Intergovernmental Conference President Urges Delegations to Focus on ‘Must Have’ Provisions, as Session Drafting New Ocean Biodiversity Treaty Continues
The Intergovernmental Conference to draft a new maritime biodiversity treaty convened its fourth plenary today, as the President of the Conference encouraged delegations to make an effort to work through the text focusing on “must have” provisions.
Intergovernmental Conference President Rena Lee (Singapore) opened day five of the resumed fifth session, inviting the facilitators of informal discussions on various elements to provide an update on progress made.
The representative of Belize, reporting on marine genetic resources, said that the small group continued discussions on building blocks for monetary benefit sharing, including the general clause, modalities and rates of payments, distribution criteria, and parties’ obligations to take necessary measures. She further outlined that different proposals addressing issues relating to placement, legal premise, digital sequence information and the use terms were discussed. The use of terminology for “digital sequence information” in the text of part II received general support, she added. The small group will reconvene in the afternoon, followed by informal informals that will receive a report back on outputs from the small group and collect feedback on delegations’ suggestions to bridge on article 11(2). Discussions will continue on other articles that had not been previously discussed.
The representative of Canada, presenting her overview of yesterday’s informal informals addressing area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, noted that on article 19, paragraphs 2 and 3, on recognition, some delegations questioned the need for their inclusion in the agreement. Other delegations were in favour of including a provision, with consideration and possible elaboration by future Conferences of the Parties. On article 19bis, paragraphs 4, 5 and 6, most delegations indicated their support and flexibility for the direction the text was taking in the small group, although some still expressed caution and stressed the importance of finding balance in an opt-out process — with apparent progress towards agreement. Taking up the definition of “Marine protected area” in article 1, she cited divided views on whether to include the reference to “long-term biodiversity”, with some delegations indicating a priority to maintain the term “long-term” in relation to conservation objectives in the definition. With regard to article 17, paragraph 3 related to precaution, a number of delegations recalled the protracted deliberations in August, with movement towards the use of “precautionary approach” rather than the more descriptive formulations. There will be a final review of the whole of part III in preparation for the revised consolidated text of the agreement this weekend, she noted.
The representative of the Netherlands, reporting on informal informals addressing environmental impact assessments, said that the work of the small group was discussed and the first reading of part IV of the “Further refreshed text” was concluded. Noting that the small group reviewed articles 21bis and 23, he said that some brackets remained in place. Detailed discussions on article 23 resulted in several substantive changes in paragraphs 1 through 6 aiming to streamline and clarify the text. On articles 30, 34 and 35, he noted that several brackets were removed, and new text was included on article 30. On article 34, a compromise proposal was introduced regarding consultations with concerned States aiming to replace paragraph 6. However, it remained in brackets. Minor issues were resolved regarding article 35 but new brackets were introduced. Turning to article 41bis, he said that the question whether the Scientific and Technical Body will develop only guidelines, or standards and guidelines has not been resolved. Furthermore, a compromise proposal to clarify that any standards would need to be set out in an annex to the agreement was introduced but remained in brackets. On article 41ter, the role of the Conference of the Parties was clarified, but the question whether strategic environmental assessments should be mandatory for Parties has not been resolved, he added.
The representative of El Salvador presented an overview of the small group on capacity-building and transfer of marine technology, addressing part V of the agreement. Delegations were asked, after examining articles 47 and 47bis, if they wanted to tackle discussion on the modalities for capacity-building and additional modalities for the transfer of marine technology. Thanks to their constructive spirit, substantive progress was made on article 47, paragraph 2, she said, adding that follow-up and scrutiny must be carried out by the Committee for Capacity-Building and Transfer of Marine Technology under the aegis of the Conference of the Parties. The same holds true for subparagraphs c, d and e, which she will present during the informal discussion to be held this morning. Likewise, in article 47bis, it was possible to specify the time frame when the Conference of States Parties will decide on reference terms and modalities for the function of the Committee. The language in those two provisions regarding the list of developing countries is still subject to the results of ongoing discussions. Referring to articles 44 and 45, she noted delegations agreed to start discussions on additional elements for the transfer of technology. Certain delegations proposed alternative language for the additional elements, which would be the first agenda item in today’s informal discussions, in addition to articles 42, 43 and 46.
The representative of Jamaica, addressing general provisions discussed in the respective informal informals on cross-cutting issues, said that a wide range of proposals were made on article 5 and different views were expressed on several principles and approaches. He spotlighted a divergence of views on the inclusion of the common heritage of mankind in sub-paragraph(b) and the inclusion of either or both options concerning equity and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits in paragraph(c). Turning to article 6 paragraph 1, he outlined different views on whether it should also include “members thereof”. Noting that a general agreement was reached among delegations on paragraph 3 as drafted, he said that proposals were made to clarify provision of paragraph 2 and a respective landing zone could be found. Reporting on the small group on article 4, he said that delegations exercised flexibility in arriving at a possible compromise on paragraph 1 and in maintaining a balance with related provisions of paragraph 2 elsewhere in the text. On paragraph 3 delegations were more strident in defence of their respective positions, he said.
The Conference President, outlining changes in the programme of work, stressed that the focus was placed on allowing the outcome of the small groups’ work to be taken up in the informal informals to enable delegations see their progress at the end of the week. After the conclusion of informal informals and the small groups, an updated text, produced in track changes format and prepared on the basis of the “Further refreshed draft next”, would be uploaded on the webpage Saturday afternoon, 25 February. She emphasized that the document produced would represent a text as developed by delegations over the past week and not the end point as such. Following the text preparation, a programme of work for the second week will be prepared. She then encouraged delegations to make an effort to work through the text, focusing on the “must have” provisions.
As the floor opened to delegations’ comments, the representative of Cuba, speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, noted concerns among the group that medium-sized rooms were used for bilaterals, while rooms used by small groups were practically bursting. On facilitation, he stated that, while it is important to drive forward discussions to achieve an outcome, on some issues, delegations voiced concern about the origins of changes to the text after informal consultations. As far as is possible, delegations of the Group of 77 would appreciate more favourable conditions to conclude their discussions, he said.
The Conference President, acknowledging the concerns of the Group of 77 on facilitation and the origins of some of the text, assured him it has been amended and then urged facilitators to take note of those concerns. Regarding the concerns on the availability of conference rooms, she said efforts addressing those logistics had been made immediately, announcing room assignments. “Let’s go and make the best use of today. Let us stay focused, stay strong, push on and let’s get this done,” she said.
The plenary of the Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 27 February, to continue its work.