Jul 15, 2011
Twenty countries led by Japan broke quorum at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting yesterday in order to block a vote to approve a sanctuary in the South Atlantic.
After the proposal, tabled by the Latin American block (known as the Group of Buenos Aires-GBA) didn’t reach consensus, Japan threatened to break quorum if a vote was called. The firm position maintained by the Latin Americans left Herman Osterhausen, Chair of the IWC, with no option but to call for a vote.
Immediately, the Japanese delegation and its allies (Cambodia, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Iceland, Norway, Nauru, Mongolia, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau, Grenada, Kiribati, Morocco, Korea, Ghana, Palau, Togo, Tuvalu, St.Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia) stood up and left the room, under the incredulous gaze of the rest of the commissioners and meeting participants.
“The attitude of the whaling nations and its allies is absolutely outrageous. To break the quorum of the Convention in order to block a vote for the Sanctuary, demonstrates a complete disrespect for the most essential democratic tool to achieve agreements in the world. The Latin American civil society stands behind the right of the GBA to vote for the Southern Atlantic Sanctuary,” said Marcela Vargas, WSPA’s Programmes Manager in Latin America.
After confirming that it was not possible to reach a quorum for the vote, the delegates went into a closed-door gathering for more than four hours, but were unable to reach consensus. Members of the GBA said that they did all they could to keep the topic alive, but it was finally decided to place the discussion on hold until next year’s IWC meeting.
Lorenzo Rojas, Commissioner for Mexico, said that the whaling countries’ attitude was very unfortunate. Nevertheless, he was glad that the proposal had been left open for discussion in 2012. The Chair’s report will reflect the efforts that were made to maintain consensus and the names of the countries which walked out disrespecting the democratic procedures of the IWC will be recorded, he said.
The proposal for the establishment of a Southern Atlantic Sanctuary has been on the negotiation table for the past 10 years. Australia and New Zealand were among the countries supporting the sanctuary.