Countries take steps towards international agreement to protect marine biodiversity

Member States at the United Nations have agreed to develop a legally-binding instrument to conserve and sustainably use marine biological diversity of areas beyond their national borders.

The 193 member-UN General Assembly agreed to establish a preparatory committee, open to all countries, to negotiate the new instrument over 2016-2017.  The committee would report back to the General Assembly on its progress at the end of 2017.

The negotiations will cover, among other issues, the sharing of benefits related to the use of marine genetic resources, marine protected areas and environmental impact assessments, as well as the transfer of marine technology.

Countries also agreed to establish a voluntary trust fund to assist developing countries – in particular least developed countries, land-locked developing countries and Small Island developing States – so they can actively take part in the process of establishing the instrument.

The instrument will fall under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Convention, which came into force on 16 November 1994, governs all aspects of ocean space – including the delimitation of maritime boundaries, exploitation of non-living resources, conservation and management of living resources, protection and preservation of the marine environment, marine scientific research and the settlement of relevant international disputes.

The Convention also provides the basis for the equitable utilization and conservation of resources in the oceans and seas.

Participation in the negotiations for the new instrument has no effect on the legal status of countries that are not party to the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The General Assembly decision takes forward an outcome from Rio+20 that called for countries to consider whether an instrument was needed.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly stressed the crucial role of oceans in achieving sustainable development and combatting climate change.

“Given how critical oceans are to the health of our planet and the prosperity of people, they are an essential element in our emerging vision for sustainable development, including the new set of sustainable development goals now being prepared to guide the global fight against poverty for the next 15 years,” Mr. Ban said in his message to commemorate this year’s World Oceans Day.

“The oceans are vast – but their capacity to withstand human damage is limited. In this potentially pivotal year, we must commit to using the gifts of the oceans peacefully, equitably and sustainably for generations to come.”

For the full text of the resolution adopted on 19 June see:

Media contacts:
Dan Shepard, UN Department of Public Information, tel: +1 212 963-9495, email:
Florencia Soto Nino, UN Department of Public Information, tel: +1 917 347 4833, email

2017-11-16T15:50:19+00:00 June 22nd, 2015|Forests, desertification and biodiversity, Oceans|