The Sentinel

Human Rights Action :: Humanitarian Response :: Health ::
Holistic Development :: Sustainable Resilience
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Week ending 25 April 2015

This weekly digest is intended to aggregate and distill key content from a broad spectrum of practice domains and organization types including key agencies/IGOs, NGOs, governments, academic and research institutions, consortiums and collaborations, foundations, and commercial organizations. We also monitor a spectrum of peer-reviewed journals and general media channels. The Sentinel’s geographic scope is global/regional but selected country-level content is included. We recognize that this spectrum/scope yields an indicative and not an exhaustive product. Comments and suggestions should be directed to:

David R. Curry
Editor &
Founding Managing Director
GE2P2 – Center for Governance, Evidence, Ethics, Policy, Practice
david.r.curry@ge2p2center.net

pdf verion: The Sentinel_ week ending 25 April 2015

blog edition: comprised of the 35+ entries to be posted below on 26 April 2015

Migrant Crossings – Mediterranean [to 25 April 2015]

Migrant Crossings – Mediterranean

Joint statement on Mediterranean crossings
23 April 2015
– UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres
– UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
– Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Migration and Development Peter Sutherland
– Director-General of the International Organization for Migration William Lacy Swing

A tragedy of epic proportions is unfolding in the Mediterranean. We, the undersigned [above], strongly urge European leaders to put human life, rights, and dignity first today when agreeing upon a common response to the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean.

The European Union is founded on the fundamental principles of humanity, solidarity and respect for human rights. We urge EU Member States to demonstrate moral and political leadership in adopting a holistic and forward-looking action plan centred upon these values.

The European Union response needs to go beyond the present minimalist approach in the 10 Point Plan on Migration, announced by the EU on Monday, which focuses primarily on stemming the arrival of migrants and refugees on its shores. As a paramount principle, the safety, protection needs, and human rights of all migrants and refugees should be at the forefront of the EU response. EU leaders must look beyond the present situation and work closely with transit and origin countries both to alleviate the immediate plight of migrants and refugees and address in a more comprehensive way the many factors that drive them to resort to such desperate journeys by sea. Enforcement alone will not solve the issue of irregular migration, but could increase the risks and abuse faced by migrants and refugees.

We would therefore encourage bold, collective action to expand the range of measures under consideration to include:
:: Setting in place a State-led, robust, proactive, and well-resourced search-and-rescue operation, urgently and without delay, with a capacity similar to Mare Nostrum and a clear mission to save lives.
:: Creating sufficient channels for safe and regular migration, including for low-skilled migrant workers and individuals in need of family reunification, and access to protection where needed, as safe alternatives to resorting to smugglers.
:: Making a firm commitment to receive significantly higher numbers of refugees through EU-wide resettlement, in addition to current quotas, and on a scale which will make a real impact, combined with other legal means for refugees to reach safety.
:: Bolstering arrangements to support those countries receiving the most arrivals (Italy, Malta, and Greece) and to distribute responsibility more equitably across the European Union for saving lives and protecting all those in need.
:: Combatting racist and xenophobic rhetoric vilifying migrants and refugees.

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IMO Secretary-General calls for coordinated efforts to safeguard migrants
International Maritime Organization
20/04/2015
Deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean highlight need for urgent coordinated action.
The Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Mr. Koji Sekimizu, today (20 April) called for coordinated action to safeguard migrants, following the most recent incident involving large-scale loss of life in the Mediterranean.

While recognizing the significant contribution of the coast guards and naval forces of Italy and Malta, EU Operation Triton and the merchant shipping industry in rescuing thousands of migrants, Mr Sekimizu said:

“The deaths of hundreds of migrants drowned in the Mediterranean within sight of a potential rescue ship once again highlight the need for urgent action to be taken against those unscrupulous criminals whose greed and lack of respect for human life allow them to cram hundreds of innocent, desperate people into unsuitable craft with no concern for their safety. At the same time, I call upon Governments and the wider international community to expedite their efforts to take coordinated action to safeguard migrants and to manage the flow of migrants across borders in ways that do not lead to them being exploited and taken to sea in unsafe craft”.

