NEW YORK, 7 March (Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea) — The Intergovernmental 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 will hold its fourth session from 7 to 18 March. The fourth session was originally scheduled to be held from 23 March to 3 April 2020 but was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The in-person session will be held at United Nations Headquarters with the necessary risk-mitigating measures in place. It will be led by the President of the Conference, Rena Lee, Ambassador for Oceans and Law of the Sea Issues and Special Envoy of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, with the support of the Secretary-General of the Conference, Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel.
After an opening plenary session scheduled for Monday morning, 7 March, the Conference is expected to turn to informal informal negotiations based on the Revised draft text of an agreement 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 prepared after the third session of the Conference. Over the next two weeks, negotiations will address the four elements of the package of issues being considered by the Conference, namely: marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits; measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; environmental impact assessments; and capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology. Cross-cutting issues will also be considered. On 18 March, the last day of the fourth session, delegations are expected to consider the outcome to be transmitted to the General Assembly.
The work of the Conference is crucial to achieving the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, namely the high seas and the international seabed area. As indicated by Ms. Lee at the end of the third session, it is predicted that over 1 million species, including 33 per cent of reef-forming corals and one third of marine mammals, could disappear entirely over our lifetimes. However, she stressed that, collectively, delegates at the Conference could stop this from happening, but only if they continue to act with the same sense of urgency and dedication that they we have displayed so far.
For more information on the Conference please visit the Conference website at www.un.org/bbnj/. For information on the fourth session in particular please visit www.un.org/bbnj/content/fourth-substantive-session.
In its resolution 72/249 of 24 December 2017, the General Assembly decided to convene an Intergovernmental Conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, to consider the recommendations of the Preparatory Committee established by resolution 69/292 of 19 June 2015 on the elements and to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, with a view to developing the instrument as soon as possible.
The decision to convene the Conference followed from the recommendations of the Preparatory Committee established by resolution 69/92, which convened for four sessions (two sessions in each of 2016 and 2017). The establishment of the Preparatory Committee followed the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (Working Group), made to the General Assembly pursuant to resolution 68/70, on the scope, parameters and feasibility of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea.
For additional background information on the Conference please visit: https://www.un.org/bbnj/content/background.