Friday, March 09, 2007

Whales in the 21st century: the New York symposium

In the last few weeks I have spent the majority of my time preparing the Symposium on the State of the Conservation of Whales in the 21st Century that will take place at UN Headquarters in New York. Now that there is little more than four weeks before the symposium takes place on 12-13 April, our rythm of work at the Varda Group is going to increase even more.

Holding the symposium before the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission that will take place at the end of May in Anchorage, Alaska, and after the Japanese Government-sponsored "IWC normalization" meeting held in Tokyo in February was one of the recommendations that I made to the Pew Charitable Trusts who had asked me to think how they could possibly make a difference on the issue of whale conservation. We developed the concept during talks with Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand who is chairing the symposium.

The New York Symposium will bring together experts in whaling policy and science, and (perhaps more importantly) there will also be people with experience in other areas of international and environment policy. The idea is that they bring some fresh air. It is hoped that this unusual mix can help bring new ideas on ways to resolve the deadlocked commercial whaling controversy which has been going on for too long.

As shown in the Symposium Agenda which is nearly finalized, there will be three panel presenters for each of the four sessions. Each one will introduce the issue from their respective perspectives: one from within the IWC, one from outside the IWC, and one from an NGO perspective. We have asked each of these presenters to speak for no more than 15 minutes each, so as to allow a broad, interactive and comprehensive participation from those who are not panel presenters (this is why we call everyone "participants" and not "attendees").

The symposium is by invitation only, because we think it is important to maintain a balance between people of different origins, with different experience and skills. To date we are expecting approximately sixty people. If readers of Chez Rémi have additional suggestions, they should get in touch with me.

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