IWC Transparency: Clear as Mud
The United Kingdom is advancing a proposal to enhance the transparency and efficacy of IWC operations and governance. The proposal includes a number of reforms to align IWC procedures with best, if not standard, international practice, “based on the procedures applied in various international conventions, including multilateral environmental agreements.” Despite the fact that the IWC is generally regarded as a hotbed of corruption and vote-buying, back-door dealing, and dysfunctional fiscal management, the Commission appears to willfully ignore widely-regarded public perception, opting instead to simply ignore the proverbial 800 pound gorilla in the room.
While the proposed reforms are modest and reasonable by most standards – and certainly not what one would normally consider “controversial”, this is IWC, and so we should expect to see some ‘push back’ on a normal of simple reforms.
The following reforms would enhance the effectiveness and perception of IWC:
● Annual membership dues will be made by bank transfer from an account belonging to the state or state-owned institution of the contracting government concerned – cash and checks will no longer be accepted by the Secretariat.
● The annual Chairman’s Report will be completed and distributed within a reasonable period of time so that contracting governments, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will have sufficient time with which to review the document. Currently, the Chairman’s Review can take up to a year to distribute.
● The Rules of Debate should be clarified to allow for meaningful participation of Civil Society (i.e., IGOs and NGOs) at the invitation of the Chair during the same session in which substantive agenda items are discussed.
These reforms represent only a portion of the many proposed reforms for IWC, but they are the ‘lowest hanging fruit’ and most likely to be adopted by consensus, given a little tweak here-and-there.
Improvements to the IWC’s governance, finance and administration, and reporting procedures will help both to build trust between member governments, and to rebuild public confidence. They will also help to buttress the organization and enhance its effectiveness.
Now, it’s up to the IWC to do the right thing… will it?
I’m thinking of a saying… something about a horse and water.