The process of drafting the first-ever treaty addressing marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction entered a new phase today as Member States began text-based deliberations, with a view to reaching an agreement by the first half of 2020.
“I’m confident that our common interest in providing future generations with a healthy, resilient and productive ocean will continue to guide delegations in their negotiations,” said Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, in his remarks to the opening of the third session of the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Citing the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, he warned that across most of the globe, nature has been significantly altered by multiple human drivers, with the vast majority of indicators of ecosystems and biodiversity showing rapid decline.
The report further notes that 66 per cent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative human impacts, primarily from climate change stressors, including sea surface temperature anomalies, ocean acidification and ultraviolet radiation, he said, adding, however, that the report also states that sustaining and conserving marine species and ecosystem can be achieved through a coordinated mix of interventions. “Thus, this Conference can, and it is my hope that it will, play an important role in turning the tide against this rapid decline,” stressed Mr. Soares, who serves as Secretary-General of the Conference.
In the ensuing exchange of views, most delegations welcomed the draft treaty text, which was presented to delegations by Conference President Rena Lee (Singapore) based on discussions in the previous two sessions.
Algeria’s delegate, speaking for the African Group, noted that with Member States entering a text-based negotiations phase for the first time, the two-week session, which runs through 30 August, will be the most intense period since the inception of the treaty process some 15 years earlier. Further, he underlined that the common heritage of mankind principle is absent from the text. Adopting a new instrument without this principle would be like giving life to a treaty of this importance without a soul, or like putting a ship in the water without a navigational instrument. This view was supported by other delegations, including the State of Palestine, who spoke on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China.
Malawi’s delegate, speaking for the Group of Least Developed Countries, explained how the health of the ocean is relevant to landlocked countries, like his, which receive more than 80 per cent of their imports via sea transport. “The highly interconnected nature of the ocean means destruction of habitats, ocean acidification, warming or waters, and overexploitation of resources anywhere will be impacting us all,” he said, stressing that it is why parts of the ocean in areas beyond national jurisdiction must be recognized as the common heritage of mankind. He proposed the establishment of a multilateral facilitation mechanism for the transfer of marine technology and the development of a mechanism to share monetary and in-kind benefits.
Belize’s delegate, who spoke on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said that the draft text can do more to address the special case of small island developing States, which, on average, have an exclusive economic zone that is 28 times a country’s landmass. Conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction have a direct relationship on the ability of small island developing States to survive.
The representative of the European Union said that there must first be consensus on the key functions of the agreement before questions about definitions, principles, institutional set-up and funding can be settled. He welcomed the introduction of informal informals during this session, adding, however, that all negotiating formats must ensure transparency, inclusiveness and efficient time management while also contributing to building confidence and convergence across all delegations.
Turkey’s delegate said that the draft should be clearer in defining the geographical scope of the instrument, especially concerning the term “areas beyond national jurisdiction”, which should be defined as “beyond 200 [nanometres] from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured”. Clarification is needed to avoid any legal discrepancy or redundancy in terms of implementation.
Also speaking today in the general exchange of views were representatives of Tuvalu (Pacific Island Forum), Barbados (Caribbean Community), Uruguay (Group of Like-Minded Latin American States), Fiji (Pacific Small Island Developing States), Colombia (also for El Salvador, Eritrea, Iran and Turkey), Costa Rica, Thailand, Sudan, Indonesia, Federated States of Micronesia, Myanmar, Eritrea, Philippines, Iceland, Ecuador, Senegal, Nigeria, Canada, Iran, India, Singapore, Norway, China, Morocco, Bangladesh, Mauritius, United States, Japan, Russian Federation, Republic of Korea, Cameroon and Egypt.
Representatives of the following organizations also spoke: International Council for the Exploration of the Sea; International Union for Conservation of Nature; Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); High Seas Alliance; and the International Council of Environmental Law.
In the afternoon, delegates began informal working group discussions on cross-cutting issues.
At the meeting’s outset, the Conference adopted the draft provisional agenda (document A/CONF/232/2019/L.3) for its third session without a vote. Delegates also agreed to proceed in accordance with the provisional organization of work (document A.CONF.232/2019/L.4).
The current Conference session is the third in a series, with the fourth and the last to take place in the first half of 2020.
The Conference will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 20 August, to continue its work.
