First Session, AM & PM Meetings

Speakers Discuss Area-Based Management Tools, as Intergovernmental Conference to Draft Marine Biological Diversity Treaty Continues

Member States shared views today on area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, during the fourth day of the intergovernmental conference to draft a legally binding treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of high seas biological diversity.

The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said area-based management tools must be understood as means to achieve the objectives of the new instrument.  He went on to suggest several possible definitions that could be included in the draft text.

The representative of the Maldives, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said the new instrument should stipulate how area-based management tools contribute to restoring the world’s oceans, with marine protected areas playing an important role in building resilience to the adverse impact of climate change.

The representative of the European Union said the new treaty should deliver a mechanism for identifying marine protected areas.  The level of protection for such areas will be determined on a case-by-case basis, drawing on available science.  Added value will lie in the global network of marine protected areas, applying an ecosystem approach and the precautionary principle.

Mexico’s delegate said the text must define what marine protected areas will be, with the objective being in line with the treaty’s overall goal of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.  There should also be a clear process for management, monitoring and implementation, with sanctions for non-compliance.

Tonga’s delegate said the purposes of marine protected areas could include ensuring food security and safeguarding aesthetic or natural wilderness values.  She added that her delegation is open to discussing working definitions as well as other terms.

The representative of the Russian Federation, taking a different tack, said his delegation did not support the idea of setting objectives for area-based management tools.  There should be a strong scientific basis for marine protected areas, with a clear list of goals to be achieved within a set timeframe.  He also questioned the idea of a global network of marine protected areas, saying that some oceans areas are not experiencing negative effects from human activity.

China’s delegate suggested that the new instrument stipulate that the objective of area-based management tools is the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity.  The definition of such tools should not be limited to marine protected areas, nor should they be simply understood as marine sanctuaries.  He added that specific conservation objectives and management measures should be spelled out in the new instrument.

The representative of Australia, describing area-based management tools as a vital part of the instrument under discussion, agreed with others that the objectives of such areas should be tied to the treaty’s overall objectives.  He also agreed that there is plenty of existing work to draw upon when identifying ocean values worthy of protection.

Also speaking on area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, were the representatives of Nauru (on behalf of the Pacific small island States), Belize (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Mauritius, New Zealand, Switzerland, Brazil, Philippines, Iceland, Costa Rica, Seychelles, Australia, Norway, Senegal, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Viet Nam and Colombia.

The observer of the Holy See also spoke.

Also speaking were the representatives of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Greenpeace.

In the afternoon, the intergovernmental conference examined, among other things, the way the instrument will manage the relationship between measures under the instrument and measures under existing relevant instruments, frameworks and bodies.  The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said further discussions are needed on the modalities of procedures, underscoring the need to address various aspects, including transparency, a scientific-based approach, protection of the marine environment, accountability and liability.

The representative of the European Union said the new agreement should not affect respect for other instruments.  However, it is still necessary to overcome the current status quo where such bodies are working in a silos manner.  The agreement should provide ways to recognize and complement previous treaties without undermining their mandates.  It should also include measures to improve coordination between existing bodies.  It is also important to consider how the instrument will respect coastal States’ jurisdiction.

The delegate of the Maldives, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, echoed that the instrument should not undermine existing mandates.  Adjacent coastal States should be consulted in determining issues of compatibility, including the sharing of information.  The consultation process should be transparent and inclusive, and relevant information made publicly available.  There must be extensive consultations regarding the exploitation of resources in areas beyond jurisdiction.

China’s representative, associating himself with the Group of 77, added that regulation provided by the Convention serves as a general standard for handling the relationship between adjacent coastal States.  The new instrument should stipulate that protection areas cannot undermine the rights of adjacent countries.

The representative of the United States said the process must not undermine existing frameworks, adding that the instrument could be useful in helping identify modalities of cooperation among relevant stakeholders.  In addition, the instrument must be consistent with article 87 of the Convention.

The representative of the Russian Federation said he did not support the idea of creating a hierarchical system by which the new agreement will re-evaluate the work of existing organizations.  This is a direct route to the politicization of the process and could lead to a more superficial decision-making system.

Also speaking were the representatives of Nauru (on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States), Chile, Mauritius, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, New Zealand, Argentina, Uruguay, Fiji, Morocco, Norway, Iceland, Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Togo, Sri Lanka, Canada and Papua New Guinea.

