BBC BLOGS - Have Your Say
« Previous | Main | Next »

Do summits ever work?

10:24 UK time, Monday, 15 March 2010

A two-week summit on endangered species in Doha, Qatar is aiming to save bluefin tuna from extinction by imposing an international trade ban. What can really be achieved at an international summit?

While the EU and US support a ban on international trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna proposed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Japan has indicated that it would opt out of a trade ban, as it is entitled to do under CITES rules.

Recent international summits have proven disappointing. Carbon emissions targets set by 2009's COP15 environmental conference were labelled "pathetic" by one of India's negotiators and 2010's meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos ended with few new plans or real achievements.

What do you think of this convention's goals? Are summits an effective way of reaching international consensus? Should international problems be tackled differently?


  • Comment number 1.

    I am sure the attendees will enjoy their canapes and cocktail drinks and revel in must-attend evening dinners where they no doubt have to discuss the endless rounds of meetings and presentation that they have all had to endure on behalf of the bluefin tuna each day. Its a tough job but someone has to do it I suppose.

    I just hope that none of the canapes contain tunafish!

  • Comment number 2.

    Do summits ever work?

    It depends on the goal of the summit in question.

    In this particular case the aim is to try to conserve fish stocks which will require rigidly enforced quotas, no-fishing zones and some kind of global authority to police such an agreement.

    And the small matter of every fishing nation in the world being willing to sign up to it.

    So this particular summit is likely to fail. - They may reach a compromise agreement, but in this situation compromise won't actually do enough to save the fish stocks.

  • Comment number 3.

    Its an absolute scandal that fishing of such a beautiful fish as the Blue Fin Tuna should become extinct through careless and criminal over fishing just to satisfy human taste but thats man for you-there is always an excuse to make a species extinct.Any summit that has pointless yapping people who do nothing achieves nothing.Its actions that count-they all know the problem,the time for talking is over.You need a summit to ban fishing of all endangered species.Just do it!

  • Comment number 4.

    Elimination of Summits would be detrimental, given time and excluding contrary views, to the general demeanour of those to whom it falls to make consumption of canapes and champagne a general issue. It would mean groups of, often civil, servants would have fewer travel opportunities and their wives/girlfriends/partners/trans-gendered associates fewer opportunities to experience world-class shopping opportunities in various extra-territorial arenas.

    Gosh, is it that time already?

  • Comment number 5.

    Yes of course - historically summits have function quite adequately as the top of a mountain!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Countries sign up to conventions, treaties etc all the time, promising to abide by the agreements made. But we all now that if public opinion at home changes or is hostile, then these agreements will not be met. Even the UN is hamstrung half the time. Unfortunately I do not see what the alterntive is.

  • Comment number 7.

    Living in Doha I see the preparations. World-wide flights coming in, Mercedes for transport, 5 star hotels and lots of expensive functions. The Country will not lose face so cost is unlimited. I see it as another jaunt for the Establishment boyos.

  • Comment number 8.

    The last time a summit that "worked" was in Copenhagen last December.
    But I can't remember the last time USA respected any opinions of other countries.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's a good excuse for a knees up, a freebie at my and our expense.

  • Comment number 10.

    Do summits ever work? Let's see, in my lifetime I've seen middle east summits, arms control summits, global warming summits, overpopulation summits etc... and yet each time a "summit" is held the problem seems to morph. So do summits work? Let me gather some people together and I'll get back to you sometime with an answer.

  • Comment number 11.

    Things achieved by international summits:
    • photo opportunities for politicos,
    • sound bite opportunities for politicos,
    • trips abroad at other people expense,
    • excellent business in foreign bars and 5 star hotels,
    • opportunity to “lose” last year mobile and get a new one off the tax payer,
    • perks for the “good” staff, a trip away at no cost to them,
    • inducement for staff to be “good”,
    • massive increase in carbon footprint,
    • opportunity to “make the deal” that was brokered last week by email and video conferencing!
    The whole thing could be done through video conferencing, untrue! How do you get expenses? Idea’s a failure for politicos!

