UTFacultiesBMSNewsTwo UT professors take on important role in intergovernmental biodiversity platform

Two UT professors take on important role in intergovernmental biodiversity platform Esther Turnhout (BMS) and Wieteke Willemen (ITC) Focal Points for IPBES

Prof. Esther Turnhout (BMS) and prof. Wieteke Willemen (ITC) are identified as UT Focal Points for IPBES, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body 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. From 3 to 9 July 2022 the ninth session of the IPBES Plenary is being held in Germany. 

Organization Focal Points for IPBES

IPBES was established in 2012 by 94 governments, to date 139 countries are IPBES members. IPBES, just like its sister organization IPCC, is a science-policy organization. To develop the IPBES deliverables, including global environmental assessments, academics from scientific organizations, such as the University of Twente, can be nominated as experts by their governments. Prof. Turnhout and prof. Willemen have both acted as selected experts in the creation of IPBES assessments including the Land Degradation and Restoration Assessment and the Global Assessment on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Prof. Esther Turnhout

My work for IPBES is important and rewarding because it is an opportunity to contribute to the policy impact of international scientific research. As a social scientist, I find it important to ensure that also knowledge about the governance and justice dimensions of biodiversity is included.

Prof. Esther Turnhout

“The creation of these assessments truly happens at the science-policy interface", says prof. Willemen. "Over a period of three to four years, experts and member states design and shape an assessment. The resulting document is a product that experts and the member states feel ownership over. As such, the assessments serve a common basis for countries to base their policy on. Crucial, as the wellbeing of nature and people are intertwined also across country borders.” 

Prof. Wieteke Willemen

My research is all about how people influence and depend on their living environment, and as such I know much influence our decisions as humans have. I see it as my responsibility to share my expertise with those who can directly influence the way we act.

Prof. Wieteke Willemen

Plenary session in Bonn (July 2022)

Currently, the ninth plenary of IPBES is taking place in Bonn. In this meeting, member states will negotiate and adopt two important assessments. One of these is about the sustainable use of wild species. Prof. Turnhout was involved in this assessment. “It demonstrates the potential of sustainable forms of harvesting and the important contribution of traditional and indigenous practices to these sustainable uses.”

During the Plenary, member states will also negotiate the outline for a new assessment on the impact and dependence of businesses on nature. Prof. Willemen: “I was involved in the reviewing of the texts that are currently negotiated in Bonn. Being present at the negotiations is extremely insightful: words really matter. With so many diverse perspectives and governance systems in a room, looking for commonalities on how to describe the evidence is challenging but also very rewarding”.

Text negotiations are confidential and therefore blurred.

As IPBES organizational focal points for the University of Twente, both professors will create an internal network to harness the relevant expertise that exists within the University of Twente about IPBES topics. "We can strengthen the UT contribution to IPBES and provide support for the inclusion of experts in this globally leading science-policy platform. We will also work closely with the Dutch Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuur en Voedselkwaliteit, and with other universities to strengthen the input of the Netherlands to the IPBES processes, including the plenary negotiations and translation of IPBES results to national contexts", explains Esther Turnhout. Wieteke adds: "As such, we can help our university with its mission to be an engaged university with a strong positive and visible impact on society and the planet we inhabit." 

Why IPBES matters

Biodiversity and nature’s benefits to people underpin almost every aspect of human development and are key to the success of the Sustainable Development Goals. They help to produce food, clean water, regulate climate, and control disease. IPBES harnesses expertise from across all scientific disciplines and knowledge communities – to provide policy-relevant knowledge and catalyze the implementation of knowledge-based policies at all levels of government, the private sector, and civil society. The work of IPBES can be broadly grouped into four complementary areas:

  1. Assessments of knowledge on specific themes, methodological issues and at both the regional and global levels
  2. Policy support: identifying policy-relevant tools and methodologies, facilitating their use, and catalyzing their further development
  3. Building capacity and knowledge: identifying and meeting the priority capacity, knowledge, and data needs of IPBES’ member states, experts, and stakeholders
  4. Communications and outreach: ensuring the widest reach and impact

More information

If you want to learn more about IPBES or the organizational Focal Points at the University of Twente, please reach out to Wieteke Willemen or Esther Turnhout. 

prof.dr.ir. L.L.J.M. Willemen (Wieteke)
Full Professor
prof.dr. E. Turnhout (Esther)
Chair of Science, Technology, and Society