RENA LEE (Singapore), President of the Conference, declaring its third session open, recalled its mandate to consider the recommendations of the Preparatory Committee established by resolution 69/292 on the elements and to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of area beyond national jurisdiction, with a view to developing that instrument as soon as possible. She recalled that at its second session from 25 March to 5 April, delegates and others made progress on the four thematic clusters under negotiation, as well as on cross-cutting issues. That session also considered the process for preparing a zero draft of the instrument. While the second session identified areas of convergence, it also pinpointed areas that require more work in order to build a fair, balanced and effective outcome. For this third session, she said that, as requested, she prepared a document, with help from the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the Office of Legal Affairs, to facilitate further negotiations of the draft agreement. That document was issued in all official languages on 3 July.
MIGUEL DE SERPA SOARES, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Secretary-General of the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, said that the first two sessions of the Conference laid a strong foundation for the next stage of negotiation, advancing discussions and leading to the identification of some concrete options and treaty text now on the table. Since the last session, the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services was approved by the platform’s plenary session in May in Paris.
The report has found that, across most of the globe, nature has been significantly altered by multiple human drivers, with the great majority of indicators of ecosystems and biodiversity showing rapid decline, he said. It states that, except in scenarios which include transformative change, negative trends in nature, in ecosystem functions and in many of nature’s contributions to people are projected to continue through 2050 and beyond, due to the projected impacts of increasing land- and sea-use change, exploitation of organisms and climate change. The report further notes that 66 per cent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing cumulative human impacts, primarily from climate change stressors, including sea surface temperature anomalies, ocean acidification and ultraviolet radiation. However, the report also states that sustaining and conserving marine species and ecosystem can be achieved through a coordinated mix of interventions, including multilevel coordination across stakeholders. “Thus, this Conference can, and it is my hope that it will, play an important role in turning the tide against this rapid decline,” he stressed.
This is even more important as it has become clear that ocean processes and climate change processes are inexorably linked, he said. A healthy and resilient ocean has a critical role to play in adaptation and mitigation efforts. Indeed, the important interrelation between the ocean and climate change has been increasingly recognized in recent years, including in the context of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement on climate change. In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will consider its Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, which will undoubtedly deepen scientific understanding of such interlinkages and inform policy discussions. “I’m confident that our common interest in providing future generations with a healthy, resilient and productive ocean will continue to guide delegations in their negotiations,” he said.
General Exchange of Views
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted that this year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and commended the Conference President for preparing the draft treaty text following the closure of the second session. The Group is committed to shepherding the negotiation on the treaty during this session. The draft is a valuable tool for substantive negotiations. The principle of common heritage of humankind is the bedrock of negotiations, she said, stressing that oceans and seas beyond national jurisdiction should be shared equitably as they are the common heritage of humankind. This must be reflected in the treaty. While welcoming the balanced progress on the four topics, the Group attaches additional importance to building capacity and transferring marine technology. The diffusion of technology must be viewed as a public good, she stressed. Any new treaty must account for developing countries’ requirements for capacity-building and marine technology transfers, with a view to enabling them to assume their related responsibilities and obligations.
MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, and associating himself with the Group of 77, noted delegates were entering, for the first time, into a text-based negotiations phase. The next two weeks of the current session would probably be the most intense since the inception of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction process some 15 years ago. The African Group is perhaps like every delegation in the room, not happy with everything in the draft text, “but this is multilateralism”, and it could be improved upon with a view to adopting an agreement by next year. While the common heritage of humankind principle is absent from the text, the spirit is sometimes there, he said, emphasizing that, for the African Group, that principle remains important. Not including it in a treaty of such importance would be like launching a ship with no navigational instrument. He added that the forthcoming instrument will have to work closely with the International Seabed Authority, which is at an advanced stage of developing regulations on exploitation of seabed mineral resources.
PERKS LIGOYA (Malawi), speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, said that the draft will enable the international community to start text-based dialogues and discussions which are critical for establishing an agreement. The Group recognizes that the conservation and sustainable management of the ocean is essential for economies and livelihoods. Malawi is both a least developed and landlocked country. More than 80 per cent of the goods imported to landlocked developing countries are transported by sea. Recalling the trail of destruction Cyclone Idai inflicted on his country, he stressed that a healthy ocean means thriving and resilient communities. The highly connected nature of the ocean means destruction of habitats, ocean acidification, warming of waters and overexploitation of resources anywhere will impact people everywhere, he continued. For this reason, it is fundamental that parts of the ocean in areas beyond national jurisdiction be recognized as the common heritage of humankind. The new instrument must end governance gaps in the high seas, protect critical ecosystems and safeguard the livelihoods of millions of coastal and inland communities. The capacities of least developed countries and other developing countries must be enhanced, including through marine technology transfer.
