Working Paper: How IPBES Works

May 16, 2016 Off By admin

Mandated to “strengthen the science-policy interface for biodiversity and ecosystem services”, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has a detailed set of intergovernmentally agreed functions, structures and processes that guide its first Work Program (2014-2018). This working paper sets out these institutional arrangements, noting that broader understanding of the IPBES mechanisms may assist wider participation, accountability, and scholarly analysis.

For example, the assessment function provides a series of opportunities for involvement with the process (see Figure 1.)

 Figure 1. The typical sequence of events of IPBES assessments and opportunities for government and non-government stakeholder involvement

The functions, structures and processes of the first IPBES Work Program, are inevitably complex, incomplete, and subject to interpretation. However, their framework provides a basis for establishing agreement – or disagreement – amongst IPBES administrators, participants and external analysts about what the Platform is and how it should operate.  If IPBES achieves similar international standing for biodiversity as the IPCC has for climate change, it will have increasing influence over international discussions about the governance of nature and its benefits to people. In light of this, it should be  remembered that knowledge is not a neutral input to decision making in environmental governance (Turnhout et al. 2016). As such, paying greater attention to the precise mechanisms of knowledge production can be understood as another significant part of the deliberative process (Miller 2007). In order to contribute to this process for biodiversity governance, this working paper draws attention to the institutional arrangements of IPBES with the purpose of facilitating broader participation, greater accountability, and more extensive scholarly analysis on the Platform.

Working paper

Montana, J. (2016). ‘How IPBES works: The functions, structures and processes of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services’. C-EENRG Working Papers, 2016-2. pp.1-23. Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance, University of Cambridge.

This research was conducted as part of PhD at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge. This research was supported by the UK Economic and Social Research Council.


Miller, C.A. 2007. “Democratization, international knowledge institutions and global governance.” Governance  no. 20 (2):325-357.

Turnhout, E., Dewulf, A., and Hulme, M. 2016. “What does policy-relevant global environmental knowledge do? The cases of climate and biodiversity.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability  no. 18:65-72.