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Expected by many to be a game changer in Ocean governance, a new legally binding agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) was adopted by consensus at UN Headquarters in New York after 17 years of negotiations.
Governments agreed on a draft treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The eventual treaty will address exploitation of marine genetic resources, including benefit-sharing; establish area-based management tools, such as marine protected areas; set procedures for environmental impact assessments; and provide capacity building and transfer of marine technology.
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. (View coverage of the resumed BBNJ talks in late February - early March 2023)
At the most productive meeting so far, “unprecedented progress” was made in discussions on marine genetic resources, including benefit sharing, area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, and capacity building and the transfer of marine technology.
Following more than a decade of discussions convened under the United Nations General Assembly, the Assembly, in resolution 72/249 of 24 December 2017, decided to convene an IGC on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction with a view to developing a legally binding instrument as soon as possible.
Delegates delved, for the first time, into textual negotiations on the basis of a “zero draft” containing treaty text developed by Conference President Rena Lee (Singapore). Deliberations were productive but there is still much work to be done with the fourth and final mandated session scheduled for March 2020.
Delegates considered a document prepared by the IGC President, which identified areas for further discussion not containing treaty text, aimed at leading to substantive discussions based on the elements of a package agreed in 2011 on marine genetic resources (MGRs), including questions on benefit-sharing; environmental impact assessments (EIAs); area-based management tools (ABMTs), including marine protected areas (MPAs); and capacity building and marine technology transfer (CB&TT).