He added, “The international maritime search and rescue system created through IMO instruments was not designed to handle the huge flows of migrants that are currently being seen in the Mediterranean. In being compelled to embark these unsafe vessels, migrants are effectively being put into extreme danger as soon as they leave shore. The fact that migrants are drowning within sight of their would-be rescuers is testament to the dangers they face and every effort should be taken to find safer, managed routes for migrants.”

The Secretary General of IMO hosted an Inter-agency, High-Level Meeting to Address Unsafe Mixed Migration by Sea at IMO Headquarters (4-5 March 2015) to facilitate dialogue and promote enhanced cooperation and harmonization between United Nations agencies, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, Governments and the shipping industry.

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Special meeting of the European Council, 23 April 2015 – statement
23/04/2015
Statement and remarks – 204/15
1. The situation in the Mediterranean is a tragedy. The European Union will mobilise all efforts at its disposal to prevent further loss of life at sea and to tackle the root causes of the human emergency that we face, in cooperation with the countries of origin and transit. Our immediate priority is to prevent more people from dying at sea.

2. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity and responsibility. Given that instability in Libya creates an ideal environment for the criminal activities of traffickers, we will actively support all UN-led efforts towards re-establishing government authority in Libya. We will also step up efforts to address conflict and instability as key push factors of migration, including in Syria.

3. We today commit to:
Strengthening our presence at sea
a) rapidly reinforce EU Operations Triton and Poseidon by at least tripling the financial resources for this purpose in 2015 and 2016 and reinforcing the number of assets, thus allowing to increase the search and rescue possibilities within the mandate of FRONTEX. We welcome the commitments already made by Member States which will allow to reach this objective in the coming weeks;

Fighting traffickers in accordance with international law
b) disrupt trafficking networks, bring the perpetrators to justice and seize their assets, through swift action by Member State authorities in co-operation with EUROPOL, FRONTEX, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and EUROJUST, as well as through increased intelligence and police-cooperation with third countries;
c) undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers;
d) at the same time, the High Representative is invited to immediately begin preparations for a possible CSDP operation to this effect;
e) use EUROPOL to detect and request removal of internet content used by traffickers to attract migrants and refugees, in accordance with national constitutions;

Preventing illegal migration flows
f) increase support to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger among others, to monitor and control the land borders and routes, building on current CSDP operations in the region, as well as on regional cooperation frameworks (Rabat and Khartoum processes); step up dialogue with the African Union at all levels on all these issues;
g) reinforce our political cooperation with African partners at all levels in order to tackle the cause of illegal migration and combat the smuggling and trafficking of human beings. The EU will raise these issues with the African Union and the key countries concerned, with whom it will propose the holding of a summit in Malta in the coming months;
h) step up cooperation with Turkey in view of the situation in Syria and Iraq;
i) deploy European migration liaison officers in key countries to gather information on migratory flows, co-ordinate with national liaison officers, and co-operate directly with the local authorities;
j) work with regional partners in building capacity for maritime border management and search and rescue operations;
k) launch Regional Development and Protection programmes for North Africa and the Horn of Africa;
l) invite the Commission and the High Representative to mobilise all tools, including through development cooperation and the implementation of EU and national readmission agreements with third countries, to promote readmission of unauthorised economic migrants to countries of origin and transit, working closely with the International Organisation for Migration;
m) while respecting the right to seek asylum, set up a new return programme for the rapid return of illegal migrants from frontline Member States, coordinated by FRONTEX;

Reinforcing internal solidarity and responsibility
n) rapid and full transposition and effective implementation of the Common European Asylum System by all participating Member States, thereby ensuring common European standards under existing legislation;
o) increase emergency aid to frontline Member States and consider options for organising emergency relocation between all Member States on a voluntary basis;
p) deploy EASO teams in frontline Member States for joint processing of asylum applications, including registration and finger-printing;
q) set up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement across the EU, offering places to persons qualifying for protection.

4. The EU institutions and the Member States will work immediately on the full implementation of these orientations. The Presidency and the Commission will present next week a roadmap setting out work up to June.

