Intergovernmental Conference Delegations ‘Four Days Closer’ to New Maritime Treaty on Biodiversity, Says President as Resumed Fifth Session Continues
The Intergovernmental Conference to draft a new maritime biodiversity treaty continued its resumed fifth session today, as the President of the Conference noted that delegates were “four days closer to the finish line” of achieving that goal.
Intergovernmental Conference President Rena Lee (Singapore) opened day four of the resumed fifth session, informing the Conference that delegations would review yesterday’s work. She called attention to the fact that no informal informals were held on capacity-building, with that report to be presented based on the small group’s discussions.
Facilitators then reported on the progress achieved in their respective meetings, highlighting both progress made and delegations’ concerns.
The representative of Canada, reporting on informal informals addressing area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, spotlighted the general support of the concept of “Emergencies measures” in article 20ante. Many delegations were supportive of including a provision to future-proof the treaty. However, a number of textual suggestions were made to add greater clarity to the process, with delegations recognizing that it needed to be less onerous. As well, the need to address emergency situations in cooperation and coordination with relevant global, regional, subregional and sectoral bodies was repeatedly emphasized. Some delegations suggested that this element could be linked or added to article 19 on “decision-making”, while others called for more clarity in some of the terms in the article, such as “human-caused disaster”. One delegation requested discussions on key aspects of decision-making and the objection process (articles 19 and 19bis) to continue in the context of small groups deliberations. On article 19, some delegations raised concerns regarding the concept of recognition, as well as the process for recognition. Those delegations have proposed a number of alternatives that have been described as “light recognition”. More work will be needed to find agreement, she noted.
The representative of Netherlands, reporting on the informal informals addressing environmental impact assessments, said delegations reviewed the outcomes of the small groups on the impact versus activity-based approach, as well as certain aspects of decision-making and on the tiered-threshold approach for environmental impact assessments, including articles 39, 40, 41, 21 and 23. On article 22, paragraph 3, delegations agreed to delete option III and continue working on options I and II. Turning to article 24, paragraph 1, he said that a consolidated text for option A would replace previous options A1 and A2, with the new proposal retaining a two-tiered approach. However, option B with a single threshold also remains on the table. On article 39, delegations discussed a proposal to include a reference to relevant traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Detailing the changes introduced on articles 40, 41, 21bis and 23, he reported that another small group was convened to review edits from the informal informals on article 38, paragraph 2, 39, 40, 41, 21bis, 22 and 23. The upcoming session of informal informals will continue reading of part IV starting from article 30, he said.
The representative of El Salvador, presenting her overview on yesterday’s discussions in the small group on capacity-building and transfer of marine technology, noted delegations addressed the characterization of obligations for both. On transfer of marine technology, efforts were made to set out a definition for additional modalities on that obligation. Despite efforts to strike a balance, delegations were not able to reach consensus, expressing the need to consult with their respective capitals and regional groups as they have as yet not identified the direction of membership on specific language. The group also addressed biotechnology in article 44, paragraph 1, with a discussion of placement of the phrase “within their capabilities”, with no consensus reached. As time is of essence, she announced that a small group would meet from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. to address articles 47 and 47bis, with a possible second reading of articles 42, 43 and 46. She called on delegations to maintain a constructive spirit and flexibility to reduce gaps between countries.
The representative of South Africa, reporting on informal informals addressing cross-cutting issues on institutional arrangements, said delegations continued discussions on part IV, commencing with the small group outcome on paragraphs 3 and 4 of article 48, before turning to the rest of the text. Consultations will continue on remaining issues relating to article 48, paragraph 3, 4 and 7, including on the initial five-year time frame for review. Article 48bis enjoyed agreement on the central importance of the article’s objective with significant support for the text as it stands. One delegation expressed the view against the establishing of a scientific and technical body under article 49. Suggestions were also made to fine-tune the text in light of the relevance of traditional knowledge. Turning to article 50, paragraph 1, he noted diverging views on whether the secretariat functions would be carried out by a secretariat to be established or by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea. In this regard, one delegation offered to serve as host. Further proposals were made regarding to privileges and immunities, and the conclusion of a headquarters agreement. On article 51, discussions centred on paragraphs 3, 4 and 6, with different suggestions made on streamlining the text. In light of the divergence of views on confidential information, consultations will continue on paragraph 6, he added.
The Conference President, addressing general provisions discussed in the informal informals on cross-cutting issues on funding, noted that on article 52, paragraph 1, discussions centred around the nature of the obligation to provide resources. Turning to paragraph 2 on the funding of the institutions established under the agreement through assessed contributions, most delegations seemed comfortable with the current text, while on paragraph 3, there was general support for a funding mechanism, with preferences expressed for a more streamlined approach. On paragraph 4, different views were expressed on the “voluntary” nature of the trust fund, while on subparagraph (b), there was general agreement on establishment of a special fund with both mandatory and voluntary contributions — although different views remained as to which parties and under which circumstances would mandatory contributions be required. Discussions will continue on the remainder of article 52, notably in respect of marine genetic resources and capacity-building and transfer of marine technology.
Taking the floor before the Conference broke into discussions, the Russian Federation’s representative noted with concern that mechanical removing of brackets does not mean absence of disagreement. In many provisions, where brackets had been removed, lack of agreement remains. This constitutes a serious problem, she stressed, to which the Conference President duly noted the representative’s concerns.
The plenary of the Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 24 February, to continue its work.