Wednesday was a very efficient day for the 27th session of the Assembly of the International Seabed Authority (ISA-27), as delegates stormed through various agenda items.
After concluding discussions on the annual report of ISA Secretary-General Michael Lodge, the Assembly turned its attention to financial matters, finalizing its consideration of the report of the Finance Committee and the budget. The report of the Credentials Committee was procedurally adopted and the new members of the Finance Committee smoothly elected for their five-year term. The capacity development strategy, the “missing link” in the set of policy guidance documents of the Authority in the words of Secretary-General Lodge, attracted positive comments, with many delegates highlighting that the strategy takes into account the needs of developing states in an inclusive way.
Even the proposal by Chile for an additional agenda item on the two-year timeline, which had caused controversy over the previous days, found a way forward without having to resort to a secret vote, which would have been highly unusual and not conducive to cooperation and the spirit of consensus. Acting President Olav Myklebust instead agreed to hear positions under other matters.
Still, not everything was smooth sailing. The proposal by Belgium to amend Rule 82 of the Assembly’s rules of procedure generated an interesting discussion and attracted a range of reactions. Belgium suggested allowing “representatives of entities having obtained a contract with the Authority” as well as the Enterprise to obtain observer status at the ISA, with the proposal to invite individual contractors as observers proving controversial.
Some delegates were in favor of the proposal, pointing to increased transparency and inclusivity. Others suggested amendments, such as granting observer status to industry bodies representing entities having obtained a contract from the ISA rather than individual contractors. Yet others opposed, pointing to potential conflicts of interest. Many asked for additional time for consultation.
The proposal was strongly opposed by observers representing environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs). They highlighted the implications in terms of conflicts of interest, effective control, and liability, stressing that inviting contractors as observers could lead to bizarre situations where a contractor would take the floor to argue against enforcement proceedings or liability, or to argue with its sponsoring state. As consensus could not be reached, the discussion will resume on Thursday and is expected to be highly interesting.
In the evening, a reception hosted by the Government of Jamaica was held commemorating the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).