  • Comment number 12.

    Nothing will be achieved.
    It is simply another diary date in the social calender for these people.
    The vested interests are looking to make as fast a buck as possible, and if a species is fished into extinction, so what? Theres plenty of other species to overfish!

  • Comment number 13.

    Summits only exist to air the agreements or disagreements reached in back room negotiation before the Summit. In effect they are just a propaganda tool.

  • Comment number 14.

    Summits would serve a useful service, if the press reported the arguments raised on both sides, rather than merely the predictable politics and personality clashes involved.

    It is up to the public to decide and the public have an underused powerful weapon - the consumer boycott. If the people stopped buying Japanese cars, I suspect that the Japanese would soon discover that blue fin tuna was not such an important part of their diet after all.

  • Comment number 15.

    Bluefin tuna are a valued food resource. An international summit should agree on harvesting quotas to maintain a large school of the fish.

  • Comment number 16.

    Delighted to see such a positive spin veing put on international summits by the contributors here.
    I actually do hope they serve up blue-finned tuna to the deligates: a touch of "Bring me the head of John the Baptist". A least then they will know what they are failing to save from extinction.
    I think alo that it is we, the British who have a lot to answer for: we rather set a high benchmark for lavish squander at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. . .

  • Comment number 17.

    Nope - give them an HYS forum and they can kick their ideas around to their hearts' content (and amuse the rest of us into the bargain). There is absolutely no need for them to scamper off to 'wherever' for a couple of weeks, use the technology to share ideas and widen the debate. Who knows, one of us lot might have a useful idea to contribute!

  • Comment number 18.

    As good as they are, how many people do you know that have listened to summits? The wildlife summits appear to be falling on deaf ears. But as someone said it depends on what the summit is about. It would be nice is every single person in the world was actually interested in wildlife extinction. We're all animals so how can we think they're stupid compared to us? It appears the larger brain has given us more than increased intelligence, it seems that this increased intelligence has gone to our heads. I shall stop now before I go further off-topic, it may take a kryptic mind to work out what I mean straight-away, but think about it long enough and you'll understand me, that's usually how it works

  • Comment number 19.

    All we need is one country saying no, and the summit will have been another utter waste of taxpayers' money. But perhaps summits are "perks" that go with a job?

    If Japan is the obstacle here, stop buying items Japanese - it can be done.

    No need for a costly summit with nothing achieved except comments such as "we feel we are taking positive steps..." or "it has been extremely iteresting, and we have learned much". Japan can just indicate over the telephone what they intend to do.

    Greenpeace is more likely to achieve a result by harassing Japanese fishing boats than a lot of people on a jolly.

  • Comment number 20.

    "Man is his own worst enemy"! How true a saying is that.
    So what if ALL the bluefin tuna and the whales go extinct? There are plenty of dogs to eat!
    This generation is eating and sucking the planet dry! The oil and gas is being used at an alaming rate. The fish are now fighting to survive and the polution of the planet is now at a stage of 'no return'!
    Mankind IS the earths cancer!

  • Comment number 21.

    No-one wants to see the extinction of a species. However we all need to eat and you can never square the circle of this conundrum.
    Do summits work? From what I've read they have limited success and yet what else is there for us to do.
    A lot of money is wasted on bringing together like minded groups. What about conducting these meetings via the Internet and cutting out the red carpet and canapes.

  • Comment number 22.

    "The fish eating japanese, will eat all the yellow fin tuna, then will eat all the Whales. Unless more Tuna are farmed.Summits are just boys outtings for a chat and a few drinks and maybe a good time?

  • Comment number 23.

    20. At 1:37pm on 15 Mar 2010, kevthebrit wrote:


    Mostly agree with you, although 'cancer' is perhaps a bit too strong.

    I also find it staggering that there is all this vim & bile in the Manmade Global Warming debate, whilst, at the same type most people are more or less completely ignorant regarding the undisputed global disaster the destruction of of the fish stocks will cause.

    Both directly on humanity as a staple food source disapears and on the global environment as a whole as one of the planets major eco-systems breaks down.

