Continuing negotiations to draft a new treaty on biodiversity in ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction, delegates today deliberated who should be entitled to make proposals related to area-based management tools under the auspices of the new instrument, as well as which broader principles should underpin them.
Discussions on these and other topics are taking place at Headquarters during the third session of the International Conference on an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The session runs through 30 August.
Participants took up the five proposed paragraphs under article 17 of the draft treaty (document A/CONF.232/2019/6), on the subject of proposals to be made under the new instrument. Speakers deliberated and proposed additions and deletions to the text, outlining their preferred language. The representative of Costa Rica — speaking on behalf of a Group of Like-Minded Latin American States and echoed by a number of other speakers — emphasized that only States should be able to put forward proposals to the Secretariat relating to areas beyond national jurisdiction. She also proposed several other amendments.
Some speakers focused on paragraph 2, which currently proposes language to the effect that “States parties may collaborate with relevant stakeholders in the development of proposals”. The representative of the European Union, for one, supported adding a reference to civil society. Norway’s delegate, echoed by the representative of Monaco, agreed that States parties should be able to collaborate with a broad spectrum of stakeholders. The representative of India underlined the importance of referencing regional and subregional bodies as potential collaborators and emphasized that States parties should prioritize working with those organizations above others.
Turkey’s representative said her delegation is generally comfortable with the current iteration of article 17. However, she joined several other speakers in proposing the deletion of paragraph 2 on collaboration with relevant stakeholders and called for a greater distinction to be made between area-based management tools and marine protected areas in paragraph 1, as well as elsewhere in the draft treaty and as previously proposed by her delegation.
Turning to paragraph 3 of the section, the representative of Eritrea proposed rearranging the language regarding “traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities”. China’s delegate, echoed by the representative of Cuba, said her delegation prefers a reference to a precautionary approach. She also proposed adding other actors to the phrase “traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities”, as traditional knowledge does not solely exist with indigenous peoples but other stakeholders as well, including States; and proposed deleting subparagraph H which presently reads: “Information on any consultations undertaken with adjacent coastal States and/or relevant global, regional and sectoral bodies.”
The representative of the United States joined other speakers in calling for proposals to be limited to States, noting that such an approach is consistent with engagement and other relevant processes outlined in the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement. The representative of Canada, voicing general support for the principles and approaches listed in the article, nevertheless noted that they may be better placed in the treaty’s section on general provisions. Among other proposed changes to paragraph 4, he suggested adding a time frame to the reference to human activities and favoured a reference to “uses by adjacent coastal States”.
Also on paragraph 4, the representative of the Federated States of Micronesia, on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, said subparagraph H — which presently reads “A description of the conservation and sustainable use objectives set out in paragraph 1 of article 14 that are to be applied to the area” — must be elaborated, as it is dependent on what will eventually be included in article 14. The representative of the Philippines supported that proposal. Cameroon’s representative, meanwhile, proposed including a reference to a “detailed monitoring, research and review plan” in paragraph 4.
The representative of Belize, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), proposed removing repetitive language throughout the section. On subparagraph H, she echoed calls by the delegate of the European Union and others to further elaborate the phrase which presently reads “Information on any consultations undertaken with adjacent coastal States and/or relevant global, regional and sectoral bodies”.
Striking a broader note, the representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources declared that “time is not on our side” as the oceans are already undergoing major changes due to human activities. Now is the time to build on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, aiming to rebuild the oceans and related ecosystems. Stressing that the precautionary principle and an ecosystem approach must underpin the entire treaty, she said they may, therefore, be better placed in article 5 on principles than in article 17. She also proposed including an article 17 bis section focused on the important difference between marine protected areas and other types of area-based management tools. Noting that the two are typically defined separately in most national laws and policies, she said drawing that distinction in the new treaty may help create more tailored and effective protections for those respective zones.
On a related point, the representative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) pointed out that measures related to area-based management tools already apply under many existing regional agreements and mechanisms. He underscored the principle of not undermining those existing processes.
Also speaking today were the observer for the State of Palestine (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Japan, Switzerland, Singapore, New Zealand, Russian Federation, Thailand, Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Australia, Ecuador, Mauritius, Israel, Iceland, Senegal and Nicaragua.
Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Cable Protection Committee, Greenpeace (on behalf of the High Seas Alliance) and International Council of Environmental Law also participated.