Concluding Organizational Session on Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity, Conference President Commends Work towards Legally Binding Instrument
Member States had set the tone for progress towards developing a legally binding treaty aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, the President of the Intergovernmental Conference on the matter said today as she concluded its three-day organizational meeting.
Conference President Rena Lee, Ambassador for Oceans and Law of the Sea Issues and Special Envoy of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, presented a summary of activities and discussions, and commended Member States for their constructive and flexible approach.
She said discussions had been focused on making progress towards 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. (See also Press Releases SEA/2069 and SEA/2070).
Over the course of the session, the Conference had elected its President, heard statements from senior United Nations officials and adopted decisions on organizational matters, she said. Regarding its organization of work, the Conference had agreed to adopt a flexible approach. The President, having heard concerns regarding the holding of parallel meetings, had informed the Conference of the intention to avoid parallel meetings to the extent possible.
Continuing, she said the Conference had also decided to establish a bureau comprised of the President and 15 Vice-Presidents, with 3 per regional group assigned to work on procedural matters. The Vice-Presidents would serve in their national capacity on the understanding that the decision did not create a precedent for the processes in the negotiation of international treaties. To ensure stability in the Bureau, the Vice-Presidents would not change from one session to the next.
Turning to the organization of work for the future meetings, she said the Conference had decided that delegates should take a flexible approach and establish subsidiary organs and informal working groups if needed in consultation with delegations and the Vice-Presidents. She also noted that delegates had stressed that not too much time should be spent on the procedural matters during the first substantive meeting. Time would be allocated to general statements as well as consideration of dates for the second and third sessions of the Conference in 2019. Discussions would be organized around four thematic clusters outlined in the General Assembly resolution titled “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” (document A/RES/72/249).
Concerning the zero draft, which could only be the result of intergovernmental negotiation, the President stressed that it was important to work towards a consensual outcome. She said she would prepare a concise document capturing progress of discussions to identify issues that needed to be further discussed.
Several delegations expressed gratitude to the President for her leadership and for providing a summary of the organizational meeting, and reiterated their commitment to working with her towards a powerful outcome. Pledging cooperation and support were the representatives of Egypt (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Algeria (on behalf of the African Group), the Maldives (on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States), Bangladesh, Chile, Barbados (for the Caribbean Community), Nauru (for the Pacific small island developing States) and the Dominican Republic, as well as the European Union.