  • Comment number 24.

    Party time again, if they were environmentally concerned they would use video link ups for their meetings. This country is broke our polititions cannot afford to travel to and hold expensive get togethers.

  • Comment number 25.

    British fishermen have to dump, caught in their nets, good food for Britain.

    Other Nation's fishermen, in the EU too, don't have to? Why is that?

    Why are France, Spain, Portugal and other EU fishermen not forced to do the same?

    If a British fishermen land in their nets a harvest to take back to Britain for food, but are forced to dump back into the sea good food, what is the sense. It's totally wicked to throw away fish when half the world is starving, yet pet cats in Britain eat better than most? What's going on? Someone explain these disparities?

  • Comment number 26.

    If they dont deliver on the Tuno I think they all know who everyone will blame. Its time we farmed the seas instead of pillaged them. What will be interesting to see is if they have woken up enough to realise that you cant "save" the fishing industry by letting it catch all the fish!

  • Comment number 27.

    Summits are those events where countries that complain about some issue receive platitudes form those that intend to continue going their own way. What did summits on whaling achieve? The Japanese continue to harvest whales like there is no tomorrow. I guess the only way that Sumo wrestlers get their behinds so big is from eating tons of whale blubber. The same goes for protecting the rainforest. What happened? Indiscriminate and outlaw logging still goes on cutting down millions of acres of rainforest. Wildlife protection summits have also failed poaching is greater than ever. And summits on the Middle East are the most pathethic of all where Istael laughs in everybodys face especially of the US which Israel considers its vassal. Summits may identify problems but they rarely result in the force of law on any issue. Arab oil summits have beeen noted to end with shoe throwing and bitter attacks between member states. It's only when nearly everybody gets some advantage for themselves that a summit is called a success or on the other hand called a success to coverup its failure.

  • Comment number 28.

    It’s a good PR. exercise with the added chance to give somebody else the blame for lack of progress but to actually achieve anything at a Summit meeting, not yet, but we do live in hope.

  • Comment number 29.

    No, there is no need for summits. Clearly all the world's problems can be solved by asking a question on HYS and seeing what the wise contributors come up with :)

  • Comment number 30.

    Summit is just another word for vacation. Politicians are getting free jet flights, the finest foods, and amazing hotel rooms to attend these conferences which solve nothing.

  • Comment number 31.

    They should focus their time on breeding tuna that are round and small so that they can fit into the cans :-)

  • Comment number 32.

    international summits about international issues without the civil society organizations support never work, all governments need to be pressed to act rationaly towards such issues

  • Comment number 33.

    When these summits come up the ones going to them must be rubbing their hands with glee, what, another beano, they must think it's their birthday, how about a survey for the last ten years to see how much these summits have achieved and I don't think it will be very much

  • Comment number 34.

    A couple of people have mentioned Japanese Whaling.

    The really sick thing about this industry is that there isn't even a particularly high demand for whale meat from the Japanese people.

    To the point that in recent years the Japanese government have been running campaigns to increase consumption of whale meat and have even had to stick it on the menu in state schools to use up surplus stocks.

    Yet still the Japanese government is always trying to increase its whaling quota.

    Theres just no comprehending that kind of bloody-minded mentality.

  • Comment number 35.

    Works every time! Lots of people make lots of money at it, including us. Making up and organising summits with all the spin-offs are lucrative endeavours.

  • Comment number 36.


  • Comment number 37.

    When are we going to realise that there are just too many people on this planet. All of whom thinking that the planet owes them an existence. Nothing will prevent other species extinction as we hoover up the Earth's resources and not put anything back. No matter what laws and regulations are put into place there will always be those willing to break them with the excuse that they have to feed their over-populated families. As David Attenborough said - there is now three times more population than when he started broadcasting 50 years ago.

  • Comment number 38.

    it doesnt matter what happens at the summit if there is ban on fishing blue fin the japanese will find a loop hole and fish anyway. look at the whales research ships. funny haha

  • Comment number 39.

    You'd think summit must work some of the times. Maybe they will become an endangered species if they do not work.
    Judging by the cost of these summits it must be working for someone.

