Between Nowhere and Everywhere: The Challenges of Placing the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)

Borie, M. (2016) Between Nowhere and Everywhere: The Challenges of Placing the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Global Environmental Assessments (GEAs) have become influential processes in environmental governance, with the objective to gather policy-relevant knowledge on environmental issues for decision-makers. This thesis offers the first ethnographic account of the nascent Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) which, in contrast to earlier GEAs, aims to implement an inclusive model of expertise. Underlying this move are concerns regarding both the effectiveness of GEAs and their democratization. GEAs have also faced numerous criticisms for being dominated by the global North and for failing to consider the diversity of ways of making sense of global environmental change. Drawing on Science and Technology Studies and on the emerging literature on geographies of science, I view science and policy as being mutually entangled, rather than as two separate domains, and conceptualise GEAs as sites of co-production. It is important therefore to study how categories such as ‘science’, ‘policy’, ‘local’ and ‘global’ are produced and to investigate the practices and places through which knowledge is constructed as policy-relevant. I argue that, despite the aspiration to be global institutions that transcend specific national and cultural contexts and interests, GEAs themselves are situated initiatives which produce a ‘view from somewhere’. Using qualitative methods, I examine three processes within IPBES: (1) the choice of location for its Secretariat; (2) the development of its conceptual framework; and (3) the constitution of the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel. Results confirm that IPBES presents a number of innovative features but also reveal significant ambiguities as to whether IPBES is actually ‘opening-up’ its frame of reference and embracing multiple forms of knowledges and expertise. While IPBES aspires to provide the inclusive ‘view from everywhere’, the narrative of science as providing the disinterested ‘view from nowhere’ and the interest-riven context in which it operates undermines its ambitions.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 03 May 2016 13:01
Last Modified: 03 May 2016 13:01


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