JANINE ELIZABETH COYE-FELSON (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and associating herself with the Group of 77, said the draft text can do more to address the special case of small island developing States, which, on average, have an exclusive economic zone that is 28 times a country’s landmass. Conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction have a direct relationship on the ability of small island developing States to survive. During negotiations, the Alliance will address specific areas in which the text can be improved in line with international practice and standards relevant to small island developing States, she said.
ANDREAS PAPACONSTANTINOU of the European Union delegation emphasized the need for the Conference to focus on actors, processes and mechanisms that can deliver on agreed objectives and functions of the future agreement. As demonstrated during past discussions, there must first be consensus on the key functions of the agreement before questions about definitions, principles, institutional set-up and funding can be settled. He welcomed the introduction of informal informals during this session, adding, however, that all negotiating formats must ensure transparency, inclusiveness and efficient time management while also contributing to building confidence and convergence across all delegations. He recalled that the General Assembly, through resolution 72/249, tasked the Conference to elaborate by 2020 the text of an implementing agreement that is consistent with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. For the European Union, that agreement should be dedicated, effective, practical and future-proofed. It should also foster cross-sectoral coordination and cooperation between competent international and regional organizations and relevant instruments.
SAMUELU LALONIU (Tuvalu), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, cautioned that implementation of the forthcoming instrument could be delayed if the text is too broad. He also stressed the need to improve global governance. For the Forum, the forthcoming instrument must rise up to the huge challenges and threats faced by marine biodiversity. The Forum cannot agree on lowest‑common‑denominator solutions or accept the status quo. It should reflect knowledge accumulated over centuries by indigenous peoples and local communities, he said, emphasizing that traditional knowledge is especially relevant when science is lagging. He added that the text must be inclusive and that consideration of small island developing States in the zero draft must be strengthened. He noted growing recognition of the need to adequately consider the concerns of coastal States, given the impact that the instrument could have on their exclusive economic zone rights. A related issue is the role of regional and subregional institutions established for conservation purposes.
JULIETTE BABB-RILEY (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said CARICOM member States are generally pleased with the draft text. While some of the draft remains in brackets, and nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, it is a very good basis on which to continue negotiations. She recalled that, at their annual meeting in May, CARICOM Ministers for Foreign Affairs instructed the Community’s negotiators to ensure that the draft text includes consideration for the special circumstances of small island developing States, the modalities and mechanisms for effective capacity‑building and transfer of marine technology, and that it strikes the right balance between conservation and sustainable use. CARICOM remains open to finding answers to difficult issues with a view to meeting the core objective of conserving and sustainably using marine resources for present and future generations.
Mr. MATA (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Group of Like-Minded Latin American Countries, welcomed the working document prepared by the President, as required by the Group at the end of the second session. This will guide the work of the third session. Expressing appreciation for taking into account the Group’s request to include informal informal meetings, he said that, to get the most out of negotiations, it is important to have updated and revised versions of the document on those areas in which progress is achieved. This would be also helpful during the next intersessional period. The new instrument should consider the particularities of middle-income and landlocked countries.
SATYENDRA PRASAD (Fiji), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States and associating himself with the Group of 77, the Alliance of Small Island States and the Pacific Islands Forum, emphasized that the future instrument covering areas of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction needs to be fair, equitable, effective and should address the specific needs of small island developing States to implement their obligations under the Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as the future treaty. Underlining those States’ unique challenges and vulnerabilities, he said recognition of those circumstances is critical and traditional knowledge systems built over generations should inform conservation efforts – serving as a complement to science – in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Calling for due consideration to the health and productivity of the ocean when crafting and implementing the new treaty, he said any decision related to the instrument must be taken “with the wider context in mind” including the cumulative impacts of existing stressors and projections, such as the adverse impacts of climate change and ocean acidification.
JUAN CUELLAR TORRES (Colombia), speaking also for El Salvador, Eritrea, Iran and Turkey, said the time is ripe for text-based negotiations to protect marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions. Emphasizing that the participation of Colombia, El Salvador, Eritrea, Iran and Turkey in current negotiations does not affect their legal status as non-parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, he pointed out two related areas of concern. First, parts of the current draft text that have been modified to aid negotiations are not as straightforward as the previous wording, he said, requesting that the original language is used, which is: “The legal status of non-parties to the Convention or any other related agreements with regard to those instruments is not affected by this instrument.” Second, he requested that this phrase be taken out of brackets to ensure a universal instrument where no State is left behind. “It is not possible to achieve a sound and internationally legitimate instrument through a process from which non-parties to the Convention are alienated since its inception,” he said. “Only with an encompassing approach can we guarantee the universality of the instrument.”
