Delegates Consider Role of Capacity-Building, Technology Transfer, as Deliberations Continue on Treaty Governing Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions
Delegates working to draft a new treaty on biodiversity in areas of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction today weighed issues related to building capacity and transferring marine technology, with speakers outlining a range of views on how — and on what basis — those types of support should be provided to States.
In particular, representatives considered whether capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology, as laid out in the new treaty, should be voluntary or mandatory in nature. They also deliberated proposed language on the special needs and requirements of small island developing States and developing countries, as well as whether and how to address the relationship between the capacity‑building and marine technology transfer processes provided for in the new instrument and those already being carried out under other auspices.
Deliberations on these and other topics are taking place during the third session of the International Conference on 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. The Conference runs through 30 August.
As delegates took up article 44 of the draft text, the observer for the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, outlined the Group’s preferences for that section’s wording. It favoured the retention of language calling for capacity-building and marine technology transfer to be transparent, country-driven and guided by lessons learned under relevant legal frameworks. As to the broader question of whether capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology should be voluntary or mandatory, he said his delegation will continue to insist on the latter as the word “mandatory” would create a legal obligation. “That’s what we want to see, and that’s where we will not have flexibility,” he stressed.
The representative of the European Union favoured wording reflecting a “needs-driven” approach rather than a country-driven one. He also advocated the retention of references to efforts aimed at avoiding duplication with other programmes, and said activities being carried out at national, regional and global levels should be taken into account. “This instrument should not intervene to duplicate what already exists but should complement [it],” he said. In that case, he said, the modalities for building capacity and transferring marine technology would be identified based on a needs’ assessment carried out by States Parties.
The representative of the United States echoed some of those points, stressing that capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology, as set out in the new treaty, should not duplicate processes already under way through existing programmes. Calling for that language to be included, she also advocated for retaining language calling for capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology to be country-driven and guided by lessons learned. In addition, she said, they must be compatible with and reflective of the requirements and priorities of recipient countries, whose needs may be either self-assessed or identified by the Conference of States Parties.
The representative of Honduras, speaking on behalf of the Group of Like‑Minded Latin American States, was among several speakers who called for the language on avoiding duplication to be deleted from the draft section on capacity‑building and the transfer of marine technology. She also proposed adding a timebound deadline to paragraph 4 concerning the adoption of relevant modalities by the Conference of States Parties.
Weighing in on the discussion about language calling for avoiding duplication, the observer for the State of Palestine — speaking again for the Group of 77 — pointed out that actors working in the capacity-building space sometimes carve out niches for themselves “that no one else can enter”. In that regard, he cautioned that including language on avoiding duplication might crowd out other actors who may be able to deliver results more efficiently.
Echoing some of those sentiments, the representative of Tuvalu, speaking on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, stressed that including language on avoiding duplication would contradict the whole purpose of the section on capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology. He also voiced support for the inclusion of language calling for a needs‑assessment process, but expressed the group’s flexibility on its placement.
On that point, the representative of Switzerland — echoed by the representative of Australia — said his delegation is not necessarily opposed to the establishment of a mechanism aimed at assessing countries’ needs. However, he asked those delegations calling for such a mechanism to elaborate further on how it would work.
A discussion also emerged about whether to include a concrete timeframe in the paragraph on the development of modalities, procedures and guidelines for capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology. Speakers in favour of such a timeframe included the observer for the State of Palestine and the representatives of Indonesia, Cuba, Cameroon, Sri Lanka and Maldives, with the latter proposing that the Conference of States Parties could identify common modalities and guidelines for States to use as a basis for their assessments. The representative of Nigeria — echoed by the representative of Switzerland — proposed a deadline of one year for the development of modalities, procedures and guidelines.
The representative of Cameroon, meanwhile, described the inclusion of such a timeframe as crucial and emphasized that modalities, procedures and guidelines should already be in place when the treaty comes into force. “We shouldn’t have to wait a long time,” he stressed, pointing out that such a mechanism is needed to allow beneficiary countries to participate in the governance of areas of the ocean beyond national jurisdiction.
The representative of Japan, striking a different tone, pointed out that delegations have not yet decided whether the provision of capacity-building and marine technology transfer will be voluntary or mandatory in nature. As such, he said, his delegation cannot support the inclusion of a timeframe for modalities, procedures and guidelines at this time.
Delegates also considered articles 42 and 43 of the draft treaty, which focused respectively on objectives and cooperation in capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology. Speakers considered which categories of States to mention in article 43 on cooperation, with some advocating for the inclusion of a specific reference to middle-income countries and others calling for that category to be excluded in favour of a stronger focus on the States most in need. They also debated the merits of including such language as the “duty to cooperate”, with the representative of Canada stressing that, if included, such phrasing should very closely mirror agreed language in the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
However, the representative of China said the relationship between that Convention and the new treaty “is not exclusive”. Calling on parties to seek an appropriate and balanced relationship between the two instruments, she noted that, while the new treaty cannot go beyond the Convention’s framework it should nevertheless endeavour to add value to it.
Also weighing in on the section’s wording was the representative of Belize, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, who proposed adding a new article drawing from the 2016 Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, as regards the special circumstances and requirements of small island developing States. In addition, she advocated for the inclusion of language aimed at ensuring that a “disproportionate burden” resulting from implementing the new treaty does not fall on those States.
As States considered a paragraph detailing the specific types of capacity‑building and technology‑transfer benefits to be provided, several delegates — including the representatives of the Russian Federation, Switzerland, Australia and the United States — questioned the need for such a section and advocated for the paragraph’s deletion. Others proposed that it be significantly trimmed. The representative of the European Union also questioned the inclusion of references to marine genetic resources in that section, which his delegation considers to be out of balance.
Also speaking were representatives of New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Saint Lucia, Iran, Norway, Togo, Russian Federation, Algeria (on behalf of the African Group), Paraguay, Senegal, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Philippines, India and the International Council of Environmental Law.