5. The European Council looks forward to the Commission Communication on a European Agenda for Migration, in order to develop a more systemic and geographically comprehensive approach to migration. The European Council will remain seized of the situation and will closely monitor the implementation of these orientations. The Council and the Commission will report to the European Council in June.

Syria [to 25 April 2015]

Syria

Editor’s Note:
At another extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council on 24 April 2015, the conflict in Syria and the humanitarian crisis it has spawned was the focus of debate We provide links to the video capture of this meeting below and invite readers to invest the time to view this compelling documentation. For convenience, the full text of selected remarks made during the meeting and other documentation are also included below.

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VIDEO: 24 Apr 2015 – Informal comments to the media by Ms. Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Mr. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on Syria.
Valerie Amos (OCHA) and António Guterres (UNHCR) on Syria – Security Council media stakeouts [4:24]
http://webtv.un.org/watch/valerie-amos-ocha-and-ant%C3%B3nio-guterres-unhcr-on-syria-security-council-media-stakeouts-24-april-2015/4194616263001

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VIDEO: 24 Apr 2015 (Part 1) The situation in the Middle East – Security Council, 7433rd meeting [2:24]
24 Apr 2015 – The situation in the Middle East Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014) (S/2015/264)
Reports by Ms. Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Mr. António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, on Syria and others.
http://webtv.un.org/watch/part-1-the-situation-in-the-middle-east-security-council-7433rd-meeting/4194930015001

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VIDEO (Part 2) The situation in the Middle East – Security Council, 7433rd meeting [1:14]
24 Apr 2015 – The situation in the Middle East Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Security Council resolutions 2139 (2014), 2165 (2014) and 2191 (2014)
S/2015/264
http://webtv.un.org/watch/part-2-the-situation-in-the-middle-east-security-council-7433rd-meeting/4194983195001

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Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos Briefing to the Security Council on Syria, New York 24 April 2015
Report from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 24 Apr 2015
Download PDF (43.15 KB)
As delivered

Since my first briefing to the Council on Syria some three years ago, we have sat in this chamber many times and borne witness to the spiraling violence and growing despair in the country. Each time, I speak of atrocity after atrocity; violation after violation; misery after misery. And, despite the Council’s unity on the appalling humanitarian consequences of the conflict and three resolutions demanding protection for civilians and full humanitarian access, the government, armed and terrorist groups continue to kill, maim, rape, torture and take Syria to new lows that seemed unimaginable a few years ago.

People have become numb to figures that should, every day, shock our collective conscience and spur urgent action. More than 220,000 people have been killed; over one million injured. More than 7.6 million people are displaced within Syria and nearly four million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. People risk their lives if they stay, and some when they leave as we have seen with those who have drowned in the Mediterranean.

We need the numbness to the senseless violence and the apparent apathy to end.

Violence has continued to escalate in a number of areas of the country. In the past weeks alone well over 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting in Idlib; many of them for the second time. More than 1,500 people have been injured. But none of the three hospitals that were operating less than a month ago are functioning. There is nowhere for those seeking medical help to go.

And despite the Council’s concerted action on the removal and destruction of chemical weapons, there are fresh allegations that chemical weapons have been used again in Idlib, killing and injuring civilians.

Civilians in Aleppo also continue to be subjected to indiscriminate fire from the air and from underground, with barrel bombs dropped on opposition-controlled parts of Aleppo city and tunnel bombs exploding under government-controlled districts. And it is civilians who are paying the heaviest price.

The Council has been briefed extensively on the situation in Yarmouk, once a symbol of Syrian hospitality with refugees and host communities living side by side. Today people have reached new levels of despair.

Hundreds of thousands of people elsewhere in the country also remain besieged. Theirs is a daily struggle for survival as they remain trapped and out of our reach, subjected to collective punishment. Full and unimpeded humanitarian access remains a priority.

Humanitarian workers, often at great risk to themselves, are responding as best they can throughout the country including through cross-border operations.