Ms. RODRIGUEZ ROMERO (Costa Rica) reaffirmed her country’s intention to participate constructively in negotiations for developing a seabed mining code. The negotiations apply to 90 per cent of the oceans, yet investment in these areas has been miniscule, she said, stressing that the framework to be negotiated must not lose sight of the need to conserve and sustainably use seabed soil and subsoil areas. She called for a strong normative framework in the current round of negotiations that would lead to the adoption of an instrument in 2020 that closes normative gaps. The business-as-usual approach is not acceptable, she said, stressing that negotiations should be conducted in good faith and transparently to ensure the survival of mankind and the planet.
SUPARK PRONGTHURA (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77, reiterated his delegation’s view that the common heritage of humankind should be the overarching principle applied throughout the future treaty. Meanwhile, the sharing of marine genetic resources should primarily contribute to the overall objective of the instrument and benefit States in terms of capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology, while considering the differences in levels of capacity between developed and developing countries in accessing and utilizing such resources emanating from areas beyond national jurisdiction. Principles such as those enshrined in the Nagoya Protocol should be taken into account to ensure that benefits are shared fairly and equitably among all States. Underlining the importance of areas-based management tools, including the establishment of marine protected areas, he emphasized that environmental impact assessments are also a significant part of marine environmental protection. In addition, capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology should benefit developing States based on their needs and priorities in carrying out obligations under the new instrument.
OMER MOHAMED AHMED SIDDIG (Sudan), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said his delegation is dissatisfied with the draft text, but acknowledged that it remains subject to negotiation. He shared the African Group’s concern about the absence of the principle of the common heritage of mankind. “We cannot imagine an agreement that overlooks this principle,” he said, adding that the outcome of the Conference should undermine neither existing instruments and legal frameworks nor sectoral, regional and global bodies.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), associating himself with the Group of 77, and noting that the Conference is one step closer to agreement, emphasized that the new legal instrument should respect the sovereign rights and jurisdictions of coastal States. It should be concluded as soon as possible, he added.
JANE J. CHIGIYAL (Micronesia), welcoming the timely issuance of a zero-draft document, said climate change is an existential issue for her country, which is a big ocean State. She reemphasized the need to link access and benefit sharing, expressing strong support for the recognition of traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities. She is also pleased with the recognition of the special circumstances of small island developing States. Respect for sovereignty is imperative.
HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar) said that the rights and jurisdiction of coastal States over all areas under national jurisdiction, including the continental shelf within and beyond 200 nautical miles and the exclusive economic zones, shall continue to be respected in accordance with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. His delegation prefers that no regulations on intellectual property rights be included in the new agreement. Regarding marine genetic resources, Myanmar supports the language in the draft text.
YASSIN MOHAMMED (Eritrea), associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Least Developed Countries, welcomed the present iteration of the draft treaty as effectively capturing the views expressed by many delegations. Underlining the urgency of filling governance gaps in areas of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction, which are under grave threat, he said States have a huge responsibility to “put the oceans first”. While delegations have already bridged a number of divides between their national positions, he stressed that several issues – including the sustainable, fair access to ocean resources – require further consideration. Indeed, many developing States currently lack the ability to exercise their rights and duties to use the oceans sustainably.
GENEROSO CALONGE (Philippines), aligning himself with the Group of 77, expressed his delegation’s commitment to fully engage in the discussions, affirming that the principle of the common heritage of mankind underpins the draft instrument and all related discussions. His delegation supports the views expressed by other delegations about adjacency. The new instrument should not undermine existing ones.
Mr. PALSSON (Iceland) noted that paragraph 7 of General Assembly resolution 72/249 includes specific instructions that the treaty drafting process should not undermine existing relevant processes. Stressing that no United Nations instrument will prove effective unless a consensus exists among Member States, he advocated for a “light, functional and economical” institutional structure built on existing instruments.
HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador), also underlining the importance of existing international instruments which currently work to protect the planet’s biodiversity, drew attention to such critical issues as marine genetic resources, benefits sharing, area-based management tools including marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments and the transfer of marine technology. In that context, she expressed hope that the right mechanisms will be identified to ensure coordination with existing international bodies and norms while avoiding overlap. She also underscored the importance of striking the right balance between the sustainable use of marine resources and the conservation of the world’s oceans.
COUMBA GAYE (Senegal), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, stressed that the area beyond national jurisdiction is poorly regulated, calling for a binding treaty. Marine genetic resources must be shared equitably. In West Africa, about 60 per cent of the population live close to the coast. Stressing the need to preserve coastal biodiversity, the new treaty would provide those coastal States, landlocked States and the entire world with significant economic and environmental benefits. She, however, expressed a concern about a lack of references in the draft text to the main environmental protection principles and relevant legal instruments, such as the Rio Declaration and the Sustainable Development Goals. These omissions seemingly put the draft out of step with current efforts towards establishing a Global Pact for the Environment and could potentially impact the way in which provisions of the former treaty will be interpreted.
