Speakers Discuss Ways to Monitor Capacity-Building, Technology Transfer Needs of Developing States, as Marine Biodiversity Treaty Talks Enter Second Week

SEA/2114
26 August 2019
Third Session, AM & PM Meetings

Speakers Discuss Ways to Monitor Capacity-Building, Technology Transfer Needs of Developing States, as Marine Biodiversity Treaty Talks Enter Second Week

Delegates working to draft a new treaty on biodiversity in ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction today continued to tackle issues related to capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology — widely viewed as crucial to help developing countries implement the new instrument — as negotiations entered their second week.

Discussions on these and other topics are taking place at Headquarters during the third session of the International Conference on 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.  The session runs through 30 August.

As participants took up article 46 of the draft treaty (document A/CONF.232/2019/6) — on the various types of capacity-building and transfer of marine technology to be provided for in the new instrument — speakers deliberated whether to include a specific list of the types of capacity-building and marine technology transfer to be provided for under the new instrument.  They considered the placement of such a list, with some advocating for its inclusion in the body of the article and others calling for it to be annexed to the treaty.  Speakers also discussed whether a new subsidiary body for monitoring and review should be established, with delegates aligning on either side of that question.

The observer of the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, outlined its preferred formulation for article 46, which included expanding the paragraph containing a list of types of capacity-building and marine technology transfer to be provided for in the treaty.  Associating themselves with that view were the representatives of Algeria (on behalf of the African Group) and the representative of China.  The latter stressed that a list of the types of capacity-building and marine technology transfer “is certainly necessary” and should be part of the treaty negotiation process — not developed afterward by the Conference of States Parties, as suggested by some delegations.

Striking a similar tone, the representative of Tuvalu, speaking on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, declared that the new treaty “should go beyond what is in the [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]”.  Underlining the importance of the articles on capacity-building and marine technology transfer to small island developing States — many of which have very limited national capacity — he said the Conference of States Parties and its scientific and technological body should be involved in the development of the list.

El Salvador’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of Like-Minded Latin American States, specifically advocated for the inclusion of a list of types of capacity-building and technology transfer to be included in an annex to the new treaty.  Echoing that view, the representative of Saint Lucia — speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) — stressed that the annexed list should be flexible and non-exhaustive in nature.

Meanwhile, the representatives of Australia and New Zealand voiced support for the inclusion of a list but said it should be concise and included in the body of the draft text — not in an annex.  Both speakers rejected a proposal to establish a subsidiary body for monitoring and review purposes, with the latter warning that it could risk “siloing the issue”.  The representative of the European Union echoed that sentiment, noting that his delegation would not support the inclusion of an annexed list as it might prove unwieldy.  Moreover, he said, the development of an extensive annex at this stage would waste precious negotiating time.

The representative of the United States said his delegation is open to a list placed either in the body of article 46 or in an annex.  Echoing concerns that such a list could become overly long and complex, he said that in either placement option the list should be considered non-exhaustive and be periodically reviewed and updated.  He also outlined his view — supported by the representative of Japan — that no subsidiary body need be established for monitoring and review processes.

The issue of monitoring and review took centre stage as delegates turned to article 47 of the draft treaty.  The section deals with ways to review the capacity-building and marine technology transfer needs of developing States parties, as well as ways to measure their performance and issue subsequent recommendations.  Delegates considered the question of who should carry out those monitoring and review functions.  A discussion again emerged about the merits of establishing a new subsidiary body for that explicit purpose.

The representatives of the United States, the European Union, Australia and the Republic of Korea were among those speakers who rejected the establishment of such a body.  The latter — joined by the representative of Japan — underscored that no mandatory monitoring process should be required under the new treaty because capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology should be fully voluntary in nature.  While the representative of Nigeria agreed that no subsidiary body is needed for the explicit purpose of monitoring and reviewing capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology, he instead proposed establishing a broader, more cross-cutting subsidiary body with more functions under the new treaty.  In addition, he advocated for the inclusion of language calling on States to “fully meet their obligations and exercise their rights” under the agreement.

