South Africa accepted the request from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to host the meetings of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel (MEP) in Cape Town from 25 – 31 August 2013.
On the 28th of August, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) hosted the official meeting dinner for the participants at Moyo Restaurant at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden which boasted more than 50 participants from across the globe in attendance.
As the guests arrived the evening was set in motion by the rhythm and sounds of Africa as Moyo’s Marimba Band entertained the guests. This was followed by a warm and welcoming address by SANBI CEO, Dr Tanya Abrahamse wherein she spoke about the role of SANBI as the provider of knowledge, information, planning and policy advice, as well as its role in managing the current National Botanical Gardens as 'windows' to South Africa's biodiversity for enjoyment and education.
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.
Carmel Mbizvo, who is the Head of Biodiversity Research and Knowledge Management at SANBI, was the programme director for the evening. The evening programme consisted of short but insightful talks from the esteemed guests such as Department of Environmental Affairs Director General Nosipho Ngcaba; Professor Zakri Abdul Hamid, who is the Chairperson of the IPBES; Sir Bob Watson who is the Chief Scientific Advisor at the Department of Environment in the United Kingdom and Fundisile Mketeni who is the Deputy Director General at the Department of Environmental Affairs.
“The IPBES is a critical instrument for international policy formulation and it will bring the very best scientists in the world together. It will be able to influence the national, regional and global debate on biodiversity.” Said Sir Watson.
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.
A highlight of the evening was the keynote address delivered by Ngcaba. “In South Africa we have had quite a robust era in the development of policy.” Ngcaba said. “Our policy work is underpinned by good science and we hope that SANBI will continue to play its role at a national and global scale.” Ngcaba noted that she is encouraged by the success of the IPBES and its unique manner in which it is embracing multi-stakeholder engagements.
The participants came to South Africa to share lessons and experiences. The meeting provided a unique opportunity for South Africa to showcase its biodiversity and ecosystem management capability and capacity. There is a lot South African scientist have to offer in terms of assisting fellow world leaders in the production of knowledge and improving policies that have been put together in order to achieve development goals. From the highly successful evening it is apparent that in South Africa, the IPBES platform is a priority. “Due to the important role of science, there will always be a role for SANBI to play.” Said Mketeni.
Despite the rainy Cape Town weather on the day it was not a mistake to invite and host the IPBES as it proved to be quite an auspicious occasion, as the city forms part of the Cape Floral Kingdom and is located in a global biodiversity hotspot. Dinner guests thanked South Africa and SANBI for the gracious hospitality. “The last couple of days have been excellent and it really bodes well for the future.” Said Sir Watson.