  • Comment number 40.

    I'm getting very bored with "clever" comments at the expense of politicians. These are your representatives that you're permanently rubbishing. What would you rather have - Hitler? And, given the chance, wouldn't you travel first class, stay in good hotels, and eat good food? Summits often achieve a great deal - Montreal, Kyoto, the various GATT rounds, SALT ... In fact, it's hard to find summits that don't lead to a solution of some kind.

  • Comment number 41.

    The only good that usually comes from these kinds of meetings is it brings world attention to the situation otherwise no one would know what the issues are. Evo Morales of Bolivia said it the best not exactly his words but this is the gist "humans have become disconnected from nature and we need to re-connect " basically we have industrialized our relation to the planet this allows us to go all over our planet and plunder the resources with no regard for the rights of the flora and fauna to co-exist. Evo Morales wants the UN to adopt a bill of rights for Mother Earth ( Pachmama as they say in south America ) and when you really think about it nothing will change until we re-connect with the planet. As long as money can be made we will continue to exploit everything. We have seen the collapse of the Cod on the east coast of Canada and the Wild Salmon on the west coast of Canada now the Tuna are in danger yet those among us who profit from Tuna will still continue with no regard to their rights as fish to live and procreate in the sea's of this planet We all agree that humans need rights but what about Mother Earth and all life. It's a tough one when the major religions for centuries have preached that Mother Earth is here for humans to have dominion over.

  • Comment number 42.

    Well, they work in the sense they provide temporary jobs for the catering I suppose thats one plus for having them.

    The actual reasons for meeting, whether it be eradicating poverty,saving the whales or saving the plant, only in years to come will we know.

    So far in my life the answer would have to be 'no, they usually fail'

  • Comment number 43.

    What can be achieved at an international summit?
    Actions can be banned, but poaching will go on. In fact, the stiffer the ban, the greater value of the “poached” item.
    Why is the blue-fin so important to Japan?
    Japan consumes about 80 percent of the blue-fin tuna caught in the Mediterranean. Mr. Miyahara (Japan’s delegate) said that Japan believed that a different organization, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, known as "Iccat", should manage blue-fin tuna catches & protection. Mr. Miyahara said Japan acknowledged that the blue fin tuna needed protection, but the endangered-species convention was “quite inflexible.” Historically, he said, almost no species added to the Cites endangered species list had ever been removed. “We don’t believe the blue-fin tuna is endangered to that extent.”
    Meanwhile, Europe appeared to be moving towards a compromise.
    France, home of the largest Mediterranean blue-fin fleet, said on Feb. 3 that it was prepared to back an international trade ban at the Cites meeting, to take effect after 18 months. Apparently, officials were planning to propose that Iccat be given a last chance to give depleted stocks of the tuna a chance to recover by "temporarily" banning all commercial trade in the fish. "Temporarily" would likely satisfy Japan.
    It’s extremely hard – next to impossible – to get several countries to agree to one plan of action. The larger the summit – assuming it's the the right summit to begin with - the more the difficulty.
    International problems should be presented & decided by summits under the auspices of the United Nations. Right now, this cannot be done because the United Nations needs reform, especially from the American veto.
    But the name itself bespeaks its role; THE UNITED NATIONS, a place where nations come together and make the best decisions for the world. So, in my opinion, the best thing that can be done right now is hurry-up with United Nations’ reform.

  • Comment number 44.

    "40. At 5:54pm on 15 Mar 2010, TominExeter wrote:
    I'm getting very bored with "clever" comments at the expense of politicians. These are your representatives that you're permanently rubbishing."

    Well, the politicians were quite good at claiming expenses of their own.

  • Comment number 45.

    Well seeing as a summit could be seen almost as a committee and that "A camel is a horse designed by a committee" I dont rate their chances.

  • Comment number 46.

