The Monaco Proposal: “IWC, Play Nice With the UN”
Commissioner Dr. Frederic Briand (Monaco), noting that the overwhelming majority of marine cetacean species currently recognized by the IWC are highly migratory species and thus critically dependent on international cooperation for their conservation and management, proposed that the IWC cooperate with the United Nations General Assembly in his mandate of whale protection where fragmented conservation efforts leave highly-migratory cetacean species vulnerable.
Briand made a compelling case that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) requires UN member states to cooperate with a view to the conservation of marine mammals and, in the case of cetaceans, to work through the appropriate international organizations for their conservation, management and study both within and beyond the exclusive economic zone.
Briand’s proposal wasn’t completely unexpected; the esteemed commissioner from Monaco has a long history of criticizing the IWC Commission for its polarization, failure to reach compromise agreements, and refusing to ‘come into the 21st Century’ – in cooperation with other international forums -with regard to its whale conservation mandate.
Briand’s efforts to strengthen the IWC through international cooperation and partnerships, and ‘project the IWC into modernity’ is, on the surface, a sound one. Seeking consensus from contracting governments, Briand requested that commissioners give the proposal their ‘serious attention’, noting that “the IWC Scientific and Conservation Committees are registering remarkable progress and are drawing increasing visibility and respect internationally. Unfortunately, this is all undermined by a number of major problems, which is that key decisions by the IWC are not respected by some of its own members.” That wasn’t exactly mysterious code; Briand is, of course, referring to Japan’s disregard for the Moratorium on commercial whaling, to which it agreed in 1982 and then went a’-whaling anyway under a loophole in Article VIII of the Convention.
Commissioners from Japan, Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Palau all claimed that they “just didn’t have adequate time” to review the proposal, and needed until the following morning to study the document and its implications, despite having received a draft two months earlier. Commissioner Daven Joseph (Saint Kitts and Nevis) stated that he’d have to contact his government for further instructions on how to proceed with the proposal, and there simply wasn’t enough time. Poor countries like his have significant barriers to effective communications that his colleagues from rich nations just didn’t understand.
Briand, almost lost his marbles on the spot, stated that he’d submitted the resolution sixty days in advance of the meeting, as required by IWC Rules and Procedures, but ultimately agreed to table the proposal until the following morning.
What a difference a few hours makes! Certainly, the esteemed commissioners spent all evening and the following morning poring over the half page document, clarifying their positions and ‘contacting their superiors’ about how to proceed. For Commissioner Joseph, it really wasn’t as difficult as phoning the boss back at Basseterre; Japanese Commissioner Kagawa could be consulted in a flash simply by traversing the room. But… we must maintain appearances, mustn’t we?
As expected, “the Monaco resolution” was shot down the following morning. Pro-whaling nations (including Iceland and Norway, of course) refused to adopt the resolution by consensus. The result was hardly shocking, least of all for Dr. Briand, one of the longest-serving commissioners at IWC (and the sole member of Monaco’s delegation). Bringing a proposal to the Commission floor isn’t really so much about getting it passed, as it is about publicly disclosing official positions of IWC member nations on specific issues.
The only question that remains unanswered is, just how long does it take Kagawa and Joseph to read and process a one-third page document? Evidently, the answer depends on the content.