BABAJIDE ALO FAS (Nigeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said that the closing of the last Conference provided a solid basis for negotiations and helped experts as they endeavoured to contribute to the current session. As the text-based negotiations phase begins, Nigeria emphasizes its usual position of unwavering commitment to retaining clear text and unequivocal language concerning capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology, especially for developing countries to include workable funding and implementation mechanisms. “This is necessary if we must maximize the benefits from the abundant resources of the areas beyond national jurisdiction,” he stressed.
Mr. TELLIER (Canada) said that the draft text on an agreement is useful and serves as a basis for the work during this session. Now “it is up to us to put in the legwork”, he said. A lot remains to be done towards concluding a high-quality, coherent and clear instrument, as requested by the General Assembly. Over the next two weeks, his delegation is ready to dedicate itself day and night to negotiations, he said, calling for collective work by all delegations.
MEMET MEVLÜT YAKUT (Turkey) said that while his delegation appreciated efforts to streamline language in the draft text, the draft should be clearer in defining the geographical scope of the instrument, especially concerning the term “areas beyond national jurisdiction”, which should be defined as “beyond 200 [nanometres] from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured”. Clarification is needed to avoid any legal discrepancy or redundancy in terms of implementation. In some cases, relevant coastal States have not yet proclaimed exclusive economic zones or similar jurisdictional ones beyond their territorial waters in line with international law. “But this does not mean that such maritime areas should be considered as areas beyond national jurisdiction as far as the purpose of this instrument is concerned,” he said, noting that regional and international instruments already exist which constitute a regime for conserving and sustainably using marine biodiversity in those areas. He also underscored the need to clarify other parts of the draft agreement including defining how a marine protected area could subsequently fall under the national jurisdiction of a coastal State or the settlement of disputes.
ALI NASIMFAR (Iran), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the common heritage of humankind should be the guiding principle of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, and should be taken into account without prejudice to the rights of those States that are not parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. The special situation of developing countries as regards access to knowledge and research should feature prominently in the future instrument, he said, adding that intellectual property rights must not preclude the transfer of technology. Furthermore, the new agreement – while helping to move from fragmentation to coherence – should avoid overlap with existing frameworks and should not affect the legal status of non-parties to the Convention or any other legal agreements.
UMASANKAR YEDLA (India), associating himself with the Group of 77, said the results of the Conference should be fully consistent with the Convention on the Law of the Sea and should not undermine existing international instruments. He also drew attention to the negotiation’s general guiding principles, which include the common heritage of humankind.
YEE WOON CHIN (Singapore), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, noted that with the draft text negotiations have reached a new stage. A future treaty must achieve near universality. “We cannot have a significant number of non-parties to the instrument if we are to fulfil our mandate of ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of marine genetic resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction.” Sound policy and international law must be supported by sound science, he said, drawing attention to a workshop his delegation is co-organizing on the nexus between law, policy and science.
Mr. EGGE (Norway) said that the draft text provides a good basis to work on as it identified issues that need further negotiation and clarification. The programme of work adopted is a productive tool for deliberations on the details of the treaty text. He expressed hope that the role of the Conference of the Parties would be clearly defined. The regime must benefit all, allow for access to information, and be practical and cost-effective, he said, stressing that each State must have the capacity to implement the future instrument.
LIU YANG (China), associating himself with the Group of 77, stressed that the planet’s future hinges on the sustainable management and use of its oceans. The instrument currently being negotiated should position itself appropriately via-à-vis existing legal frameworks, including the applicable conditions of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, and should be further harmonized with other relevant instruments so as to avoid duplication. The treaty should aim to achieve a balance between conservation and sustainable use, he said, adding that it should seek to make socioeconomic development and marine conservation mutually reinforcing. Calling for a truly inclusive instrument, he said a balance should be struck between intellectual property rights and knowledge-sharing and benefits should accrue to all people. The agreement should be practical and results-oriented, he said, warning against putting it together “with undue haste” – an approach which could hit snags down the line. Calling for strong communication and open, transparent negotiations, he called on States to work together to “move ahead step by solid step”.
AAHDE LAHMIRI (Morocco), associating herself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, advocated for the use of definitions and terms that already exist in other international instruments, as well as respect for the rights of coastal States.
