BBNJ 2013: Progress towards a new agreement to protect high seas biodiversity
The sixth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group (hereinafter, the Working Group) to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ) convened from 19-23 August 2013 at UN Headquarters in New York. The meeting was called by the General Assembly in resolution 67/78 and was held in light of paragraph 162 of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development’s (UNCSD or Rio+20) outcome document “The Future We Want,” which contains a commitment to address on an urgent basis, building on the work of the Working Group, the issue of BBNJ including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), before the end of the sixty-ninth session of the UN General Assembly. The meeting aimed to identify gaps and ways forward with a view to ensuring an effective legal framework on BBNJ, drawing upon inputs provided by intersessional workshops, which were held in early May 2013 to improve understanding of BBNJ issues and lead to a more productive debate in the Working Group.
The meeting was attended by close to 300 participants, including national delegations, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations. Delegates delivered general statements on Monday, and engaged in brief plenary discussions of the conservation and sustainable use of BBNJ, and on gaps and ways forward on Monday and Tuesday. Draft recommendations on next procedural steps were then discussed by a Friends of the Co-Chairs’ group that was open only to national delegations from Wednesday through Friday. Delegates agreed by consensus to establish a preparatory process in the Working Group to fulfill the Rio+20 commitment by focusing on the scope, parameters and feasibility of an international instrument under UNCLOS. The Working Group is thus expected to be convened twice in 2014 and at least once in 2015, with a view to preparing for a decision on BBNJ by the General Assembly before the end of its sixty-ninth session.
A summary of BBNJ progress is available online at http://www.iisd.ca/oceans/marinebiodiv6/