The second day of the 27th session of the Assembly of the International Seabed Authority (ISA-27) was largely devoted to a review of the annual report of ISA Secretary-General Michael Lodge. Following a comprehensive presentation by the Secretary-General, delegates engaged in a lengthy discussion on the various elements of the report.
Secretary-General Lodge briefly presented on the Authority’s membership and observers. He noted progress on the status of contributions, stressing that fewer Member States are now in arrears, and reported on the status of the Secretariat and the relationship between the ISA and the UN common system of organizations. He further provided an overview of an extensive list of ISA activities during the year and addressed the strategic partnerships developed with a variety of partners.
The main part of the Secretary-General’s report focused on the implementation of the Authority’s Strategic Plan 2019-2023. Secretary-General Lodge offered an analysis of activities falling under the strategic directions of the Strategic Plan, addressing:
- the role of ISA in a global context;
- ways to strengthen the regulatory framework for activities in the Area (the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction);
- protection of the marine environment;
- promotion of marine scientific research in the Area;
- building capacities of developing countries;
- ensuring fully integrated participation by developing countries;
- ensuring equitable sharing of financial and other economic benefits;
- improving ISA’s organizational performance; and
Many delegates expressed appreciation for ISA’s work, and lauded the Secretariat for achieving important tasks contained in its Strategic Plan. Many delegates further expressed support for ISA’s initiatives towards gender equality and women’s empowerment as well as efforts to support least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), and small island developing states (SIDS), and contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Member States further highlighted the importance of marine scientific research and the need to strengthen relevant capacities of developing countries to leave no one behind. In that respect, many delegates’ interventions focused on the need for further developing capacities of developing countries, focusing on the various related activities.
On the development of exploitation regulations and the two-year timeline, a number of delegations emphasized that the rule does not oblige Member States to move to the exploitation stage if environmental guarantees are inadequate. Many underscored the need to effectively ensure the protection of the marine environment prior to any exploitation activities, with a few evoking the “huge responsibility that destiny has placed on our shoulders.”
Although the discussion on the two-year timeline spilled over into the interventions on the Secretary-General’s report, a clear path for discussing the issue could not be agreed. Following a Bureau meeting at lunchtime and relevant legal advice, Acting President Olav Myklebust noted that a two-thirds majority would be needed for the item to be formally placed on the agenda. With a stated desire to reach consensus, discussions and consultation will continue overnight prior to revisiting the issue on Wednesday.