Intergovernmental Conference for Drafting First-Ever Maritime Biodiversity Treaty Resumes Fifth Session as President Calls for Flexibility to Bridge Text’s Gaps
The Intergovernmental Conference to draft a new maritime biodiversity treaty resumed its fifth session today, as the President of the Conference called on delegates to find through commitment, flexibility and creative approaches a text that bridges the existing gaps.
The resumed fifth session of the Conference — which runs until 3 March — was convened following General Assembly resolution 77/248 on “Oceans and the law of the sea” and aims to finalize an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The deliberations are expected to be based on the “Further refreshed draft text”, originally circulated among delegations on the last day of the fifth session of the Conference in August 2022 (document A/CONF/232/2023/2).
At the outset of the meeting, Rena Lee (Singapore), President of the Intergovernmental Conference, encouraged delegates to build on the progress made at the August 2022 session of the Conference and to focus on developing a text that will bridge the existing gaps. “If we continue to be committed, to be flexible, to be creative, we will get there,” she stressed.
Recalling that during the first part of the fifth session delegates continued to work on four thematic clusters and cross-cutting issues on the basis of a “Further revised draft text”, she noted that a “Refreshed draft text” (document A/CONF.232/2022/CRP.12) was issued mid-session, followed by a “Further refreshed draft text”. Thus, during the resumed session, delegates will continue to work on the “Further refreshed draft text”, which is not reflective on the agreement on the issues of the package but provides a certain “direction of travel” in which a number of delegations will be able to proceed incorporating significant compromises on key issues.
She also reported that the Secretariat prepared a comparison document of a “Further refreshed draft text” showing the changes made from the “Refreshed draft text”. In addition, a “Compilation of outcomes of small group work” submitted after the issuance of the “Refreshed draft text” and an “Ending point of the facilitators-led discussions” held on 26 August 2022 on measures, including area-based management tools and environmental impact assessments, were also made available by the Secretariat. The majority of the outcomes available from the text proposals were reflected in the “Further refreshed draft text” and the list of the outcomes and ending points not reflected was circulated among all delegations.
Urging an openness to compromise for reaching consensus, she stressed: “An agreement that is universal, effective, implementable is within our reach.” However, in order to achieve it, delegates should focus on building bridges that help build consensus, rather than aiming to achieve the desired words and phrases in every provision of the text. Acknowledging the many expressions of disappointment of coming “so tantalizingly close” to a finalized text, she urged all delegations to “set aside your disappointment to really focus on what we come here to do, which is to cross the finish line”.
Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, United Nations Legal Counsel, and Secretary-General of the Intergovernmental Conference, expressed confidence that the common interest in providing future generations with a healthy, resilient and productive ocean would continue to guide those participating. Speaking on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres, he assured the Conference that it would have the full support of the United Nations Secretariat, the Office of Legal Affairs and, in particular, the Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.
Vladimir Jares, Director of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the Office of Legal Affairs, then described all documents available for the meeting, including the “Compilation of outcomes of small group work submitted after the issuance of the Refreshed draft text of an agreement 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 (A/CONF.232/2022/CRP.12) and Ending point of the Facilitators-led discussions held on 26 August 2022 on measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, and on environmental impact assessments” (document A/CONF.232/2023/INF.2). He went on to inform the meeting of procedures related to submission of statements, credentials, use of conference rooms for informal consultations and heath protocols.
The Conference adopted the draft provisional agenda (document A/CONF.232/2022/6) without a vote, agreeing to proceed in accordance with the provisional programme of work (document A/CONF.232/2023/L.1).
The plenary of the Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 February, to continue its work.