On Wednesday, 24 August 2022, with two days left before the meeting is scheduled to conclude, delegates at the fifth session of the intergovernmental conference (IGC-5) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) continued their work. In addition to participating in closed-door “President’s consultations,” they met in informal informals and small-group discussions, addressing provisions on:
- marine genetic resources (MGRs), including questions on the sharing of benefits;
- measures such as area-based management tools (ABMTs), including marine protected areas (MPAs); and
- cross-cutting issues, including on the general principles and approaches that will govern the new agreement.
In their discussions on MGRs, delegates addressed, among others, an article related to the temporal and material scope. Views diverged on both. On the material scope, while generally agreeing that the new agreement shall not apply to fishing and fish used as a commodity, disagreements arose on the use of terms, change of use, and fishing for marine scientific research. Retroactivity considerations dominated the discussion on the temporal scope.
On ABMTs, including MPAs, delegates spent a notable amount of time discussing a proposed provision on emergency measures for the designation of an ABMT. While several supported the inclusion of this provision, questions remained about the circumstances that could necessitate it. On other provisions under the ABMT part, delegates’ disappointment with the refreshed draft text was evident. Small groups and drafting groups were given until the end of the day to find solutions to the challenges still present in the refreshed text on issues such as: proposals, assessment of proposals, and identification of areas.
Delegates began discussions on general principles and approaches, an issue that has been contentious for years. Discussions diverged along familiar lines: common heritage of humankind against the implicit reference to the freedom of the high seas, precautionary approach vs precautionary principle, and the relationship between science and traditional knowledge. Delegates also conducted a preliminary reading of the preamble of the draft treaty, proposing textual amendments to enhance this section of the draft agreement.
Conscious of the limited time remaining for negotiations, delegates burnt the midnight oil, meeting in small groups to work on compromise text on several outstanding issues in the text. IGC President Rena Lee (Singapore) also convened evening consultations, inviting small groups to consult on those difficult issues that could unlock overall compromise. Discussions will continue on Thursday.