On March 26th, a team of United Nations humanitarian workers and Syrian Arab Red Crescent volunteers delivering humanitarian supplies in Ar Rastan was briefly detained by a non-state armed group. ISIL has continued to inhibit the delivery of aid and this month has even prevented polio vaccines from reaching hundreds of thousands of children under five years old. The Government has finally approved a number of interagency convoys and critical food and education assessments but there continue to be restrictions in aid delivery that limit our capacity to deliver. Last month I called on the Council to remind government security forces that all aid – particularly medical and surgical supplies – must be allowed on convoys. Despite these calls, and the approval of civilian authorities, Government security forces again removed all surgical supplies from the trucks destined for Ar Rastan in Homs governorate, depriving people of urgently needed treatments.

In resolution 2139, the Council expressed its intent to take further steps in the case of non-compliance with the resolution.

Fourteen months later, there continues to be a shocking lack of respect for the most basic rules of international humanitarian law and a total absence of accountability. The failure to stop the violence has undermined the credibility of this Council and eroded confidence in the international community to take its responsibilities seriously. Billions of dollars have been pledged for humanitarian assistance, which we welcome, but the people of Syria, rightly, want more. They want an end to the war which has ravaged their country and destroyed lives and livelihoods.

I am appealing to the Council to look seriously at all the options at its disposal which could help to bring an end to the violence in Syria, stop the violations of international law, protect civilians and ensure humanitarian access. Some are practically difficult, others contentious, but given the conditions ordinary Syrians have to face I ask the Council to consider the following:

First, demand that attacks on education and health facilities cease and schools and hospitals become zones of peace. This is in line with resolution 2139 in which the Council ‘demands that all parties demilitarize medical facilities, schools and other civilian facilities and avoid establishing military positions in populated areas and desist from attacks directed against civilian objects’.

Second, a specific Security Council Mandate to the Commission of Inquiry looking specifically at the situation in besieged communities and the militarisation and responsibility for attacks on medical and educational facilities. This should be done through the conduct of a fact-finding mission.
Third, mandate the negotiation of humanitarian pauses and days of tranquillity.

Fourth, send perpetrators a clear message that their crimes will not go unpunished and demonstrate to the Syrian people that there will be justice for the crimes committed against them. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the International Criminal Court.

Fifth, enforce an arms embargo and targeted sanctions for violations of international humanitarian law and non-respect of humanitarian imperatives.

Mr. President,
This Council has paid great attention to the humanitarian situation in Syria. But try as we may, there is no humanitarian solution.

The only solution is through political dialogue that reduces and ultimately ends the violence.

Time is, however, running out for Syria, and for the neighbouring countries which have taken on such a heavy burden on behalf of the international community. This is a crisis with potential global repercussions. I ask this Council to match its scale with an equally bold and courageous response.

ICRC: Meeting of states on strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law

ICRC: Meeting of states on strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law
News release
24 April 2015
Geneva (ICRC) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Switzerland are hosting the fourth and final meeting of states in Geneva on 23-24 April 2015 as part of their joint initiative on strengthening compliance with international humanitarian law.

The meeting was opened by ICRC President Peter Maurer and the head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Didier Burkhalter.

“The current state of human suffering, and of humanitarian needs caused by armed conflicts around the world, would be far lower if international humanitarian law were properly implemented by the parties on the ground, both State and non-State,” said President Maurer.

The results of the diplomatic process, together with the recommendations, will be presented in a final report to the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December 2015.

International humanitarian law (IHL) seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict on humanitarian grounds. Its main sources are the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols as well as customary international law. Although the nature of armed conflict has evolved, IHL remains an appropriate and relevant framework for regulating the conduct of war and ensuring protection for all those who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities.

For example, IHL prohibits the mistreatment of prisoners of war and attacks on civilians and contains rules on humanitarian access. The main problem in contemporary conflicts is not the lack of norms but rather the widespread breaches of the rules that exist.

Since 2012, Switzerland and the ICRC, based on a resolution of the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, have been conducting intensive consultations with states and other interested actors to find ways and means to strengthen compliance with IHL. In all, four meetings of states on strengthening compliance with IHL have been held.

