First codification of the international law of the sea through 4 conventions on: the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, the high seas, fisheries and conservation of biological resources and the continental shelf.
Montego Bay Conference
Signature of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 168 States have ratified it today, of which the United States of America is not a party. Areas beyond national jurisdiction comprise: the water column, known as the “high seas”; and the seabed, called “the Area”. On the high seas, UNCLOS applies the principle of freedom. In the Area, the principle of the common heritage of mankind applies.
Entry into force of the Montego Bay Convention.
1st meeting of Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction established by the United Nations General Assembly.
1st Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on an International Legally Binding Instrument (ILBI) relating to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity in Areas beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).
2nd Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on an International Legally Binding Instrument (ILBI) relating to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and dealing with the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ). Discussions continue.
3rd IGC. Delegates at the third session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) delved, for the first time, into textual negotiations on the basis of a “zero draft” containing treaty text developed by IGC President Rena Lee.
After talks were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the 4th IGC was held in March 2022. At this session “unprecedented progress” was made in discussions on marine genetic resources, including benefit sharing, area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, and capacity building and transfer of marine technologies.
Despite significant progress during the two-week session, delegates were unable to reach consensus on a new high seas treaty addressing marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The session was then suspended for a resumed session in early 2023. During this “retreat” between two negotiating sessions, groups of States continued to work on their proposals for adjustments to the text of the future treaty.
IGC 5.2, negotiations resume. Follow us on Twitter, our observers on site share progress of the discussions: https://twitter.com/OCEAN_univ
Why protect areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ)
“By defending biodiversity on the high seas, we defend ourselves a little bit.”
Serge Ségura, French ambassador of the Oceans
“Giving legal status to the high seas is one of the fundamental priorities for saving the ocean.”
* 11% of the patents, i.e. 1650 sequences, come from species living in deep waters and mostly outside the areas of jurisdiction of the Member States.
Source: Blasiak, R., Jouffray, J. B., Wabnitz, C. C., Sundström, E., & Österblom, H. (2018). Corporate control and global governance of marine genetic resources. Science advances, 4(6), eaar5237
THE UN NEGOTIATIONS
Capacity Building (CB) and Transfer of marine Technology (TT)
The TT aims at equitable and fair use of marine resources between developed and developing countries in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) that are considered “common heritage of humankind”.
The purpose of the RC is to facilitate the conservation of marine biodiversity, in particular through scientific and technical assistance. Including infrastructure strengthening (installation, equipment, human resource and institute) and scientific capacity and research as well as dissemination of knowledge.
RC and TT are envisaged to enable all countries to implement, after all negotiations, a future instrument on various cross-cutting issues that concern the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity as well as to assist developing countries and small states to achieve the objectives of this instrument.
Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA)
EIAs provide a framework for high seas activities to conserve and sustainably use marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. EIA is a procedure “designed to assess the likely impact of a proposed activity on the environment”. It is for this purpose that States are proposed to evaluate the activities under their jurisdiction which may be harmful to the marine environment and to report on the results as well as a list of information to be included in all reports due to the insufficiency of international jurisdictions for this purpose. The content of the mentions to be forecast will cover the details of the proposed activities as well as their objectives, their environmental, social and economic impacts.
Marine genetic resources and benefit-sharing issues
The genetic resource is defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as ” genetic material of actual or potential value “.
Genetic resources in the water column beyond the limits of national jurisdiction are subject to the principle of freedom provided for in the Montego Bay Convention (Article 87), in the absence of specific provisions for them. No text provides for a regime for the genetic resources of the seabed. The genetic resources of the water column and seabed are thus freely accessible. A company that creates an invention (especially a medicine) from a genetic resource benefits from the monopoly of the exploitation of the invention for 20 years by filing a patent. Developing countries generally do not have access to marine genetic resources due to the lack of adequate technologies and these benefit only developed countries.
Area-based Management Tools (ABMTs), including Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
Since the first session, informal working groups have come together to discuss ABMTs and their application. Discussions focused on objectives, relationship with other instruments, process, including decision-making and consultation, duration, monitoring and review.
The implementation of ABMTs can be established in two forms: rules that will be taken by all countries or taken by a global body that will represent them all.
Countries must put in place a coherent process to fight fragmentation, this process should focus on coordination and cooperation between countries, existing regional bodies and bodies on the basis of cooperation agreements.
The organization also needs to establish standards, objectives and priority areas always with the cooperation and coordination between it and the regional bodies. However, it must always consider the implementation of the objectives.
The proposal common to all is the need to promote coherence, complementarity and synergies with other frameworks and bodies, but also that the international legally binding instrument (ILBI) should not undermine the rights of coastal States.
But there were also points of divergence that needed to be discussed, namely the standards and criteria for ABMTs and MPAs, the scientific evaluation modalities and the decision-making mechanisms within the framework of the ABMTs.
Source: ISSD reporting services, 2nd Session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), vol. 25, No. 195, April 2019
The contribution of some participants to the United Nations negotiation testifies on the realities and the different stakes around the high seas, as well as the current activities.