Lessons Learned And Difficult Questions Addressed: The New High Seas Treaty

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Credit: Torsten Dederichs/Unsplash

Rena Lee, the president of the UN Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), declared on March 4 that “the ship has reached the shore” in reference to the final compromise and successfully negotiated the sticking point of this historic treaty. This announcement signalled the culmination of more than 20 years of negotiations to protect the vast, ungoverned ocean. The last time nations banded together under geopolitical unrest to muster the political will to safeguard biodiversity was on December 1, 1959, when they proclaimed Antarctica a region of peace and research.

Four Takeaways

In order to ensure the sustainable use of resources and the preservation of biodiversity, the draught agreement for “The New High Seas Treaty” emphasises the importance of addressing the planet’s largest unmanaged biosphere. It will offer a legal framework for establishing sizable marine protected areas (MPAs) to guard against the destruction of marine life and resource sharing. It encompasses the enormous section of the ocean that extends beyond national boundaries. To fulfil the pledge to safeguard 30% by 2030 made by COP 15 in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in December 2022, vulnerable regions must be identified, monitored, and regulated. To prevent disagreements and conflicts within the agreement, exit alternatives and other special provisions for the Arctic or China Sea are also specified.

How to fairly divide wealth and marine genetic resources (MGR), which divided the Global South and North, was the deal-breaker in this treaty. MGR, which are composed of the genetic material of bacteria, corals, krill, seaweed, and deep-sea marine sponges, are attracting increased scientific and commercial interest because of their potential for use in medications and cosmetics.

With a secretariat, a scientific council, and an administrative body named “COP,” the pact creates a new, legally enforceable global authority for the high seas. It is founded on a number of ideas and tenets, including the polluter-pays principle, the idea of humanity’s shared heritage, the freedom to conduct marine science research, and other freedoms of the high seas.

A strategy for preserving and restoring ecosystem integrity is also used, including carbon-cycling activities that support the ocean’s influence on climate while also boosting ecosystem resilience. The signatories are also responsible for monitoring the area for potential risks, completing environmental impact studies before exploitation, and exchanging maritime technologies with other littoral states.

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Source: Modern Diplomacy

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