to be updated and extended over time. It is neither necessary nor feasible to develop an exhaustive agenda at the outset. A reasonable first step is to establish some standing agenda items under which the Committee can develop its programmes of work. New items can be added overtime.

To read the full document, click here

By - Greenpeace, IFAW, WWF

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