For the second time in the history of the organization, IWC Chair Anthony Liverpool permitted NGO representatives (aka, “Civil Society”) to issue their interventions during the plenary session. Despite having over 80 NGO representatives from the world over in attendance, we were allotted a total of 30 minutes, beginning at 7:20 p.m.
A total of eight NGO groups representing a spectrum of positions on the status of the protection of whales presented their positions to the Chair and delegation, and included such taboo issues as vote buying (or “vote consolidation” in Japanese delegation terms), exclusion of Civil Society from the negotiation process associated with the “Future of IWC” (whaling package), and dwindling public support for whaling operations in Japan and Norway.
Three presentations were of note:
Marlon Mills (Eastern Caribbean Coalition for Environmental Awareness) brought attention to recent reports in the London Times of vote-buying and the Chair’s alleged acceptance of ‘gifts’ from Japan in the form of paid airfare and lodging. I had strategically chosen a seat at the water cooler at the side of the room so that I could more easily gauge reactions from both Civil Society and delegates, and Marlon’s comments elicited an interesting dichotomy of responses – to my left, NGO’s were smiling; to the right, delegates were utterly slack-jawed, as if to imply, Well, yes, but… we don’t actually broche these delicate topics in polite company!
Linda Rognli (Norwegian Society for Protection of Animals) drew attention to a popular video detailing a bungled hunt by Norwegian fisherman whereby a minke whale was allegedly poorly struck using a harpoon cannon, causing the animal great distress and subsequent protracted death. I say “allegedly” because the Norwegian Commissioner (Karsten Kelpsvik) responded the following morning by stating that, in his 28 years of attending IWC meetings, he has “never been so outraged” and launched a 30 minute analysis and deconstruction of the video in question.
Wakao Hanaoka (Greenpeace International, Japan) focused on the “reality vs spin” of dwindling public support for the hunting and consumption of whale meat and products in Japan. He also discussed the well-publicized Greenpeace ‘sting’ involving Japanese whaling crews selling whale meat to illegal sources, and the very public trial and sentencing of the “Tokyo Two”. Hanaoka is a charismatic, articulate, and enthusiastic speaker – his presentation was met with applause from Civil Society representatives as well as a number of delegates.
We were reminded by the Chair of the IWC Codes of Conduct, which prohibit derogatory and/or negative comments toward any individual, group, or country. In speaking truth to power, NGO and advocacy groups run the risk of not being invited to provide intervention on issues in the future. However, it’s clear that the emperor has no clothes.
…who else will tell him?