UNGA negotiations: NGOs prevail in retaining right to participate in the future of the high seas

Date: November 14, 2005

UPDATE: Despite attempts by several powerful governments to have NGOs banned from disucssions on the future of the high seas, NGOs will be allowed to participate in crucial meetings next year. After global lobbying by members of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition to prevent the exlusion of NGOS at next year’s UN GA Working Group on marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, government negotiators dropped the exclusion proposal.  This means that NGOs will be allowed to participate, with the Working Group Chair having the discretion to hold ‘closed’ sessions if it is felt to be necessary.  

Matthew Gianni of the DSCC said “we have averted a very dangerous and damaging precedent and ensured that civil society will continue to have a voice in the future of our global oceans.” UNGA negotiations: key governments move to exclude conservationists 11 November 2005
While NGOs are working to focus government action to stop the most destructive fishing practise on the high seas, government representatives at the United Nations (UN) are working to keep NGOs out of meetings. What are they trying to hide? Conservation, environmental and other NGOs are to be excluded from a UN process if certain governments get their way on Friday (11 November). In a move which could set a far reaching and dangerous precedent for discussions over the future of the marine environment, government negotiators at the UN will decide whether to ban NGOs from participating in a special UN General Assembly Working Group on marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, scheduled to meet in February 2006. The proposal flies in the face of recent trends and pronouncements by the UN Secretary General about the need to include NGOs more fully in UN deliberations. Speaking from the United Nations in New York, Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition (DSCC) said, “These governments want to return to a closed door system where the voices of environmental concern cannot be heard. If this working group is going to address the serious issue of habitat destruction on the high seas properly, it has nothing to hide and no need to exclude scientists, conservationists, industry and other interested parties represented by NGOs which can contribute real expertise on such issues.” “While the weighted nets of high seas bottom trawlers strip the life out of the deep-sea, the delegates at the UN are stripping public accountability out of their deliberations” said Karen Sack, Oceans Policy Advisor to Greenpeace. Lisa Speer of the Natural Resources Defense Council said, “The high seas are the world’s global commons. They belong to everyone and all stakeholders should have a voice in deciding how these areas are managed and what the priorities for that management should be.” The DSCC is an alliance of over 50 international organisations, representing millions of people in countries around the world, which is calling for a moratorium on high seas bottom trawling.

For further information please contact: Mirella von Lindenfels on + 44 (0) 7717 844 352 Susan Cavanagh on + 31 (0) 621 296 910

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