In the course of the consultations, the states have acknowledged that the existing IHL enforcement mechanisms are inadequate. It has also been established that there is an institutional vacuum in the area of IHL implementation. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 are an exception among multilateral treaties in that they do not establish a regular conference of states parties or another similar type of institutional forum in which states can discuss the application of IHL and current challenges to compliance with it.

During the consultations, a majority of states have said that they are in favour of establishing a regular meeting of states for IHL. This would provide a forum for more intensive discussions on current challenges and on possible measures to address them, thereby enhancing overall dialogue and cooperation on issues such as the strengthening of state capacities in the implementation of IHL obligations. These states believe that a new mechanism would be an important step in strengthening protection for victims of war.

Foundations Must Move Fast to Fight Climate Change [William and Flora Hewlett Foundation ; David and Lucile Packard Foundation]

Foundations Must Move Fast to Fight Climate Change
By Larry Kramer and Carol Larson
April 20, 2015
Chronicle of Philanthropy, Opinion

It’s not too late for grant makers to make a big difference in curbing climate change by promoting alternative energy and working collaboratively on a range of efforts, say the leaders of the Hewlett and Packard foundations.

Climate change is the defining issue of our day. It is an urgent global crisis that affects everything philanthropy seeks to do, whether it is to improve health, alleviate poverty, reduce famine, promote peace, or advance social justice. It is a problem that can and must be solved — a problem that demands action now, while we still have time. And it is a challenge on which foundations can make a profound difference.

Currently less than 2 percent of all philanthropic dollars are being spent in the fight against climate change. That is not enough given how big of a threat we face.

In 2013 the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million for the first time since the Pliocene epoch, approximately three million years ago. The global average temperature during that period was 2° to 3°C higher than it is today; global sea levels were, on average, 82 feet higher than they are now. Unless we act quickly, it will soon be too late to keep the average global temperature increase below 2°C, the internationally agreed threshold beyond which climate change risks become unacceptably high.

Climate change isn’t just an environmental problem. It is an everything problem. Its effects touch all cultures, all incomes, and all geographies. Climate change disrupts earth’s natural systems. It threatens public health and safety. And it hurts the world’s poorest people — those living on less than $2 a day — most of all.

The Hewlett Foundation and Packard Foundation have made commitments to the climate fight that far exceed any other pledges in our organizations’ histories. We have done so because the business values that motivated our founders, Bill Hewlett and David Packard, still underpin our approach: partnership, respect for science, tolerance for risk, and a willingness to make big bets on problems worth solving.

When we consider all of our grant-making priorities — children, education, health, reproductive rights, oceans, our communities, and so much more — it is profoundly clear that climate change has the unique potential to undermine everything we care about as foundations.

In California, for example, the Packard Foundation collaborates with organizations to ensure young children are healthy and ready for school. Yet in Fresno, a city faced with hazardous air pollution from traffic and industry, approximately 20 percent of children have been diagnosed with asthma.

Despite local efforts to address conventional pollutants caused by cars, agricultural operations, industrial processes and more, the challenge will intensify as drier air and hotter temperatures become more routine. These escalating conditions would make asthma attacks more frequent and more damaging to children, causing them to miss school and jeopardizing their ability to thrive and succeed.

In Africa, the Hewlett Foundation supports organizations that work to empower women to make choices about whether and when to have children, how to raise their families, and how to earn a living. But that work won’t transform women’s lives if climate change progresses at its current pace. Experts predict climate change could reduce the amount of arable land in Africa by two-thirds, making food scarce and less affordable, hurting families, and creating instability that could cause political and other problems.

Fortunately, significant work is already under way to confront these epic threats, and we’re beginning to see signs of progress worldwide: The U.S. has dramatically increased fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025; Mexico has committed to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 22 percent and emissions of black carbon or soot by 51 percent by 2030; Brazil has reduced rates of deforestation; China is embracing new models for cleaner mass transit; India is increasing efficient energy standards for appliances; and European nations are reducing their reliance on coal power.

Looking around the country, we see evidence of what’s possible when grant makers choose to engage in new ways.

