Organizational Session,
AM & PM Meetings

Delegates Call for Balanced Text to Guide Discussions towards Drafting International Treaty, as Conference on Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity Continues

Consensus and balance were crucial in drafting a document that captured current progress and helped guide discussions towards a legally binding treaty aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, delegates stressed in interactive dialogues during the second day of the Intergovernmental Conference on the matter. (See also Press Release SEA/2069.)

“It is time to switch gears,” stated Egypt’s representative, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  It was also time to use all available resources to prepare a working document that would aid discussion in developing the new instrument, he stressed.

Echoing that stance, Barbados’ representative, speaking for the Caribbean Community, stressed: “We are long past the point of non-papers.”  She urged that the draft text guiding such discussions be available by June.

Other delegates, including the representative of Samoa, also requested that such a text be circulated in advance so that nations which lacked resources had sufficient time to review it.  That document, she added, should be ambitious and realistic.

However, the Russian Federation’s delegate pointed out that, in the spirit of consensus, the text should not prejudge any options.  Instead, it should define areas for future discussion.

President of the Conference Rena Lee (Singapore) informed delegates that the text — an aid to discussion — would put the Conference on the pathway towards a treaty.  While she had not decided on the skeleton of the paper, she assured the Conference participants that the document would be succinct, with a goal to keeping the page limit reasonable.  She also emphasized that delegates would have sufficient time to review it before the first session in September.

Taking up the formation of the Bureau, the Conference, by consensus, applied the General Assembly’s Rules of Procedure mutatis mutandis.  Most delegates expressed support for a 15-member Bureau with a procedural mandate.  Because the Bureau would assist the President on procedural matters, she asked if those members should work in their national or personal capacity. 

The representative of Algeria, speaking for the African Group, said that size and capacity were linked.  Vice-Presidents should serve in personal capacity rather than national capacity, he said, cautioning that if delegations abused the process by changing the representative, the Conference might end up with a bureau that was not united.

Maldives’ representative, speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States, said that, while his counterpart from Algeria had voiced a legitimate concern, logistically speaking, it was better that Bureau members served in their national capacity.

Still, the Russian Federation’s delegate said that the number of Bureau members should be defined by their function.  Fifteen members were not necessary, and two from each group would be more sensible.

After consulting with the Group, Algeria’s representative referred to the footnote of Rule 30 of the General Assembly Rules of Procedure, by which, according to the directive on proportional representation for regional groups, the African Group should have four members in the Bureau of the Conference. 

However, he went on to say that, in the spirit of compromise, the Group was willing to agree to the President’s proposal of three Bureau members per regional group.  Nonetheless, he requested that it be put on record that the Group’s agreement not represent a precedent for the processes in the negotiation of international treaties.

The Conference then, by consensus, agreed to establish the Bureau consisting of 15 Vice-Presidents with 3 per regional group on the understanding that the decision on the Conference did not represent precedence in other international treaties.

Turning to the organization of work for the first substantive session work in September, delegates stressed the need to balance a flexible approach with as much efficiency as possible.  Several called for all four thematic elements to be discussed in such a manner.  It was also important the Conference should move beyond the discussion in the Preparatory Committee towards a zero draft.

However, while concerns were voiced that consideration of cross-cutting issues could become a discussion of abstract issues in a vacuum, Iceland’s representative underscored that there was no magic formula for conducting a conference.  Instead, he urged delegates to think through “where we are going” and then figure out “how to get there”.

The President also said the structure of the discussions would depend on the documents — her “homework” — that she would work on in the ensuing months.  However, it was clear that discussions would include the four thematic clusters: marine genetic resources including access and benefit sharing; area based management tools including marine protected areas; environmental impact assessment; and capacity-building and transfer of marine technology.

During the meeting, the Conference Secretary read out a statement on the financial status of the Voluntary Trust Fund established by General Assembly resolution 69/292.  Responding to delegates’ questions about funding and future dates, she said that it was logistically difficult to find dates for the two weeks of meetings at Headquarters.  In addition, she provided information on the availability for funding for delegates.

Also speaking today were representatives of Nauru (for the Pacific small island developing States), Japan, United States, Canada, China, Norway, Morocco, Argentina, Mexico, Bangladesh, Chile, New Zealand, Brazil, Australia, Peru, Federated States of Micronesia, Kenya and Mauritius.

The Intergovernmental Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 April.

For information media. Not an official record.