Background

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Introduction

At the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), States committed themselves "to address, on an urgent basis, building on the work of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group and before the end of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."

This commitment was recalled and reaffirmed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in its 67th and 68th session. In its resolution 68/70, the UNGA also requested the United Nations Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (UN Working Group) to make recommendations to the UNGA ‘on the scope, parameters and feasibility of an international instrument under the Convention’. After two years of meetings on this topic, the UN Working Group during its 9th meeting adopted a recommendation on 23 January 2015 that the UN General Assembly should decide in favour of developing an international legally-binding instrument under the Convention on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

In UNGA Resolution 69/292 of 19th June 2015, the UNGA adopted the UN Working Group’s recommendation and to that end decided:

  • To establish, prior to holding an intergovernmental conference, a preparatory committee (PrepCom), open to all States Members of the United Nations, members of specialized agencies and parties to the Convention, with others invited as observers in accordance with past practice of the UN;
  • That the PrepCom is charged with developing substantive recommendations to the General Assembly on the elements of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument under the Convention, taking into account the work of the UN Working Group;
  • That the PrepCom should meet for no less than two sessions of 10 working days duration each in 2016 as well as in 2017. Committee sessions in 2016 will be from 28 March to 8 April and from 29 August to 12 September;
  • That before the end of its 72nd session, the UNGA will decide on the convening of and on the starting date for an intergovernmental conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, to consider the recommendations of the PrepCom on the elements and to elaborate the text of an international legally-binding instrument under the Convention.

It was indicated in the UNGA resolution that negotiations are to address the topics identified in the “package” agreed in 2011: in particular, together and as a whole, marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits, measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments and capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology.


Objective

This website is intended as a tool to help negotiators and others involved in the UN PrepCom process. Its aim is to present suggestions as options for possible elements of a draft text for an internationally legally binding instrument under UNCLOS. Where possible these are based on legal precedents and best practices used in other agreements and institutions. It focuses on the package deal of topics agreed in 2011 but additionally identifies some transversal issues such as governance principles and identifies other areas that could warrant further exploration, including institutional aspects, financial mechanisms, reporting and compliance review procedures, dispute resolution and advisory opinions, among others. Some of these transversal issues are discussed in this document; others are highlighted as a sort of checklist for future discussions.

The site has been developed by an international team of experts in the fields of the law of the sea and international environmental law, led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Environmental Law Centre. While not reflecting the views of the funding agency, the project is supported by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funds from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). The overall aim of this project has been to provide technical expertise to support government representatives during the UN Working Group process as well as the launching of the negotiations in 2016 and work of the PrepCom.


Approach of this website

This site presents a variety of suggestions for key elements of an international instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJ under UNCLOS (hereafter termed “International instrument on marine biodiversity in ABNJ”).

The structure of this site addresses the elements agreed upon at PrepCom4, on July 31, 2017. The four main elements agreed upon in the 2011 package can be found under "III. Conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction" and are as follows :

  • Marine genetic resources (questions related to access and benefit sharing, related institutional aspects, etc.)
  • Area-based management tools including MPAs (general obligations, objectives, proposals, review and adoption, MPA management plans and measures, etc.)
  • Environmental impact assessments (thresholds, minimum content, final decision, etc.) and strategic environmental assessments
  • Capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology

The site provides additional suggestions on general principles, obligations and scope, institutional aspects, financial mechanisms, reporting and compliance review, enforcement, and dispute resolution.