At the stakeholder day of the 5th plenary IPBES’ head of communication Robert Spaull presented the outreach plan for the rest of the current work program. It proclaims a strong role of stakeholders but inhibits their efforts by a restrictive branding policy.
The first topic of Spaull’s presentation was the description of the branding of IPBES by its logo and four new icons representing the three different scales of biodiversity (ecosystems, species and genomes) plus a fingerprint representing the human impact factor on biodiversity. The IPBES style guide is available as official IPBES5 Information Document (see IPBES/5/INF/15). Spaull also presented a proposal for a common pronunciation of the platform’s acronym, as previously about “eight different ways” existed. Following the phonetic rule that pronounceable abbreviations should be pronounced as a normal word, the IPBES acronym should be officially pronounced as “ip-bes” – “ip” as in “hip” and “bes” as in “best”. This new practice now results in the amusing phenomenon of nearly everybody, including the IPBES-Chair Robert Watson, correcting themselves when using the acronym.
In addition to the importance of a closer cooperation with the Media networks of the “UN-Family”, Spaull also stressed the essential role of the stakeholders in spreading the findings of the assessments and evaluating and reporting the media coverage back to the secretariat as the secretariat cannot be everywhere and all regions have their own communication rules and habits that need to be taken into account. He presented the opportunity to become a so-called ‘volunteer regional communication partner’ of IPBES.
One aspect constitutes a huge hurdle for this stakeholder engagement in communication issues: Generally only IPBES itself is allowed to use the corporate design promoted at the beginning of Spaull’s presentation. The Secretariat’s approach relates to a decision of the IPBES bureau. Exceptions can be made for single products after requesting a permit. This rule dampens the enthusiasm many stakeholders have shown in the past to bring IPBES forward and undermines the aim IPBES Chair Robert Watson proclaimed: to make the platform relevant and expand it as quickly as possible.
The explanation for this rule is the lack of capacity to control all stakeholder outreach activities and the fear of abuse of the brand. This sounds reasonable; nevertheless a solution should be found for this dilemma. One example could be a special IPBES stakeholder network Logo - derived from the original but distinguishable from it. Without branding activities and rules, it is difficult to build up brand. This issue was also taken up by the Stakeholder’s Statement to the plenary and should be discussed again by the plenary as soon as possible.
The full communication plan can be downloaded as Plenary Document IPBES/5/9