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Summary of the seventh meeting of the Working Group on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction

4 April 2014

Source: iisd Reporting Services - Linkages

The seventh meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ) convened from 1-4 April 2014 at UN Headquarters in New York.

The meeting was the first of three meetings (April 2014, June 2014 and January 2015) convened by the UN General Assembly through its resolution 68/70 to discuss the scope, parameters and feasibility of a possible new international instrument on BBNJ under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The outcome of these meetings is expected to contribute to a decision to be taken at the sixty-ninth session of the UN General Assembly.

The meeting was attended by close to 200 participants, including national delegations, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The meeting was considered successful in that it engaged delegations for the first time in an interactive substantive debate that created momentum for more detailed deliberations in June 2014. The meeting was also lauded by NGOs for its transparent proceedings.

 

OPENING PLENARY

Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and UN Legal Counsel delivered opening remarks on behalf of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. He recalled the commitment included in the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to address on an urgent basis the issue of BBNJ. He also recalled that the year 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the entry into force of UNCLOS and the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Working Group, urging delegates to overcome differences and crystallize areas of convergence into concrete recommendations.

The European Union (EU) noted that it has been a strong supporter of the development of a new implementing agreement under UNCLOS on the conservation of the marine environment, the duty of cooperation and environmental impact assessment (EIA), as well as spell out principles for good oceans governance, and noted that NGO participation is important in these deliberations.

Bolivia, for the Group of 77 and China asserted that the exploitation by a few states of marine genetic resources (MGRs) from areas subject to the principle of common heritage of mankind is inconsistent with general principles of international law such as equity. He supported the development of an implementing agreement under UNCLOS, based on the common heritage principle.

Canada, Japan and Norway expressed doubts about the need for a new multilateral instrument on BBNJ, while the Republic of Korea highlighted the need to review existing agreements and cautioned against expanding the scope of a new international instrument to areas that are already covered by existing institutions.

The US acknowledged the need to strengthen commitments to conserve and sustainably use high-seas marine resources by building on existing structures and mechanisms. The Russian Federation emphasized that an implementing agreement was only one of the options considered at Rio+20, noting the need to better understand the subject matter of a new instrument. He cautioned against threatening the balance of interests protected by existing agreements, such as UNCLOS and UNFSA, and called on “large beneficiaries from the commercial use of MGRs” to offer concrete proposals on benefit-sharing

IUCN pointed out that the recent contribution of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the Fifth Assessment Report underscores the urgency for action to collectively confront challenges facing BBNJ in the face of mounting impacts from climate change, which are additional to those derived from human activities in ABNJ. WWF emphasized that unilateral and regional action cannot solve BBNJ issues. Greenpeace expressed high expectations for constructive and transparent deliberations at this meeting of the Working Group.

 

CO-CHAIRS’ OVERVIEW OF ISSUES

The Co-Chairs introduced an informal working document to provide an overview of issues raised during the week in relation to: overall objective and starting point; legal framework for an international instrument; relationship to other instruments; guiding approaches; guiding principles; scope ratione personae (those subject to an agreement); scope ratione loci (geographic scope); and scope ratione materiae (subject-matter scope, with sub-sections on each of the elements of the package agreed by the Working Group in 2011); enabling elements and means of implementation; and feasibility.

 

CLOSING PLENARY

An informal Co-Chairs’ Overview of issues raised during the first round of discussions on the scope, parameters and feasibility of an international instrument under UNCLOS will be appended to the more detailed Co-Chairs’ Summary of discussions. Several delegations praised the meeting as one of the most fruitful ones the Working Group has ever had, noting the opportunity to engage in substantive and interactive discussions, and expressed support for the compilation of state submissions to be a living document.

The High Seas Alliance and Deep Sea Conservation Coalition expressed satisfaction with the substantive discussions during the week and their transparent character, reminded delegates of the urgency of the challenges at stake, and called for political will to fill implementation and governance gaps.

 

For more, go to: http://www.iisd.ca/oceans/marinebiodiv7/brief/brief_marinebiodiv7e.html