Mr. KAZI (Bangladesh), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Least Developed Countries, welcomed creative ideas that are already circulating among States aimed at bridging gaps between their different national positions. While managing all the details of the future treaty is difficult, it remains advisable to address any potential gaps and complications “before it is too late”. Citing a paucity in deliverables on international commitments related to the transfer of technology to developing countries, he called for a combination of voluntary and mandatory measures to be included in the new instrument. When finalized, that treaty must have a near-universal character, as well as in-built accountability and transparency mechanisms and should be coherent with other international instruments, he said.
RISHY BUKOREE (Mauritius) welcomed the long-awaited zero draft, which in line with the General Assembly resolution 72/249 sets the template for constructive engagement. The binding international instrument must be adopted by consensus. “Let us walk the talk,” he said.
Mr. BLOOM (United States) expressed his appreciation for the timely issuance of the draft text. His country is a maritime nation and a major partner in marine research capacity-building. It works hard to manage marine resources in the high seas and sustain the blue economy. The new instrument must be science-based and ensure that it does not undermine or duplicate the existing instruments. The draft text would need revisions but serves as a good starting point. It should not be an instrument that is acceptable to many while leavings key stakeholders out.
Mr. YOSHIMOTO (Japan) said no common understanding currently exists on the new implementing agreement, which will prevent any progress on discussions on other issues. Stressing that its elements must be realistic and feasible, he said the issue requiring the most delicate balance is the relationship between the new treaty and existing instruments – which should be built on an equal footing, not a hierarchy. The rights and obligations of States Parties must be clearly provided, he said, noting that some current options remain vague or ambiguous.
Mr. LEONIDCHENKO (Russian Federation), noting that many delegations have called for 2020 to serve as the deadline for the Conference’s work, stressed that the results are what matter. “We are ready to work as far as is necessary,” he stressed, warning delegates not to sacrifice the quality of their work to meet artificial deadlines. Indeed, he said, the objective should be to reach a consensus text, as only that result will yield universal participation.
HWANG JUN-SHIK (Republic of Korea) underlined the importance of not undermining the existing legal framework on the law of the sea. More work is needed to bridge gaps among States, which remain wide, he said.
Mr. KENFACK (Cameroon) said the zero draft serves as a good basis for further deliberations. As a country in the Congo basin, Cameroon is concerned about the health of oceans it depends on. Stressing the need for the principle of common heritage of mankind in the new instrument, he called for a financial mechanism to carry out marine technology transfers.
Mr. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) highlighted the need for greater attention to capacity-building and transfer of marine technology to developing countries, expressing hope that divergent views can be easily converged to advance the principle of common heritage of mankind and protection of marine biodiversity in the areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Ms. BRUSENDORFF, International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, described her organization’s work which includes the development of knowledge and marine preservation products. Its network brings together experts and scientists addressing a range of topics, many covering the Atlantic Ocean, the Arctic, the Mediterranean Sea and other marine regions, including those beyond national jurisdiction. Underlining its independent, transparent nature, she called for a strong basis in science, as well as an ecosystem approach on marine policy and management issues. Among the International Council’s recent work are projects aimed at identifying valued areas in the marine environment, which are particularly critical to preserving biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Describing the oceans’ “unstable situation” – which requires continuous observation and assessments – she said her organization stands committed to provide such support.
Ms. SLOBODIAN, International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said her group has spent recent weeks working with legal experts and scientists to develop a legal commentary on the current version of the draft treaty. The commentary is aimed at bringing a legal precedent, as well as best practices, to the future instrument. Among other recommendations, she stressed that civil society, indigenous groups and a range of other stakeholders should be meaningfully engaged in the ongoing drafting process.
The representative of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) expressed the body’s readiness to contribute its knowledge and expertise in capacity development and technology transfers, including a clearing house. The Commission’s Assembly has decided to conduct a regular survey on capacity development beginning in 2020. It also decided to hold the first conference on capacity development in Pacific small island developing States. A prototype of the Commission’s Clearing House Mechanism was presented to the Assembly.
The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that the draft text is a good starting point for formulating the final text. She made comments regarding the four topics, including marine genetic resources, for which the draft should mimic language used in existing instruments.
Ms. BHOLA, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said the open oceans play a key role in the global regulation of climate. As mandated by its 2016 resolution, UNEP has participated in the various sessions of the Intergovernmental Conference and continues to support its deliberations. Citing the meeting’s “positive starting point” on cross-sectoral coordination, she said UNEP is working with other sectoral science-based organizations throughout the United Nations system, among them UNESCO and FAO. Meanwhile, UNEP’s Regional Seas programmes work to establish relationships with the regional fishery bodies and others, she said, underlining the potential usefulness of such work to address evolving conservation challenges.
