Fifth Session,
62nd Meeting (AM)

Intergovernmental Conference to Draft First-Ever Oceans Biodiversity Treaty Hears Reports from Facilitators of Discussions Tackling Text’s Different Aspects

The Intergovernmental Conference to draft a new maritime biodiversity treaty convened its second plenary session today, hearing reports from facilitators and feedback from participants on the developments of the informal informals tasked with tackling different aspects of the draft agreement.

Intergovernmental Conference President Rena Lee (Singapore), opening the plenary session, informed delegations that, following the consultations of the Bureau, the Secretariat would, on a daily basis, upload the text that emerges at the end of each “informal informal” meeting each day.

Fernando Cabrera Diaz, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, also provided a brief demonstration on how to navigate the in-session information page, as well as procedural information on accessing articles, for the resumed fifth session of the Conference.

Facilitators then reported on the progress achieved in their respective meetings and small working groups over the past two days.

The representative of Belize, in an overview of the informal informals on marine genetic resources, said delegations addressed article 11 and made drafting proposals.  They were generally supportive, in regards to article 11bis, of establishing an access and benefit-sharing mechanism or committee; more discussion is needed on its functions and its relationship with other institutional arrangements under the agreement.  While some delegations were comfortable with article 13 in the “Further refreshed draft text”, additional proposals were suggested regarding monitoring, compliance and transparency.  On article 8, delegations considered the text discussed in the August session, as well as the text in the “Further refreshed draft text”.  Noting that views continued to differ on the temporal scope of application, she reported that a discussion also continued on the formulation of a carve-out for fishing activities and/or fish or other biological resources.  Going forward, the small working group will continue its work on issues relating to the sharing of monetary benefits, including relevant provisions in articles 10, 11, 11bis and 13, and in that context, take up the use of terms in article 1 and the issue of digital sequence information.

The representative of Canada, reporting on the informal informals addressing area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, said the focus was on surveying the degree of comfort among delegations regarding the outcomes of the August session small groups.  Substantial issues discussed included Conference of the Parties decision-making in article 19, the “opt-out option” in article 19bis and the provision for emergency measures.  She noted that two small groups had met yesterday to work on increasing understanding and advancing consensus.  Some delegations cited their inability to participate in the discussions in August, while others raised questions about subparagraphs.  There were also some concerns over whether the process of recognition would be cost-effective or pose legal uncertainties for non-parties to international frameworks or bodies.  Delegations emphasized the importance of consensus while others said that voting may be required in some scenarios.  If an “opt-out option” is to be employed, it must be carefully constrained, with potential negative impacts mitigated, so that it is not overused or erodes the entire agreement, she said.

The representative of the Netherlands, reporting on the informal informals addressing environmental impact assessments, said contentious issues contained in articles 22, 24 and 38 based on the “Further refreshed draft text” were addressed.  On article 22, paragraphs 3 and 4, he noted, among other things, that in the “Further refreshed draft text” option II received the most support from delegations, whereas option I also enjoyed some support.  On article 24, delegations remained divided on whether there should be a two-tiered threshold for environmental impact assessments.  Reporting that a potential compromise proposal was received, he encouraged the delegations in favour of a tiered approach to work on a consolidated proposal.  Turning to article 38, delegations further developed a potential compromise proposal that was introduced in August.  A small group was also convened focussing on article 22 paragraphs relating to the impact versus activity-based approach, as well as on article 38 on decision-making.  The small group was able to clear the text of option II of article 22, paragraph 3 with a few remaining issues.  Further discussions will be held on articles 39 to 41 and before commencing to a full reading of part IV from the top, with the goal of presenting a clean text by the end of the week, he said.

The representative of El Salvador, giving an overview on the informal informals on capacity-building and transfer of marine technology, noted that delegations debated articles in two clusters.  On articles 42, 43 and 46, there was significant agreement on the substance, with some drafting proposals on particular terms.  Certain cross-cutting issues, such as the listing of States under development, remain pending, subject to evolving discussions.  On articles 44, 45, 47 and 47bis, she reported that delegations offered different approaches on framing the nature of the obligation in article 44, paragraph 1, while the wording on transfer of marine technology should be agreed upon in close connection with the modalities to be set out in article 45.  As there had not been enough time to consider the other articles, they will be considered in small groups to make further progress.