The Barr Foundation in Boston expanded its climate portfolio several years ago and is now a leader in supporting efforts to promote clean energy and transportation alternatives. The Funders Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities is working to align foundations to promote an array of local climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. And the Council on Foundations is helping to bring all of philanthropy together to spotlight climate change and energy through its annual meeting. Initiatives like these demonstrate that foundations can have a positive impact on our climate future. But if we are going to prevail and preserve a future in which every person has the ability to achieve his or her full potential, foundations need to do more.

Our goal now is to enlist as many other grant makers and partners as we can, as quickly as possible, to join us. Working together, and by supporting the local, national, and international organizations focused on curbing climate change, we can prevent global average temperature change from exceeding 2°C.

It’s not too late, but we must act quickly, and we must act together.

In the fight against climate change, foundations can make a lasting difference in ways that other sectors cannot because they share certain special qualities: the freedom to think big, the capacity to tolerate risk, and the ability to invest for the long haul.

We don’t expect every foundation to make climate change its top priority. There are many urgent issues that demand attention. But there is a role for every organization to play in the fight against climate change, no matter where it works or how it works.

Leadership matters in this fight. We hope more foundations, whatever their grant-making priority — promoting civil society, economic development, social justice, or health (to name just a few) — will examine how climate change could impact their missions. Talk to your grantees about their climate concerns. Seek out allies for whom climate mitigation is a focus, and look for ways to learn from them. Attend climate-focused gatherings that might not fall neatly into your current program priorities. Engage your board. Ask hard questions.

There is no single playbook for preventing dangerous climate change. We are all forging solutions in real time. But we can no longer sidestep the threat that a warming planet presents to all the good we seek to achieve in the world.

Left to its current course, the impact of global climate change threatens the long-term success of every other effort foundations support. It is time to act in whatever ways we can. It is time to get going.

Larry D. Kramer is president of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Carol S. Larson is president of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Both serve on the board of ClimateWorks.

Scientific Advice for Policy Making – The Role and Responsibility of Expert Bodies and Individual Scientists [OECD]

Scientific Advice for Policy Making – The Role and Responsibility of Expert Bodies and Individual Scientists
OECD
20 Apr 2015 :: 50 pages :: PDF
DOI: 10.1787/5js33l1jcpwb-en
Abstract
The scientific community is increasingly being called upon to provide evidence and advice to government policy-makers across a range of issues, from short-term public health emergencies through to longer-term challenges, such as population ageing or climate change. Such advice can be a valuable, or even essential, input to sound policy-making but its impact depends on how it is formulated and communicated as well as how it is perceived by its target policy audience and by other interested parties.

It is rare that scientific evidence is the only consideration in a policy decision and, particularly for complex issues; many interests may have to be balanced in situations where the science itself may be uncertain. The rapid evolution of information and communication technologies and moves towards more participative democratic decision-making have put additional pressure on science to help provide answers and solutions, whilst also opening up the academic enterprise to closer surveillance and criticism.

What used to be ‘private’ debates between different scientific viewpoints over areas of uncertainty have now become public disputes that can be exploited by different stakeholders to confirm or deny entrenched positions. Science is truly at the centre of many important policy issues and scientists are increasingly visible and, in many cases, increasingly vulnerable, in policy-making processes.

Overview
Drawing on the analysis of different advisory systems, their exposure to legal risks and the particular requirements of crisis situations, Scientific Advice for Policy Making identifies three key factors that are particularly important in determining the success or failure of a science advisory process:
:: Have a clear remit, with defined roles and responsibilities for its various actors.
:: Involve the relevant actors – scientists, policy makers and other stakeholders, as necessary.
:: Produce advice that is sound, unbiased and legitimate.

As governments and scientific bodies strive to improve mechanisms for the provision and communication of scientific advice, the report proposes the following:
:: Governments and responsible institutions should define clear and transparent guidelines and rules of procedure for their science advisory processes and mechanisms.
:: Governments should establish mechanisms for ensuring appropriate and timely advice in crises.
:: Governments should work with international organisations to ensure coherence between national and international scientific advisory mechanisms relating to complex global challenges.
:: Governments and responsible institutions should implement measures that build societal trust in science advice for policy making.

