Conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity
beyond areas of national jurisdiction – BBNJ
20 February – 4 March 2023
UN Headquarters, New York
The conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) has drawn international attention over the past 15 years, as mounting scientific information reveals the richness and vulnerability of such biodiversity, particularly around seamounts, hydrothermal vents, sponges, and cold-water corals. However, concerns are growing about the increasing anthropogenic pressures posed by existing threats including overfishing, mining, and marine pollution, and emerging activities such as bioprospecting in the deep sea.
Following more than a decade of discussions held under the United Nations General Assembly, the Assembly, in its resolution 72/249 of 24 December 2017, decided to convene an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of BBNJ. The IGC held its organizational session in 2018 and held four formal sessions in September 2018, March 2019, August 2019, and March 2022, after postponements occasioned by COVID-19 restrictions.
Unable to conclude their work at IGC-4, the IGC met for an additional fifth session, in an intense round of negotiations, in August 2022. This session was characterized by “informal-informal” talks, small group sessions, and bilateral and group consultations with IGC President Rena Lee (Singapore) to make headway on outstanding issues. Delegates based their discussions on two iterations of draft treaty text over the two-week meeting. The main elements under consideration are:
• marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits;
• measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas;
• environmental impact assessments;
• capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology, as well as cross cutting issues.
Although IGC-5 was lauded by many as the “the closest we have come to reaching consensus,” convergence around key issues remained elusive. At the end of the session, delegates agreed to resume IGC-5 in 2023. Many hoped this meeting would finally conclude in agreement on a new treaty to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity in the high seas.
At IGC-5.2, delegates based their deliberations on a ‘Further refreshed draft text,’ originally circulated on the last day of IGC-5. The meeting ran from 20 February – 4 March 2023 at UN Headquarters in New York and went more than 34 hours into overtime.
After delegates negotiated non-stop far past the scheduled finish time, President Rena Lee announced "The ship has reached the shore" on agreed text for a high seas treaty. A resumed meeting will be convened to adopt the final text at a date to be announced.
Source: IISD Earth Negotiations Bulletin https://enb.iisd.org/marine-biodiversity-beyond-national-jurisdiction-b…
Last updated 6 March 2023