The representative of Jamaica, addressing general provisions discussed in the respective informal informals on cross-cutting issues, said discussions focused on articles 2 to 5.  He noted that article 3 enjoyed general consensus.  However, the modification of its title for clarity received only marginal support.  The discussions also focused on the scope of the provision of article 3bis, where links to part II on marine genetic resources were noted and the retention of the article was debated with the possible change to its title to read “Exceptions”.  Most delegations supported the view of a carve-out vote on part II.  On article 2, he noted that paragraph 1 reflected balance, whereas several proposals made for the text of paragraph 2 were met with reservations.  Commenting that the text of article 4 was supported as drafted, he said that the small working group commenced discussions on article 5 on general principles and approaches, where some different preferences were indicated as to their formulation.  Discussions will continue on article 5 and will commence on article 6 regarding international cooperation.

The representative of South Africa reported on the informal informals addressing institutional arrangements.  On article 48 on the Conference of the Parties, he noted a high degree of comfort on paragraph 1 as drafted, while many delegations supported paragraph 2, with two groups of States proposing the convening of special meetings.  On paragraph 3, a proposal was made to remove the reference to adoption of the rules of procedure by consensus, but most delegations opposed it.  He further cited a general comfort level on the paragraph 4 proposal to decide by vote when all efforts towards consensus had been exhausted.  Similarly, there was strong support for paragraph 5 as drafted.  However, on paragraph 6 concerning requests for the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea advisory opinions, some non-party delegations expressed concerns.  Paragraphs 3 and 4, which are interlinked, raised the most issues, he said.

The representative of New Zealand, reporting on the informal informals tackling cross-cutting issues related to implementation and compliance and dispute settlement, said that good progress was achieved with regard to part VIII and part IX of the text.  He noted that delegations generally agreed on several aspects of article 53ter.  However, consultations were ongoing among interested delegations on some remaining issues.  Outlining a proposal made by a group of States for a new part VIIIbis, he also pointed out that a landing zone was generally reached on articles 54ante, 54, 54ter ante, and 54ter.  With regard to article 55, he pointed out that delegations continued to express different preferences regarding the two options set out in that article.  Discussions were encouraged to continue in a small group format, he said.

As the floor opened to delegations’ comments, the representative of the Russian Federation stressed that it was premature to hear that some kind of understanding had been reached on the text.  The lack of brackets does not mean there is an overall understanding or agreement, as major differences and questions on specific provisions remain regarding international agreement on a treaty.  Her delegation does not believe that small groups offer the appropriate format for consultations, as it is difficult to participate in them given the limited opportunities, she added.

The observer for the State of Palestine reminded the Conference that Palestinians are not being allowed to engage in maritime activities beyond three nautical miles.  However, “ocean health is climate health and that is global health”, he noted, adding that Palestinians are engaging in the negotiations to champion the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, including fair sharing of benefits therefrom.  Observing that contributions, both voluntary and assessed, have fallen far short in the past, he said that this again might be the case.  He then noted that Norway, a member of the High Ambition Coalition and Co-Chair of the High-Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy, granted 100 new offshore gas and oil licenses.  Calling on Norway to contribute “even a fraction” of its oil funds to the efforts of the Conference, he also underscored that “we are in this together” and offered, on behalf of the Palestinian people, a matched pledge of up to $50,000 towards the Sustainable Community-Based Disaster Management Funds for developing countries to engage.  Among other things, he also invited the Norges Bank Investment Management to match this pledge and join a future dedicated pledging event.  “Investing in BBNJ [biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction] is the premium global investment in the fight against biodiversity loss and climate change,” he emphasized, adding “the world is watching”.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as an observer, announced that through the Global Oceans Programme, the bloc is putting €40 million towards supporting early ratification of the agreement on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction and early capacity-building.  Spending can begin when a deal is reached on Friday, she said.

The plenary of the Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 23 February, to continue its work.

For information media. Not an official record.