A palpable sense of excitement permeated the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber at UN Headquarters in New York as members of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) gathered to adopt the new treaty under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).
Opening the meeting, IGC President Rena Lee praised delegates for their tireless efforts to reach consensus on the new legally binding instrument. Csaba Kőrösi, President of the UN General Assembly, thanked all delegates for their hard work towards this “landmark achievement, which bears witness to your collective commitment on the conservation and sustainable use of BBNJ.”
UN Secretary-General António Guterres stressed that the agreement pumps new life into the Ocean at a critical time where it is threatened by climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. He highlighted that “the spirit of multilateral cooperation is alive and well,” and urged timely ratification of the agreement to enter into force and achieve the common objectives. He thanked IGC President Lee for her leadership and dedication as well as all delegates and participants, congratulating them on their achievement.
Informal open-ended working group Coordinator Pablo Adrián Arrocha Olabuenaga, Mexico, provided an oral report on the work of the group, which met twice during the intersessional period to address technical issues related to the draft agreement.
Delegates then formally adopted the new international legally binding instrument on BBNJ. This was followed by a sustained standing ovation.
In a statement to explain their position on the adoption of the Agreement, the Russian Federation distanced themselves from the consensus, opining, among others, that the new Agreement may undermine the mandates of other existing instruments, frameworks, and bodies. He further noted that the Russian Federation is not calling for a vote out of respect for the position of many developing countries, who consider the Agreement beneficial to their interests. Venezuela also explained their position, noting that joining the consensus should not be interpreted as a modification of their traditional position as a non-party to UNCLOS.
Delegations spent the remainder of the day in a general exchange of views on the new Agreement. They lauded IGC President Rena Lee’s leadership of the process and thanked the Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea (DOALOS) Secretariat as well as civil society observers for their work to ensure the delivery of the new legally binding instrument. Several delegates also called for early ratification to ensure the Agreement enters into force as soon as possible, after the Agreement opens for ratification on 20 September 2023.
Several delegations also welcomed specific provisions within the Agreement, particularly the reference to the common heritage of humankind, and those related to benefit sharing of marine genetic resources, including digital sequence information, and capacity building, as well as those on financial and technical assistance, the transfer of marine technology, and marine scientific research.
General statements will continue on Tuesday, 20 June 2023, when delegates will also adopt the report of the meeting.
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All ENB photos are free to use with attribution. For the Further resumed 5th Session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on BBNJ, please use: Photo by IISD/ENB | Pam Chasek.