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Fifth Meeting of the Working Group on Marine Biological Diversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction

Friday, 08 June 2012
The 5th Meeting 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 took place from 7 to11 May 2012, in New York at UN- Headquarters. The Meeting was convened in accordance with General Assembly Resolution 66/231 of 24 December 2011, paragraph 168.

Approximately 250 participants from national governments, intergovernmental organizations, including regional fisheries management organizations, and non-governmental organizations attended the meeting.

The thematic areas of the Meeting’s agenda included the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits, - measures such as area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, and environmental impact assessments, capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology. The Meeting also focused on the identification of gaps and ways forward, with a view to ensuring an effective legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the possible development of a multilateral agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Working Group introduced several recommendations to be submitted to the 67th session of the General Assembly. The substantive outcome of the Meeting was that several terms related to the possible implications of a future agreement on the management of the Genetic Resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction were   effectively defined. This development is expected to feed the discussion of future workshops.

Brazil, EU and Non-Governmental Organizations expressed disappointment that the Meeting did not forward a concrete recommendation to the General Assembly on an UNCLOS implementing agreement.

Developing countries had pursued the discussion on Intellectual Property Rights issues in relation to Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) but the Working Group had never induced a discussion on the topic. Many countries also were interested in fisheries in areas beyond national jurisdiction, but this topic had remained unregulated, too. Developing countries were focused on the management of Marine Genetic Resources (MGRs), unlike to developed countries that they were interested in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs).

In conclusion, the Working Group generated the hope that next years’ workshops will manage to compromise countries’ controversial interests in order that they will reach an agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction.

It is noted that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which entered into force in 1994, sets forth the rights and obligations of states regarding the use of marine resources, and the protection of its environment. Although UNCLOS does not refer expressis verbis to marine biodiversity, it is commonly regarded as establishing the legal framework for oceans’ activities. In addition, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which entered into force in 1993, defines biodiversity and aims to promote its conservation, its sustainable use, and the fair and equitable benefit-sharing arising from the use of genetic resources. In Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ), the Convention applies to processes and activities carried out under the jurisdiction or control of its parties.

Sources: Oceans & Law of The Sea - United Nations, IISD Reporting Services
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