Accepted Paper:

Biodiversity by United Nations: the making and unmaking of biodiversity at IPBES  


Esther Turnhout (Wageningen University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses how biodiversity is made and unmade in the Intergovernmental Panel for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services ( IPBES). The analysis suggests that IPBES may yet become a place where narrow definitions are resisted and multiple biodiversities can flourish.

Paper long abstract:

Biodiversity has proven to be an elusive concept that is made and remade in different places, human nature engagements, and knowledge making practices. One of these is the United Nations Intergovernmental panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which has as its mission "to strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development". IPBES' mission is symptomatic of the strong scientistic and technocratic tendencies that characterize many current global environmental knowledge initiatives. The risks of such a global scientific gaze dominating environmental governance processes have been discussed extensively in STS as well as in political science. It has also been argued that meaningful and legitimate environmental knowledge requires multiplicity, openness and inclusiveness. As I will show in this paper, IPBES has turned out to be a place where narrow technical definitions of biodiversity are not only promoted, but also actively resisted. Drawing on an analysis of the ways in which biodiversity is made, unmade and remade in IPBES by scientific experts, ngos, indigenous representatives and member states, I will suggest that, although a global UN expert body seems an unlikely candiate for such an endeavour, IPBES may yet be able to allow multiple biodiversities to be represented and flourish.

Panel T060
Biodiversity by other (all?) means: a theatre for post-natural futures