In Memoriam – Peter Johan Schei – 1945‑2022
BirdLife is deeply saddened by the death of Peter Schei in Trondheim, Norway. Peter served as elected Chairman of BirdLife International from 2004 through 2013.
Her Imperial Highness, Princess Takamado of Japan, BirdLife’s Honorary President, sends her condolences on behalf of the entire BirdLife Partnership to Peter’s widow, Anne, and his family and friends.
“I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our dear friend and former Council chair, Peter Schei.
I have wonderful memories of the times we spent together, at conferences, in meetings, having dinner, and, most enjoyably, birdwatching.
Peter was a man who showed respect, not just for all life forms, but for the environment itself, and I always felt that when we went out birdwatching together, the birds came out to thank him.
He was a true gentleman, kind and generous with his time, so intelligent and witty in conversation, and so good at finding answers and solutions. It goes without saying that I truly admired the quiet passion with which he always stood up for what he felt was right.
We will all miss him, and if we feel like this, then how devastating it must be for his family. My thoughts and prayers are with Anne and his family, and with our partners at BirdLife Norway.”
Starting with his thesis in 1971 on the migration and population dynamics of the European starling, Peter spent decades serving nature and birds. In 1973 he joined Norway’s newly established Ministry of the Environment, the first in the world, as a scientific consultant and continued his career within the Ministry, taking various positions, including Head of Division. From 1985 he joined the Directorate of Nature Management, where he became Director General in 1989. From 1995 he held a position as International Negotiations Director, mostly working for the Ministry of Environment.
Just last October, Peter supported BirdLife’s work to establish the recognition of the North Atlantic Current and Evlanov Seamount (NACES) as a Marine Protected Area with the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs.
His commitments included extensive leadership roles in diverse multi-lateral conventions from CITES to the Bern and Ramsar conventions, as well as deep involvement with the IUCN and the United Nations Millennium Project. He is considered as one of the “founding fathers” of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), having been closely involved in the negotiations of its creation in 1992. He headed the Norwegian Government negotiations and was chair of the CBD’s advisory scientific committee (SBSTTA) for several years. At the World Summit in 2002, he headed up the biodiversity part of the agenda.
Peter was instrumental in the creation of the prestigious international conferences on biodiversity in Trondheim that started in 1993. It became a regular series, with the ninth in July 2019. The conferences created opportunities for increasing understanding amongst stakeholders about issues on the CBD/ biodiversity agenda. They were viewed as a safe and open space for debate and advancing complex agendas outside of the formal government negotiations for the CBD.
He was an ever present member as well of BirdLife’s Science, Policy and Information Council Committee. Melanie Heath, BirdLife’s Global Director of Policy, Science and Information Management said, “Peter gave wise and generous counsel on our science work paired with his diplomatic and political insight of national and international policy mechanisms. He was a towering presence: always engaging, enthusing and motivating to make a difference. I, and all who knew him, will miss him greatly.”.
Dr. Mike Rands, BirdLife CEO from 1996 to 2009, said “Peter was an outstanding conservation biologist, leader and diplomat. As Chair of BirdLife Council from 2004 to 2013 he was strategic, wise and supportive setting high professional standards for himself and others. He fostered and championed BirdLife’s approach and contribution to sustainable development and had an exceptional talent for securing consensus among diverse players! I will deeply miss his friendship, charm and passion for birds and biodiversity whilst taking comfort from the fact that his legacy for global nature conservation will be long-lasting. What a sad moment in the history of BirdLife and international conservation.”.
Marco Lambertini, the current WWF international Director General and also a former Birdlife International CEO said, “It has been an inspiration to be BirdLife International CEO under Peter’s presidency. I vividly remember his knowledge, passion and thoughtfulness about nature conservation, his insatiable search for new birding emotions and most of all perhaps his endless positive thinking, always looking for solutions that could better preserve the natural world. A scientist, a birder and nature lover we all dearly miss.”
Patricia Zurita, BirdLife International CEO, said “Peter’s tireless support and commitment to BirdLife was instrumental in making us the force for nature we are today. He was always available to us, and to me personally, with his wisdom and insights, and I know I echo us all when I say how profoundly we shall miss him.”.