The further resumed Fifth Session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) concluded at the UN Headquarters in New York on Tuesday, closing the “first chapter of the BBNJ story.”
In the morning, delegations shared general views, celebrating the adoption of the new High Seas Agreement, and looking ahead to its ratification and implementation. Several delegations called for early ratification of the Agreement, when it opens for signature on 20 September 2023 to ensure early entry into force, which requires 60 instruments of ratification. Others expressed hope for universal or as-close-to universal ratification as possible to strengthen the treaty’s implementation.
Reflecting on the process, some delegations reminisced that they would “forever be trauma-bonded” by the many straight hours of negotiations during the dying moments of the resumed fifth session of the IGC in March 2023. Others expressed hope that the success of the negotiations bode well for the future of the Agreement, as this was a test of the strength of multilateralism “over difficult issues with several divergent points.”
Throughout the day, government and observer delegations set forth their priorities for the future implementation of the Agreement. Several pointed to the need for financial and technical assistance as well as technology transfer for smooth implementation, especially in developing countries. Others highlighted their support for the Agreement more generally, welcoming the fact that it strengthens Ocean governance and pointing to its contribution to sustainable development.
Delegations also drew attention to the Agreement’s links to the 2022 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity. Several supported the inclusion of specific provisions in the Agreement, with several rallying around the principle of the common heritage of humankind. Looking ahead, many civil society participants called for a process to prepare for implementation of the Agreement once it is ratified and enters into force, including a pledging conference.
All through the day, delegations praised the efforts of IGC President Rena Lee (Singapore) for her leadership from the beginning of the IGC process to its successful conclusion. They also lauded the UN Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) staff for their support for the entirety of the process.
In the afternoon, IGC President Lee suspended the plenary for over two hours to allow for informal consultations on the Conference’s Report to the UN General Assembly, specifically regarding the Russian Federation’s statement distancing itself from the consensus on the adoption of the BBNJ Agreement. When she resumed the plenary, IGC President Lee proposed, and the IGC agreed, to report the Russian Federation’s statement in a footnote to the Conference Report.
In her concluding remarks, IGC President Lee noted that the Conference had been a “learning journey of a lifetime,” and reaffirmed her calls for delegations to act towards ratification and implementation, in striving to halt marine biodiversity loss. She noted that she looked forward to “a long queue of Ministers waiting to sign the Agreement” on 20 September 2023.
Recalling the long journey towards this day, IGC President Lee gavelled the IGC to a close at 6:10 pm, stating that, “for the Ocean, it was worth it!”
To receive free coverage of global environmental events delivered to your inbox, subscribe to the ENB Update newsletter.
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.