Ms. KALAS, High Seas Alliance, associating herself with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, said her organization collectively represents millions of people around the world. Warning that the planet is currently at a critical point, she said leading scientists have called for transformative change in the management of the world’s oceans. Calling for tangible progress and legal provisions to preserve the oceans’ biodiversity, she outlined the organization’s work over the course of the intersessional period, as well as its recommendations on the draft treaty.
MURAKI GOTTLIEB, International Council on Environmental Law, welcomed the fact that robust stakeholder engagement is now leading to a better understanding of – and creative solutions to – daunting global environmental challenges. “This agreement could make transformative, positive changes to our interconnected planet,” she stressed, urging delegates to listen to “what the Earth is trying to tell us”.
As the Conference turned its attention to article 2 of the draft instrument, the observer for the State of Palestine, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, proposed deleting the words “long term” from the section. Meanwhile, the representative of Mexico, speaking on behalf of the Group of Like-Minded Latin American States, advocated for changing the title of that article to “general objectives”. He also recommended several other additions, including one aimed at differentiating between the treaty’s objective – namely, the conservation and sustainable use of areas of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction – and the means by which that objective can be achieved.
The representative of Nauru, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States, as well as the representative of Cuba, agreed with the proposal to change the name of the section to “general objectives”. The latter also raised the possibility of including new language on the sharing of benefits and the special situation of developing countries, a point that was echoed by the representative of El Salvador.
The representative of Jamaica, speaking on behalf of CARICOM, advocated for the insertion of relevant provisions of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which she said will help ensure consistency among international instruments.
The representative of the European Union agreed with the current wording of the draft treaty’s article 2 and said he will examine and consider the proposals made by other delegations.
Several delegates debated the inclusion or removal of the term “long term”, with representatives including the speaker for Maldives suggesting its deletion and others, including the representative of the Dominican Republic, voicing support for its inclusion. Suggesting its inclusion, the representative of Turkey also recommended that the text in the third line include the phrase “relevant provisions”.
The representative of Singapore suggested adding “all States parties” to the phrase suggested by Mexico. Alternately, the text should stop at “coordination parties” and not detail other actors.
The representative of Switzerland, elaborating on that point, suggested merging articles 2 and 6, to read “including through strengthening and enhancing among relevant regional cooperation and coordination”.
The representative of Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, aligned himself with the Group of 77. He wondered whether the indication of “States parties” reflected signatories of the instrument or of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, adding that some confusion could ensue if this is not clarified. He also voiced reservations to proposals made by representatives of Turkey and of Switzerland.
The representative of the United States said his delegation is open to consider the Group of 77 proposals and also supported proposals made by Singapore and Switzerland.
The representative of Canada said the proposal to put the word “general” in the title would make sense if other elements are included. He cautioned about the multiplication of the number of objectives, as having too many can be counterproductive. Regarding the text, his delegation was satisfied with the language as is. The phrase could actually end after “national jurisdiction”, he said, asking colleagues to refrain from trying to put too much text in article 2.
The representative of New Zealand, meanwhile, said his delegation prefers article 2 as currently drafted. Also voicing concern about the proposed deletion of the words “long term”, he said such wording does not preclude the inclusion of short-term measures that might lead to long-term sustainability in the future. He would also prefer a clearer, shorter objectives section not limited to international cooperation among States Parties.
The representative of Norway said his delegation could accept either version of the title of article 2 and would not object to the deletion of the words “long term”. While Norway favours shorter sections, references to cooperation are critical to the agreement and should be retained.
The representative of Eritrea, also accepting the phrasing “general objective”, strongly suggested the deletion of “long term”. In addition, he said there is no value in adding a reference to States Parties to the section, a sentiment that was echoed by the representative of Australia.
The representative of Monaco joined others supporting the addition of the word “general” in the title of article 2.
The representative of China said the instrument is not only an environmental treaty, and that relevant provisions must include scientific research and technological transfer and capacity-building, as noted in several articles.
A representative of the International Cable Protection Committee emphasized the importance of achieving a balance in the text, highlighting her group’s belief in the sustainable use of oceans.
A representative of the High Seas Alliance supported the position that the language in article 2 be kept concise.
As participants turned to article 3, many speakers referred to an amendment previously proposed by Turkey with regard to paragraph 1 – namely, the inclusion of the words “the high seas beyond 200 nautical miles” as a geographic scope.
The representative of Turkey, underlining the need for more clarity in the section, reiterated that proposal.
The representative of the Russian Federation, citing several reservations to the proposal, said some parts of the ocean – such as marine protected areas, as an example – would not be included in its scope. Therefore, he said, the language in article 3 should remain brief and very clear.
