Development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction

Statement by H.E. Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly, at the Preparatory Committee established by General Assembly resolution 69/292: Development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction

4 April 2017


H.E. Ambassador Carlos Duarte, Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil,

Ms. Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli, Director of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea,


Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be here today, and to have the opportunity to address this Preparatory Committee, particularly during this  fundamental year for the Ocean.

I would like to begin by thanking Ambassador Duarte for his work as Chair of this Process.

Thanks also to the members of the Bureau, the delegates – including those who have travelled long distances to be here – as well as the members of the Secretariat, for their ongoing commitment.

In this regard, I would like to also recognize the important contributions which international organizations, civil society, academia, and foundations have long been making to this process.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is highly appropriate that the General Assembly, with its universal membership, should deal with a matter of such universal concern, as the Ocean.

With the Ocean being the lifeblood of our planet, and serving as a vital and complex ecosystem that billions of people across the world depend upon each day, the BBNJ process assumes great importance in the future of our careful stewardship of Ocean’s resources.

Your work builds on the commitments made over the years to address issues relating to the ‘conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction’.

Indeed, the complex issues that you are addressing – from marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits, to measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, and environmental impact assessments, as well as capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology – are all fundamental to these efforts.

Ladies and gentlemen,


This is a pivotal year for the Ocean. In two months’ time The Ocean Conference will be underway here at the United Nations. This High-level UN Conference will take stock of the critical state of the Ocean and will assemble our commitments to take action in support of SDG 14.

The Ocean Conference will be our best opportunity to remedy the woes we have placed upon the Ocean.

The first key outcome of the conference will be a ‘Call for Action’ declaration that will provide the political commitment needed to drive action to effectively implement Sustainable Development Goals 14.

The second key outcome of the Conference will be the report of the seven partnership dialogues to be held on such topics as marine pollution, Ocean acidification and fish stocks.

The key outcome will be the list of voluntary commitments that will serve as a communal work plan in the years ahead.

The voluntary commitments register will serve as a compilation of humanity’s best efforts to implement the ambitious targets of SDG14.

I am therefore urging you – Member States, and all stakeholders – to forge new and innovative partnerships, and to make voluntary commitments for action to help save our ocean.

I count on you to take this message to your capitals, and to return with results as soon as possible, so that we can continue to rally momentum for the register of voluntary commitments and The Ocean Conference.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, I want to leave you with three key points:

First, I encourage all delegations to continue to bring a spirit of cooperation, flexibility, and determination to your discussions on the BBNJ process, and to agree to a progress report as soon as possible.

Second, I encourage all of you to become positively involved in The Ocean Conference, particularly by making voluntary commitments for action. The time is upon us.

And finally, having previously had the opportunity to work closely with many of you in complex Ocean-related negotiations, I want to encourage you – as Ocean experts – to continue your hard work, and to make this year a turning point in our efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in which the Ocean has been caught. I have every faith that The Ocean Conference will indeed provide the turning point for that reversal.

I thank you.

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