Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on OEWG-12

Introduction

The convening of the OEWG-12 by electronic means takes place under extraordinary circumstances and is without prejudice to future arrangements regarding OEWG meetings. The information below, which will be updated as needed, is provided by the Secretariat for information purposes and only within this specific context. The details on the technical arrangements of the online meeting will be provided in due course. The information below is without prejudice to the authority of the Parties to interpret the Convention and the rules of procedure.

Last updated on 30 April 2020

What does “online” mean?

Under the Basel Convention, the Conference of the Parties usually uses the terminology “electronic means” to refer to meetings or other intersessional work conducted online. An “online” meeting therefore may include “live” sessions using devices such as telephone or a computer (audio or video), and sessions conducted by electronic correspondence (e.g., email). Similar to face-to-face meetings, during online meetings delegates can exchange information, make statements on agenda items, provide comments on documents or submit proposals on draft decisions, etc.

Why was the OEWG-12 meeting not postponed?

The proposal to hold the OEWG-12 meeting on 22-25 June 2020 by electronic means, as initially planned, aims to ensure that the work towards the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties progresses as much as possible without being impacted by the extraordinary circumstances. Consideration was initially given for instance to postponing OEWG-12 to the Fall or early 2021, however this was not possible due to the fact that many intergovernmental meetings have been postponed to the Fall and early 2021 which raises conflicts in schedules. In addition, many small intersessional or expert working groups are expected to finalize their tasks in the Fall 2020, taking into account comments from Parties and observers. Postponing OEWG-12 to the Fall or early 2021 would have negatively impact the inclusiveness of the work of these intersessional processes. It is also unclear at this time whether and to what extent it will be possible to convene physical meetings the next few months in an inclusive manner.

Do the rules of procedure apply to OEWG-12?

Yes, pursuant to rule 26 paragraph 6 of the rules of procedure for meetings of the Conference of the Parties. These rules apply whether a meeting is conducted physically or online.

Are there adjustments to the roles and responsibilities of the co-Chairs and the Bureau during OEWG-12?

No. The roles of the co-Chairs of the OEWG are analogous to that of the President of the Conference of the Parties, and the role of the Rapporteur is analogous to that of the Rapporteur of the Conference of the Parties. The role of the Bureau is not specified in the rules of procedure, but according to past practice, this role is limited to matters related to the organization of work of the meeting.

Will the OEWG-12 meeting be public?

Yes, unless the OEWG-12 decides otherwise (rule 29 paragraph 2 of the rules of procedure). In accordance with past practice, all efforts will be made, bearing in mind possible technological constraints that may arise, to provide access to the meeting for each duly registered participant.

Do the usual rules and practice apply with respect to the representation of participants (Parties and observers) in OEWG-12?

Yes. Parties and observers are required to register to participate in the electronic OEWG-12 process. For Party representatives, registration forms should be accompanied by an official nomination letter emanating from the Government or a note verbale from the Permanent Mission of the country to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva. For observer representatives, please contact the Secretariat. Click here for more information on the registration process.

How will the presence of participants be assessed during OEWG-12?

The rules of procedure provide for requirements of presence for the meeting to proceed. In the event of an open-ended body, one quarter of the Parties shall constitute a quorum (rule 26 paragraph 5). In the case of an online meeting, “presence” for the purpose of determining quorum is not physical presence but remote presence, via an electronic device. For the purpose of the online session, each representative will be provided by the Secretariat with an individual password to access the online session.

Shouldn’t OEWG-12 be entirely conducted in the six languages of the United Nations?

At the time of the establishment of the OEWG, the Conference of the Parties decided that the meetings of the OEWG would be conducted in all six official United Nations languages (decision BC-VI/36). At its thirteenth meeting, the Conference of the Parties decided that the OEWG-11 would be of four days’ duration, with two days of plenary sessions with simultaneous interpretation provided, plus one additional day of plenary sessions with interpretation provided subject to the availability of resources, to be applied flexibly by the Executive Secretary. (decision BC-13/17). No changes to these arrangements were made by the Conference of the Parties at its fourteenth meeting. Accordingly, the working documents for OEWG-12 are available in the six languages of the United Nations, and so will the report of the meeting. At this time, simultaneous interpretation of an online intergovernmental meeting raises particular technological and resource challenges which may not be overcome by the time of the meeting. For this reason, it currently is anticipated that the online meeting (online session and correspondence procedure) will be held in English only, although written statements by Parties and observers may be made available in any of the six languages of the United Nations. The Secretariat however is keeping this matter under review.

How will debates be conducted during OEWG-12?

The online nature of the meeting requires adjustments to past practices. The action proposed under each substantive agenda item takes into account the current exceptional circumstances and the online nature of the OEWG-12 meeting. As such the draft decisions do not aim at reflecting agreement by Party representatives on draft guidance documents, since this would require substantive discussions being held. Accordingly, it is not envisioned at this stage that the meeting would establish contact groups. Instead, the draft decisions are process-oriented to enable as much progress as possible in an inclusive manner, for instance by inviting comments by Parties and observers on draft guidance documents and requesting the preparation of revised versions for consideration by the Conference of the Parties. It is envisioned that debate during OEWG-12 will take place through electronic correspondence. For the purpose of making statements, Parties and observers have been invited to confirm the contact information their representatives at the meeting will use to enable the Secretariat to adequately reflect attribution. All statements will be made available on the OEWG-12 intranet and therefore accessible to all meeting participants.

What is to be understood by “process-orientated draft decisions”?