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Press Release: OECD calls for common principles for developing and communicating scientific advice
23/04/2015 – Governments would benefit from agreeing common principles for developing and communicating scientific advice, both in crisis situations and for long-term policymaking, according to a new OECD report. In light of recent controversies around science advice, the report proposes a checklist for countries to follow to ensure science advisory processes are effective and trustworthy.

Scientific Advice for Policymaking: The Role and Responsibility of Expert Bodies and Individual Scientists cites examples of recent events where science advice has been called into question, including the Ebola crisis, the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and the 2009 earthquake at L’Aquila in Italy.

The report says governments need to clearly define the remit of scientific advice, by demarcating advisory roles from policy decision-making roles, and defining from the outset the legal responsibilities and potential liability of advisors. The scientific advisory process should also seek to mitigate controversies by introducing procedures to declare and verify conflicts of interest and by explicitly determining how to engage participation from non-scientists and civil society.

“If we want science to help answer the complex and controversial questions being asked by policymakers, the media and the public, we need scientific advice to be effective, transparent and legitimate,” said OECD Director of Science, Technology and Innovation Andrew Wyckoff. “This new set of principles is designed to help governments create the conditions for scientific advice to be used to improve policy-making across a range of areas.”

The report, produced by the OECD Global Science Forum, examines the fallout from disconnected science advice from one country to another and the risks of contradictory national positions. It finds that in today’s inter-connected world, where social media and the Internet can drive much faster and louder reactions to events like natural disasters or epidemics, and countries come under harsh scrutiny for the advice they give, more co-operation and pooling of information among experts is needed.

Crisis management could also benefit from advisory processes in different countries following a set of similar principles and assuring a more effective and timely exchange of relevant information and data, the report says.

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY – CBD Analysis

SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY
– Part I: Potential Impacts of Synthetic Biology on Biological Diversity
– Part II: Gaps and Overlaps with the Provisions of the Convention and Other Agreements
Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity
March 2015 :: CBD Technical Series No. 82 :: 119 pages
ISBN Web: 92-9225-584-3 pdf: www.cbd.int/ts/cbd-ts-82-en.pdf
Foreword
One of the functions of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice to the Convention on Biological Diversity is to identify new and emerging issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. To streamline the work of the Subsidiary Body, the Conference of the Parties, in decision IX/29, provided guidance on the procedure for the identification of new and emerging issues and on the review of proposals.

The Conference of the Parties first turned its attention to synthetic biology at its tenth meeting in 2010, where Parties, other Governments and relevant organizations were, inter alia, invited to apply the precautionary approach to the field release of synthetic life, cell, or genome into the environment. Consideration of synthetic biology as a substantive issue was subsequently placed on the agenda of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice at its sixteenth meeting in 2012, and since then it has been debated intensively.

Synthetic biology is a loosely-defined term for a range of techniques stemming from the combination of different disciplines, which adds a challenge to the debate. Moreover, as this field develops quickly, there are many unknowns regarding what products and applications will be technically feasible, commercially viable, and safe both for human health and biodiversity. In addition, questions of the adequacy of existing regulations to deal with current and anticipated components, organisms and products of synthetic biology as well as the social and ethical implications of synthetic biology are being raised.

The current document aims to support the international debate, and bridge gaps between the science-policy interface, by providing technical information on the potential positive and negative impacts on biodiversity that synthetic biology might entail as well as how adequately existing regulations cover the components, organisms and products of synthetic biology. This document was developed on the basis of information and views submitted by Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and other stakeholders. It was complemented by background research to address relevant issues under the Convention…

Press Release
Comprehensive report on synthetic biology discusses impacts on biodiversity and reviews existing regulatory regimes
Montreal, 20 April 2015 – A new report from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity discusses the potential for synthetic biology to have both positive and negative impacts on biodiversity and looks at the role and adequacy of existing risk assessment and regulatory regimes to evaluate the impact of these technologies…