Horse eye jacks

5th Session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on the BBNJ

15–26 August 2022 | UN Headquarters, New York

Conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction – BBNJ

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Despite more progress at this two-week session than over the last decade, delegates were unable to reach consensus on a new high seas treaty addressing marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and, instead, suspended the session, to be resumed in early 2023.

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Horse eye jacks

Horse eye jacks from Cuba (photo by Marcelo Halpern)

UN Member States gathered in New York for what was hoped to be the final round of negotiations on an international legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

The conservation and sustainable use of BBNJ has continued to draw international attention over the past decade, as mounting scientific information reveals the richness and vulnerability of such biodiversity, particularly around seamounts, hydrothermal vents, sponges, and cold-water corals. However, concerns are growing about the increasing anthropogenic pressures posed by existing and emerging activities, such as fishing, mining, marine pollution, and bioprospecting in the deep sea.

Following more than a decade of discussions convened under the United Nations General Assembly, the Assembly, in its resolution 72/249 of 24 December 2017, decided to convene an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of BBNJ. The IGC held its organizational session in 2018 and held four formal sessions in September 2018March 2019August 2019 and March 2022, after postponements occasioned by COVID-19 restrictions.

Initially, delegations had been expected to conclude treaty negotiations at IGC-4. However, with all the issues still on the table at the end of that meeting, IGC President Rena Lee (Singapore) proposed an additional meeting (IGC-5) and she circulated two iterations of the draft negotiating text for delegates to consider.

Negotiators at IGC-5 were expected to make significant progress and possibly conclude their talks on the four elements of the draft treaty, which are:

  • marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits;
  • measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas;
  • environmental impact assessments;
  • capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology, as well as cross cutting issues.

IGC-5 convened from 15-26 August 2022 at UN Headquarters in New York.

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All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For photos from IGC-5 of BBNJ, please use the following attribution: Photo by IISD/ENB | Diego Noguera.

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