The action proposed under each substantive agenda item takes into account the current exceptional circumstances and the online nature of the twelfth meeting of the Open-ended Working Group. All proposed actions will be made available soon on the meeting website (in the section: Meeting documents) as document UNEP/CHW/OEWG.12/15. These draft decisions for consideration by OEWG-12 do not aim at reflecting agreement by Parties on the various draft reports, manuals, technical guidelines, guidance or recommendations that are before the meeting, since this would require substantive discussions which the online nature of the meeting may not fully enable at the present time. The expectation is therefore that OEWG-12 would not work on revising any reports, manuals, technical guidelines, guidance or recommendations in substance. Instead, the draft decisions are process-oriented to enable as much progress as possible in an inclusive manner, for instance by inviting comments by Parties and observers on the various products and requesting the body responsible for their development (e.g. SIWG, EWG or Secretariat) the preparation of revised versions of these for consideration by the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties. An example of how such a process-oriented draft decision could look like is presented below:

The Open-ended Working Group

  1. Invites Parties and others to submit comments on the [document] to the Secretariat by [date];
  2. Requests the Secretariat:
    1. To make the comments received pursuant to paragraph 1 of the present decision available on the Basel Convention website,
    2. To update the [document] referred to in paragraph 1 of the present decision, taking into account the comments during the twelfth meeting of the Open-ended Working Group and received pursuant to paragraph 1 of the present decision, for consideration and possible adoption by the Conference of the Parties at its fifteenth meeting.

Does the online nature of the OEWG-12 meeting impact the rules and practices on decision-making?

The rules of procedure for decision making apply to OEWG-12. Parties represented at the meeting will have the opportunity to make proposals or formulate objections to any decision put forward by the co-chairs for adoption. For the purposes of decision making, Parties have been invited to confirm the contact information to be used to communicate with their representatives at the meeting. It is anticipated that OEWG-12 will continue with its consistent past practice of adopting all decisions by consensus.

What factors underlie the proposal that Parties represented at OEWG-12 would have 48 hours to consider a draft decision?

Among the factors considered to propose a 48-hour deadline for the consideration of draft decisions during OEWG-12 are the fact that draft decisions will be made available in the six languages of the United Nations well in advance of the meeting, the need to provide adequate time for possible consultations at the national level or among Parties, the need to account for possible technological issues that Party representatives may have, the different time zones and the need to not unduly prolong the meeting in a way that would be detrimental to its outcomes.

Will the OEWG-meeting 12 achieve as much as it would have under normal circumstances?

During their 9 April 2020 online meeting, members of the OEWG-12 Bureau expressed concern that the Basel Convention work would be less advanced at the time of the closing of OEWG-12 than it would be under normal circumstances, which could impact the adoption of guidance documents by the Conference of the Parties. Mitigating options explored include, for intersessional processes to have additional time and resources to complete their work subsequently to OEWG-12 and, for the Conference of the Parties , allocating more time to Basel Convention matters during the 2021 meetings of the conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions. The Secretariat will bring the latter information to the attention of the Presidents and bureaux of the conferences of the Parties, who are to agree on the organization of work of the 2021 meetings of the conferences of the Parties.

What is the timing of the on-line session and why was it selected?

The on-line session is currently scheduled to take place from 14:00-17:00 on Monday, 22 June 2020. This timing allows the largest number of countries to participate during normal working hours and for much of the world to participate within a 6am to midnight timeframe. Unfortunately, this does not work well for some participants, however, all participants will be able to listen to the recording of the on-line session and participate in the 48-hour email correspondence process for the consideration of draft decisions referred to above.

Parties have been invited to consider registering additionally their Permanent Missions in Geneva so as to prevent any possible participation issues that they may anticipate facing during the online session, e.g., linked to connectivity issue or time zone difference.

Will the OEWG-12 meeting be recorded?

Yes. The on-line session will be recorded and made available on the password protected website to meeting participants. This should be particularly useful to participants who were unable to attend the session live.

What sort of technology will be required to participate OEWG-12?

The Secretariat is in the process of selecting the software for the on-line session. We expect to use an online software which the Secretariat has successfully used in the past for online meetings, that would be easily accessible via the internet with reasonable bandwidth and which can be accessed on multiple types of devices. E-mail was selected for the 48-hour correspondence process for the consideration of draft decisions since it is format that all participants have access to and use regularly.

Will there be a report of the OEWG-12 meeting?

Yes. The report will cover the on-line session and will annex the decisions taken by the OEWG. It will be prepared by the Rapporteur with the assistance of the Secretariat and will be made available in the six languages of the United Nations.

Will there be an opportunity for participants to test their connectivity to the online OEWG before the OEWG?

Yes, technical trials will be organized to allow delegates to test their connectivity. Parties will be informed in due time of when the technical trials will be organized.

Are the passwords given to attend the online OEWG transferable?

No, the userIDs and passwords are personal, and will be assigned based on the registration form submitted and the standard registration process. All delegates are encouraged to send their registrations as soon as possible to be able to generate their userids and passwords.

How will the Secretariat ensure security of the online sessions?

The meeting will have the standard intranet, containing all meeting documents, schedules, announcements and links to all relevant resources, including a link to the online session. This time the intranet is password protected and protected by encryption technologies. Delegates can login to the intranet only by using the Secretariat assigned userID and password.

How will participants be given the floor in the online setting. Do we raise our flags?

During the online session, participants can use the software feature “raise your hand”. The Secretariat will monitor those requests and put them in the queue for the president to give the floor in accordance with the established procedures.