The representative of China emphasized that capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology should be driven by States.  Countries could make their work in those arenas public through a system of information-sharing, he said, underscoring the importance of transparency and accountability.  While his delegation supports a monitoring and review process to be carried out by States parties, he said the specific working mechanisms should be further discussed.  In addition, he voiced concern about the proposed inclusion of references to “objective indicators” — whose definition is unclear — as a measurement tool.

Canada’s representative said his delegation is generally supportive of mandating a monitoring process “to see how we’re doing in meeting our commitments under the treaty”.  However, he is flexible as to how that process could be set up.  While Canada is supportive of a needs- and priorities-driven approach, he warned that the new treaty should not be seen as creating an entire mechanism tasked with evaluating the needs and priorities of each recipient country.

The representative of Saint Lucia, speaking again on behalf of CARICOM, supported the inclusion of a specific reference to small island developing States in article 47 aimed at ensuring that their reporting burdens do not become too onerous.  Meanwhile, the representative of Sri Lanka rejected a proposal raised by other delegates to delete a reference to developing middle-income countries as one of the categories of States requiring support to implement the new treaty.

As participants took up article 51 of the draft treaty (document A/CONF.232/2019/6) — on a clearing house mechanism — the observer of the State of Palestine, again speaking on behalf of the Group of 77, proposed a deletion and expressed support for setting up the key tasks of the body.

Colombia’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Like-Minded Latin American States, proposed making the second paragraph simpler and suggested eliminating the second sentence.  The paragraph reads as follows:  “The clearing-house mechanism shall consist primarily of an open-access web-based platform.  It shall also include a network of experts and practitioners in relevant fields.  The specific modalities for the operation of the clearing-house mechanism shall be determined by the Conference of the Parties.”  It would be prudent for the Conference to determine how a network of experts could function, he added.

The representative of the European Union said the specific tasks of the clearing-house mechanism must first be developed before considering what specific functions can start to be included under the agreement.  States parties should take appropriate measures to make sure that information is being shared and stored in open access.  Speaking to paragraph one, he proposed specifying the objectives of the clearing house mechanism, which among other things, should facilitate knowledge-sharing.  He suggested deleting the first two sentences of paragraph 2.

Other Member States, including representatives of Nauru, on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, and Saint Lucia on behalf of CARICOM, suggested varying textual changes and deletions.  Echoing several voices, the representative of Australia suggested combining paragraphs 3 and 4.

The representative of Singapore said there needs to be a degree of alignment between what happens in the substantive parts of the agreement and the provisions found in the paragraphs.  New Zealand’s representative said the treaty should take a consistent approach and refer to the clearing-house mechanism in each part of the agreement.

The representative of the Russian Federation said he did not understand what the clearing-house mechanism would be.  He proposed putting in brackets the following sentence in paragraph 2:  “It shall also include a network of experts and practitioners in relevant fields.”

The representative of China expressed support for the establishment of the clearing-house mechanism.  He said that the Conference of Parties should determine its modalities, noting that its functions should be clearly defined.  As a clearing-house mechanism, its basic function should be the sharing and exchange of information.

Cuba’s representative said that the instrument being developed could benefit from a network of experts, expressing support for maintaining the language on the existence of a network.

In other business today, delegates considered language options for the proposed annex to the treaty — should it ultimately be included — as well as definitions of such terms as “marine technology” and “transfer of marine technology”, dealt with in article 1.

Turning to paragraphs 5 and 6 respectively on the special circumstances of small island developing States and the facilitation of the clearing-house mechanism, the representative of Colombia suggested the deletion of the phrase of “archipelagic developing States” and also the deletion of some wording.  Israel’s delegate also expressed support to strengthening the language in paragraph 7.

Regarding paragraph 5, the representative of the United States said that the first sentence of the provision is unnecessary and counterproductive as it signals that the clearing house would be more than just simple and limited in its functions.  Given the scope of the clearing house, the Secretariat would make the most sense in managing it, she added, referring to paragraph 6.

The representative of the Russian Federation, referring to paragraph 6, said his delegation is open to considering the possibility of the functions of the clearing house to be carried out by the Secretariat but continues to reserve its position until it actually understands what that entails.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Norway, Indonesia, Switzerland, Philippines, Togo, Turkey and Maldives.

Representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations; the International Council on Environmental Law; Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) also participated.

For information media. Not an official record.