Delivering statements were also representatives from the International Seabed Authority, International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Cable Protection Committee and Pew Charitable Trusts.

Speakers then took up the agenda item on the process in relation to area-based management tools, including marine protected areas.  The representative of Egypt, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, said procedures must be based on the best possible science.  States parties could propose the creation of a global cooperation mechanism, which decides the borders of marine protected areas, by voting by majority.

The representative of the Maldives, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said general guidance and objectives could be developed to enhance coordination with regional and sectoral mechanisms.  On the question of modalities on coordination, he said it is important to include all stakeholders in consultations and give due regard to the special circumstances of small island States.  If consensus cannot be reached, a provision for voting can be arranged.

The representative of the European Union said consultations should be as wide and inclusive as possible.  Turning to standards and criteria, he said that the instrument should include general criteria.  More detailed criteria, however, can be developed through the conference of the parties, done on the advice of the scientific and technical committee.  The instrument should only provide for a set of very general criteria.

Earlier in the day, delegates completed their discussion on capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology.  In particular, they exchanged views on cross-cutting elements, including use of terms; the new instrument’s relationship with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other instruments and frameworks and relevant global, regional and sectoral bodies; general principles and approaches; international cooperation; institutional arrangements; and the proposed clearing-house mechanism.

The representative of Egypt, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said, with regard to the clearing house mechanism, it could be useful to develop and establish protocols and guidelines for environmental protection, as well as a trust fund and a central repository for baseline data and online compilation of good practices.

The representative of the Maldives, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, said regarding the use of terms that the definition of capacity-building and transfer of marine technology should be included in the implementing agreement, drawing on International Oceanographic Commission guidelines.

The European Union’s delegation reiterated the bloc’s view that terms need only be defined to give them special or technical meanings.  At the very least, he said, the bloc did not want to see definitions that are restrictive or not future-proof.  On the relationship to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, he said a reference of part 14 of that text might be appropriate.  Turning to general principles and approaches, he said the Union will support a general provision setting out in broad terms the objectives of capacity-building and technology transfer, with the special requirements of developing countries also considered.  He added that the bloc supports a strong role for a clearing house mechanism as well as the establishment of a treaty body, such as a conference of the parties.

Nauru’s delegate, on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, agreed that technology transfer should be defined, adding that the conference can be guided in that regard by existing definitions based on International Oceanographic Commission criteria.  On general principles and approaches, she said there is a need to include references to the special case of small island developing States, the duty to collaborate and share information, the effectiveness of meaningful capacity-building, and equitable access, among other things.

The representative of Mauritius said he sees an important role for the International Oceanographic Commission, which is already dealing with capacity-building.  Rather than having several different institutions working in silos, it will make sense to have one single overarching institution.

Papua New Guinea’s speaker was among several who favoured a general provision on the rights and obligations of States parties vis-à-vis capacity-building and technology transfer, adding that the text should emphasize that such efforts are being undertaken for peaceful purposes.

The representative of China, reiterating a view expressed often in the conference, stressed that the new instrument should not impede other relevant instruments, framework and bodies.  It should promote cooperation with existing international bodies and avoid duplication of obligations and work.

Norway’s delegate, on institutional arrangements, said the new instrument will need a secretariat, with the International Oceanographic Commission being a possibility.

The representative of Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it will be good to assess other instruments to see what works well and what can be improved in the context of the new instrument.  On definitions, he said capacity-building and technology transfer might need to be defined, but it’s too early to say at this stage.

The representative of Nepal underscored the importance of collaboration and partnership with Governments, the private sector, academia, women, youth and civil society.  On new institutions, he said it will be more cost effective to draw on existing bodies, with the International Seabed Authority being assigned more responsibility.

Fiji’s delegate suggested the drafters consider using the verb “require” in lieu of the frequently used “request”.

The representative of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources said it is encouraging to see consensus emerge on the idea of a voluntary funding mechanism that will help States build the capacity to implement the new instrument.  She suggested the creation of a “high seas biodiversity fund”, stating that existing funds lack sufficient focus or money for capacity-building.

Also speaking on capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology were the representatives of Iraq, Canada, Togo, Guinea, Philippines, Bangladesh (on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries), Fiji, Switzerland, Honduras and Nigeria.

Representatives of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and International Council on Environmental Law also spoke.

The conference will meet again on Monday, 10 September, to continue its work.

For information media. Not an official record.