The representative of the European Union said delegates should consider whether there is a need for a reference to geographical scope. Indeed, he said, some elements of the future treaty will also be applicable to areas within national jurisdiction.
The representative of Ecuador, stressing that the draft treaty should not impact the legal rights of States that are not parties to international conventions, proposed language referring exclusively to areas beyond national jurisdiction “without overlooking regulations on fisheries, maritime transport” and related sectors.
The representative of Colombia, meanwhile, requested the inclusion of a reference to “closed and semi-enclosed seas”.
Many delegations agreed on the need to keep the text short, with several representatives, including those from Australia, United States and Norway, supporting the Group of 77 suggestion to remove the words “the provisions of”.
A representative of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) cautioned that if additional language is inserted, it may repeat provisions already included in article 4.
Delegates then turned to paragraph 2 of article 3, detailing its application.
An observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said that while there was no official position on the text, most member States do not support the provision. He also raised concerns about a battleship-sized loophole with language regarding Government vessels, which could be interpreted to include scientific marine research ships.
The representative of Mexico, speaking for the Group of Like-Minded Latin American Countries, agreed, suggesting that the paragraph be separated into a new article titled “sovereign immunity” to enhance clarity.
The representative of Algeria suggested deleting the entire paragraph, adding that “this is 2019”, so there would no reason why naval warships should have exclusions.
The representatives of Australia and the European Union agreed with the need to include a provision on sovereign immunity for warships and ships involved exclusively in Government service. However, the latter noted that such a provision should be considered in light of each element of the treaty.
The representative of the Russian Federation was among the speakers who expressed their willingness to consider Mexico’s proposal to create a new, separate article of the draft treaty on the issue of sovereign immunity. However, he rejected proposals to change the scope of the provisions on sovereign immunity, stressing that the new treaty should be consistent with the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The representatives of the United States and Canada echoed that point, noting that any implementing agreement must include provisions on sovereign immunity that are consistent with those enshrined in the Law of the Sea treaty.
The representative of Indonesia voiced support for Mexico’s proposal, while the representative of China expressed her delegation’s flexibility on the issue.
Delegations further debated whether to include paragraph 2, with the representative of Norway wondering about the necessity of the text in the broader agreement and in relation to benefit sharing. Some representatives, including those from Nauru and Jamaica, on behalf of CARICOM, said they would consider proposals.
The representative of Republic of Korea recommended streamlining the language.
The representative of Japan proposed moving paragraph 4 of article 8 on applications and including new language to clarify the article 3 provision.
Turning to article 4 on the “relationship between the agreement and the Convention and other [existing] relevant legal instruments and frameworks and relevant global, regional and sectoral bodies”, delegates debated whether or not to include the word “existing”.
An observer for the European Union delegation suggested deleting it. Expressing support for paragraph 1, he said his delegation would have problems supporting the addition of anything to this provision.
The representatives of Mexico, United States, Iceland, Canada, New Zealand and Indonesia agreed with the proposal to delete the word “existing”, with the latter noting that its omission will make the treaty more relevant among current international legal instruments. On the paragraph’s content, the representative of Canada requested that the reference to the “rights and jurisdiction” of States be retained, while the reference to “duties” could be removed.
The representative of the Republic of Korea disagreed with the proposal to delete the word “existing”, and instead welcomed the wording of both the paragraph and title as they currently stand.
The representative of China said the relationship between the treaty and other bodies is a critical issue, and the relevant sections should be further consolidated. If necessary, she said, the text could have a stand-alone section on the matter. On paragraph 3, she proposed several deletions aimed at avoiding the possible undermining of the mandates of other international bodies. Indeed, treaties do not create obligations that are binding on non-Parties, and more clarifying language is needed.
On a different matter, the representative of Nigeria proposed adding a reference to subregional organizations to paragraph 3.
The representative of Japan agreed with deleting the word “existing” and retaining paragraph 1.
The representative of Turkey said paragraph 4 should be taken out of brackets and the language should be strengthened.
The representative of the High Seas Alliance supported the language in paragraph 3. Raising concerns about some of the terms used, he said the text must, in general, support the sustainable use of the seas.
Moving on to paragraph 2, delegates overwhelmingly supported the provision on the rights and jurisdiction of coastal States, including an observer for the European Union delegation.
Some delegates suggested changes, with the representative of the United States saying the first line should read “in” instead of “over” all areas under national jurisdiction, and the representatives of Australia and Norway agreeing.
The representative of Colombia suggested removing the text referring to the continental shelf and other related elements.
The representative of New Zealand was unsure whether coastal States should be considered within this article, asking whether a stand-alone article might better reflect their rights.
Also speaking on those items were the representatives of the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Mauritius.