18 April 2019

Biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction – negotiations in New York


Solène Guggisberg attended the second substantive session of negotiations on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction in New York and presented her research on fisheries governance at a side-event on 25 March 2019.

Solène Guggisberg attended the second substantive session of the inter-governmental conference on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) in New York. Between 25 March and 5 April 2019, States from all around the world met at the United Nations to share their views on the four pillars of what may become a new implementing agreement of the Law of the Sea Convention. These elements are (1) marine genetic resources, including benefit sharing, (2) area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, (3) environmental impact assessments, and (4) capacity building and transfer of technology.

Over the course of these two weeks, the divide between these States which want to rely (exclusively) on the regional and sectoral mechanisms already in existence and those which support the creation of a stronger centralized and global institution remained very present. Nevertheless, nearly all States supported the establishment of a Conference of the Parties with regular meetings and broad functions. With such a structure in place, even a generally phrased treaty–which may be all that can be achieved in light of the diversity of positions–will have the potential to be successfully implemented and to evolve if necessary. At this second substantive session, States expressed their preferences on the basis of the President’s aid to negotiation. A widely supported request was made to the President to prepare a draft treaty, in order to enable text-based negotiations from the third substantive session, this summer, onwards. The President responded positively to this request: she will develop a concise document containing treaty text before the next session.

Solène contributed to one of the side-events, entitled “No Fish Left Behind”. She discussed the need for the regime of fisheries to be improved, whether as part of the BBNJ process or outside of it. This is fundamental for the future success of the BBNJ treaty, as depletion of fish stocks is considered the main threat to biodiversity in the high seas. Addressing the gaps in geographic and species coverage, as well as ensuring that all regional fisheries management organizations fulfil their mandate towards the international community, both on paper and in reality, is fundamental to secure healthy oceans for the future.