‘The Time Is Ticking’, Intergovernmental Conference President Says, Urging Delegates to Work towards Closing Draft of New Ocean Biodiversity Treaty
The Intergovernmental Conference to draft a new maritime biodiversity treaty continued its resumed fifth session today, as the President of the Conference, underscoring that “the time is ticking”, urged delegations to focus on the “must-dos” and “must-haves” to close on the text.
Intergovernmental Conference President Rena Lee (Singapore), opening day seven of the session, invited facilitators of informal discussions to report on the progress achieved in their ongoing negotiations.
The representative of Belize, reporting on the discussions addressing marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits, said that on article 10bis, delegations seemed to be generally comfortable with the text in the updated draft text. In relation to article 12, there seemed to be openness to include a provision on the issue of intellectual property rights, but with differing views on how to address the relationship with other relevant agreements, with several proposals being made. On article 11, paragraphs 5 to 7, a group of States introduced a text aimed at bridging remaining gaps on the sharing of monetary benefits, which was welcomed by several delegations as a positive step forward. Further discussions with a view to finalizing issues, including on chronology of and types/modalities of payments, rates of payments and notifications will be taken up in the small group. On article 13, a group of States revised an earlier proposal and other delegations made additional drafting proposals to the updated draft text. Further discussion is needed on the approach of the article given the distinction some delegations have drawn between monitoring and compliance, and traceability and transparency. Delegations are meeting in the margins of informal informals and small group meetings, with a view to urgently finding landing zones on the remaining issues in relation to those articles. After today’s plenary meeting, the small group discussion will focus on articles 11 and 11bis, she said, adding that plans will be set aside time to address developments on article 8.
The representative of Canada, addressing area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, noted that no informal informals were held. However, progress was made in the small group that focused on article 20ante and article 19 paragraphs 8 and 9. Also noting the good progress made and delegations’ cooperative spirit in clarifying the text, she pointed out that during the upcoming informal informals, delegations will review updates on the informal consultations on article 19, paragraph 4 and 5 (or 4 alt), and on article 19bis, paragraphs 4 to 10 in the updated draft text. Delegations will also consider the proposal made by one of the regional groups and have a further exchange on China’s proposal, which includes potential insertions in articles 17(4), 18(2), 18(4), 19)1) and 20ante. The remaining bracketed text on the use of terms, including on the definition of “marine protected area”, followed by articles 14(e), 17(2), 17(5) and 18(6), and annex I will have to be reviewed, she said.
The representative of the Netherlands, reporting on environmental impact assessments, said that the small group took up the call-in mechanism, with delegations discussing a new proposal included in article 30, paragraph 4. Noting that a smaller group of delegations is developing the text to reach a compromise, he said that informal informals, held on 27 February, achieved considerable progress, reconciling a number of long-standing differences. On article 21bis, paragraph (f), a proposal was made to add text providing for the special circumstances of least developed countries and landlocked developing countries to be taken into account. Regarding article 22, option II was modified, which allowed for option I to be dropped. Among other things, he also reported that delegations continued to deliberate on article 38, paragraph 2, signalling willingness to compromise on the crucial provision on decision-making. Highlighting progress achieved on articles 39, 40 and 41, he said that on article 41bis, paragraph 1 it was agreed that the Scientific and Technical Body “shall”, as opposed to “may”, develop standards or guidelines for consideration and adoption by the Conference of the Parties on certain matters. Delegations are significantly closer to finalizing the text on a non-exhaustive list of activities that do or do not require an environmental impact assessment, he said, while pointing out that some delegations made reservations on article 41bis, paragraph 3.
The representative of El Salvador, reporting on the informal informals on capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology, said that, in relation to article 45, paragraph 1, delegations suggested amendments to the proposed alternative 1 which separates the types of technology subject to patents or intellectual property rights from those relating to technology currently not subject to patents. However, one delegation indicated that it was not appropriate to consider the differentiation of technology subject to patents and proposed as an alternative option the identification of the transfer of marine technology according to the elements of additional modalities. There is still no clear indication as to which proposal is preferred, she said, noting that discussion on the matter will continue in the informal consultations today. With respect to article 44, there was substantive progress on the discussions vis-à-vis the discussions held on article 45 paragraph 1. In article 44, paragraph 1, delegations identified two options to characterize the obligation of technology transfer: "shall cooperate to achieve" or "seek to ensure". Similarly, on article 44 paragraph 2, delegations are still discussing what should be the appropriate reference to national programmes, priorities and policies, and will continue to address the matter in informals today. She called on delegations to maintain a constructive and flexible spirit in order to find a balance in that central part of the agreement.
The representative of Jamaica, reporting on the outcome of the small working group on general provisions, said it focused on article 4 and spent a considerable time discussing paragraph 3. Delegations were trying to meet the minds of those who wished to have a firm statement on the legal status of non-parties and those who have a concern about speaking to legal status with regard to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties versus customary international law. In this regard, two additional proposals were made on the paragraph, including an amendment to a proposal which addressed this matter in the preamble. Delegations decided to give further consideration to the proposals, recognizing that discussions and considerations not only concern wording, but also the placement of the statement in the text. Noting that the small group also addressed paragraph 2, he pointed out that the two proposals, remaining in the text, were withdrawn by their proponents in an effort to revert to the “Further refreshed draft text” version. One delegation, however, requested additional time to consider the removal of the bracketed text on the “competence of” part. The majority of delegations supported removing this text on condition that the text would reflect the “Further refreshed draft text” version and the balance being found in the draft agreement remained as is in those sections.
The representative of New Zealand, reporting on dispute-settlement procedures, said that further discussions continued in a small working group format on article 55. These deliberations enabled delegations to reach a generally supported text on option I, with discussions still ongoing on whether it is possible to make any adjustments on option I to bring on board some elements of option III. Delegations are continuing to work together to consider this option, she added.
The Conference President reported on the informal informals addressing cross-cutting issues. On part X, article 56, delegations generally were comfortable with the text as drafted, while a suggestion was also made that article did not need to be included. On part XI, article 57, delegations seemed to agree on the text as drafted. On part XII, she thanked the Treaty Section of the Office of Legal Affairs for providing clarifications concerning the law of treaties relevant to the provisions under consideration. There appeared to be general agreement on articles 58, 59, 59bis, 63bis, 66, 69 and 70 as drafted. On article 58ante, different views and concerns were expressed on paragraph 2 regarding how the regional economic integration organizations would vote. Noting textual proposals made, she said that several delegations that had expressed those concerns had also expressed flexibility around the solutions. On article 61, leaving aside for now the question of the required number of instruments, different views continued to be expressed on the period after which the agreement would enter into force. Regarding article 63, a suggestion was made to include language mirroring that of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. On article 65, some delegates noted the links with decision-making in article 48, which may require revisiting this provision after article 48 is concluded. On article 68, discussions focused on the procedure for the amendment of annexes and a procedure by which amendments to the annexes would enter into force for Parties unless they objected, which is distinct from process on reservations.
The Conference President encouraged delegations to dust off their copies of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and consider the points raised by the Treaty Section. As there was insufficient time to discuss the preamble as had been initially anticipated, she said that she would consult with the Bureau to find a time to do so. Outlining the programme of work, she also addressed logistics and announced room assignments. “The time is ticking,” she underscored, urging delegates to close on the text and focus on “must-dos” and “must-haves” rather than on “good-to-dos” and “good-to-haves”. Acknowledging the blustery weather outside, she added: “Today is an excellent day for us to stay in the rooms, stay focused and work on the text.”
The plenary of the Conference will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 1 March, to continue its work.