WMU and Japan cooperate on advancing BBNJ discussions

On 7 February, the World Maritime University (WMU) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan hosted an International Workshop on BBNJ. The workshop brought together over 100 participants to address the topic of ‘Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ): Toward Development of Balanced, Effective and Universal International Agreement’.

In her welcoming remarks, Dr. Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, President of WMU, noted the intrinsic link of the ocean to humanity including that the ocean serves over 80 per cent of world trade which is carried by ships. Despite this inter-dependency, she maintained that since people are predominately land-based, they tend to struggle in placing appropriate value on the ocean, although things are slowly improving. She stated, “Public awareness and perceptions of both the value and vulnerability of the ocean is palpably shifting. This is crucial because as we are facing multiple crises in relation to the health of the ocean and the sustainability of human activities.” She also stated that WMU and its new WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute are committed to contributing to the BBNJ deliberations underway at the UN through engagement and discussion of key issues such as those addressed at the workshop including the peaceful settlement of disputes.

The aim of the workshop was to facilitate discussions and greater understanding prior to the 2nd Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) with a view to moving the negotiations towards the development of a balanced, effective and universally agreed internationally legally binding instrument (ILBI). The workshop brought together leading BBNJ negotiators, representatives of UN system bodies, international organizations, governments, academia, and civil society to review progress of the BBNJ negotiations and to look ahead at some of the challenges and opportunities at upcoming sessions of the IGC, including within the broader context of implementing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In his address, Professor Ronan Long, Director of the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute pointed out that the BBNJ negotiations represented a once in a generation opportunity to make a difference in establishing a new treaty regime for areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The topics covered by detailed papers and animated discussions included: Area-Based Management Tools including Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s), Environmental Impact Assessment, Marine Genetic Resources including questions on benefit-sharing, IMO and management of the marine environment, existing efforts of Capacity-Building and BBNJ, Capacity Building and the International Seabed Authority (ISA), and Capacity Building and Transfer of Marine Technology (TMT) for management of BBNJ.

Delivering the closing remarks, Mr. Toru Hotta, Director for the Division of the Law of the Sea for Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs highlighted that for the benefit of mankind in the future, the BBNJ legal framework must be established to provide a balance between the conservation of the ocean and its sustainable use. “Conservation and sustainable use are not mutually exclusive concepts,” he stated.

Further, Director Hotta maintained that all measures taken toward conservation of the marine environment must be based on scientific knowledge and be in full accordance with established international law. He reiterated that we have a common responsibility to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy the ocean, and to do so in an equitable manner. Recognizing that the way forward for BBNJ will be confrontational due to various interests of stakeholders on the international committee he maintained that, “the scientific and legal expertise should always provide the common ground from which we start our debate and reach conclusions.”

Roughly 60% of the ocean lies in areas beyond national jurisdiction. In its resolution 72/249 of 24 December 2017, the UN 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. The Preparatory Committee is to consider 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 second session of the IGC will take place in New York from 25 March to 5 April 2019.

For photos from the workshop, click here.

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