    Back again after re-reading other comments, if we really want to address these issues then as I said before we have to reconnect with Mother Earth which sad to say will have to take a big planet wide change of thought . After years of brain washing we now are truly disconnected from nature, we have the technology to achieve space exploration yet cannot learn to use it to live in harmony with our fellow life forms on this planet. I pity any other planet if the present status quo find it, Maybe we should make it compulsory for every citizen of the world to see Avatar
    We can if we want solve all our problems and if it is a matter of money then quit running all over the world killing each other. The money spent on the US war machine alone would solve a lot of issues now extrapolate that out to all countries, one hell of a big pile of money now use all the brain power used on war and solutions will abound. Oh throw in all the money spent on feel good summits too.

  • Comment number 47.

    Copenhagen on the global environment and now Doha on global fisheries, neither accomplished anything other than set the agenda for future futile meetings.
    Not until climate change and environment destruction, including fisheries, result on worldwide social and economic chaos will these failed meetings show just how badly they failed.
    And by then, the resulting human misery caused by our, including my, failings are apt to be forgotten as people everywhere clamor to survive the day and week, never mind worry about how others, including biodiversity, survive. It will be called anarchy.
    When that occurs, our population will undergo dramatic collapse, and the few survivors around will have nothing to hand to their offspring except what will become the legend of the apocalypse caused by their stupid ancestors, much like the current myth of Atlantis and how that advanced civilization wasn't very civilized.
    But don't worry. This is all a bad dream and when we wake up, we will take our spears and continue to hunt the dwindling number of mammoths that we kill for food and clothing.

  • Comment number 48.

    Summits usually cost a fortune and produce a lot of hot air. If the same amount of money was poured into the issues a huge amount of progress could be made.

  • Comment number 49.

    I was always led to believe that modern technology, including video and audio conferencing, was intended to reduce to an absolute minimum the need for conferences, usually held at expensive and exotic holiday locations (e.g. Davos) at taxpayers' expense. But with the political classes and their quangos, nothing changes when a junket at taxpayers' expense is on offer. And what do these conferences achieve other than a hefty bill - absolutely nothing. There are two classes on this planet; the political classes and their fellow travellers and the rest.

  • Comment number 50.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 51.

    What can really be achieved at an international summit?
    A realy good jolly up for the participants.
    Not a lot else realy!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 52.

    Simmuts are just an excuse for a good time to be had by all. There is nothing they could possibly achieve that could not be done over the phone or internet.

  • Comment number 53.

    I doubt people ever will realise we are killing off all the wild life on this planet, and for what? Money of course, what else? What we need is a maritime police force to seize these offending vessels, arrest their crews and sink the ships. How do we pay for fo this? Bring all our troops out of the east and cut off all aid to third world countries.
    Peter D South Carolina

  • Comment number 54.

    Summit? Put all the expenses together and summit all up... that's the definition of a summit.

  • Comment number 55.

    Endangered species at Summit? That must be homo sapiens, great in numbers, small on intelligence, soon to find the green, green grass of oblivion.

    How arrogant have we become?

  • Comment number 56.

    Do summits ever work?
    To answer this tricky connundrum I will need to call upon and utilise the wondrous gift of memory.


  • Comment number 57.

    Do summits ever work is quite visible in the statistics of their achievements. It is fair to say that summits keep the bureaucrats busy,to provide them with a salary. This hot-air balloon doesn't even rise. :-(

  • Comment number 58.

    Summits usually means more food, more garbage, more carbon footprint, etc. Defeats the purpose of any agenda ironically... Try VIDEO conferencing next time if you really mean it.

  • Comment number 59.

    Summit : Everybody talks Nobody listens !

  • Comment number 60.

    None of these people on these jaunts have ever heard of modern communications. Total waste of jet fuel and good food. Wayne Job PS I do business all over the world and 99.9% is communication. They love their free jollies.

  • Comment number 61.

    Lovely place, Doha. Take a look on Google. What's the definition of 'summit' anyway? Perhaps it's 'tax-paid holiday'. And what's on the agenda? Oh yeah. A fish. Well that'll do for now I suppose. Do these same people get to go to the next global warming/cooling, wet/dry, windy/calm 'conference'? Or are they a completely different set of free-loaders.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.