The intergovernmental conference drafting a legally binding treaty under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea governing marine biodiversity in ocean waters beyond national jurisdiction concluded its first session today with its President stating that it is firmly on the path to achieving its mission.
Rena Lee (Singapore), Conference President, delivering closing remarks, asked Member States to consider the various proposals put forward since the inaugural session opened on 4 September so as to continue to make progress at the second session tentatively scheduled from 25 March to 5 April 2019. A third session is scheduled from 19 to 30 August 2019.
In the meantime, she said she will prepare a document — described by some participants as a “zero draft” — to facilitate focused discussions and text-based negotiations during the second session. Containing treaty language, it will reflect opinions on the four issues at the heart of the new instrument: capacity‑building and the transfer of marine technology; area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; environmental impact assessments; and marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits.
Reflecting on the “rich discussions” over the past two weeks, she said she was pleased to note that delegations continued to recognize the need to provide for capacity-building and the transfer of technology in order to achieve the instrument’s objectives — the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
She noted “some meeting of the minds” around issues related to the objectives of area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, as well as an encouraging level of detail in proposals regarding environmental impact assessments. In relation to marine genetic resources, she noted concerted efforts by delegations towards the development of approaches to move forward on such issues as geographic scope, access and benefit-sharing and cross-cutting issues.
Discussions both during the session and on its sidelines, as well as the commitment shown by delegations, “reinforces my belief that we are firmly on the path to achieving our mission”, she said. “It will not always be smooth sailing. We will not always paddle in the same direction. But, if we continue in our cooperative, flexible and committed mode, we will reach our destination one day.”
Ma Xinmin (China) said the session furthered enhanced understanding while laying the foundation for future negotiations. Going forward, he said the conference must stick to the mandate given to it by the General Assembly through its resolution 72/249. He also emphasized the principle of consensus and the need to avoid rushing through an instrument that will reflect the spirit of the Convention on the Law of the Sea while taking the interests and concerns of all parties into account.
In other business today, the conference, acting without a vote, approved the report of its Credentials Committee and accepted additional credentials submitted by Lithuania and Seychelles subsequent to the Committee’s meeting.