Agreement on International Waters Reaches Conclusion at UN, Marking Historic Milestone
After nearly two decades of work and negotiations that stretched day and night, the UN member countries finally achieved a consensus on Saturday night in New York to draft a treaty for the protection of the high seas.
The UN headquarters in New York were the site of an announcement from Rena Lee of Singapore, the conference president, that the treaty had been reached after a twenty-four hour period past the originally set deadline. A follow-up meeting was set up for the delegates to formally accept the text, with the caveat that it would not be reopened.
Lee commented that in Singapore, people have a penchant for embarking on learning expeditions and that this particular one has been the most remarkable of them all.
She expressed her gratitude to the delegates for their hard work and dedication. "You have been an integral part of this success," she said.
The delegates who had stayed in the conference hall for two days and worked through the night gave her a standing ovation and loud applause as they applauded her efforts in getting the deal done.
The Intergovernmental Conference on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction gave a round of applause to its President, Ambassador Rena Lee, in recognition of the successful conclusion of the BBNJ treaty.
The agreement made at the UN biodiversity conference in December is essential for ensuring that countries fulfill their promise of protecting a third of the sea and land by 2030. Without a treaty, this objective would prove to be futile, since there was no legal system in place to implement marine protected areas in the open ocean prior to this.
The treaty, which covers almost two-thirds of the ocean beyond the limits of individual countries, will create a legal foundation for large marine protected areas (MPAs). These will help to ensure the preservation of wildlife and facilitate the equitable access to the genetic resources of the high seas. It will also set up a meeting of member states (Cop) on a regular basis, providing a system of accountability for issues such as governance and biodiversity.
Rena Lee expressed her appreciation to the delegates for their hard work and dedication.
The world's ocean ecosystems are instrumental in sustaining life on Earth, supplying half of the oxygen we breathe, comprising 95% of the biosphere, and acting as the planet's biggest carbon sink. Despite this, the high seas have been particularly vulnerable to exploitation due to a lack of unified and effective regulations.
Frank, a political adviser for Greenpeace, expressed her delight with the news, noting that the world is divided, so it's essential to celebrate the backing of multilateralism. She stated that Greenpeace had not seen the latest text at that time.
It is essential that we use this tool to expedite the implementation of the 30x30 target.
The Pew Charitable Trust gave a warm reception to the "groundbreaking international accord".
Liz Karan, director of Pew's ocean governance project, noted the importance of high seas marine protected areas in mitigating the consequences of climate change. Governments and civil society organizations should take action to ensure that the agreement to protect this biodiversity is adopted, comes into effect quickly, and is effectively implemented.
The High Ambition Coalition - consisting of the EU, US, UK, and China - played a major role in reaching an agreement; rather than creating divisions, they formed alliances and showed a readiness to accept a compromise in the concluding days of negotiations. It was the Global South that took the lead in ensuring that the treaty could be implemented in a reasonable and just manner.
Virginijus Sinkevičius, the European commissioner for the environment, ocean and fisheries, proclaimed the recent agreement as a "landmark event for the ocean", noting that it was the result of over 10 years of effort and global negotiations.
The UN High Seas Treaty accord was hailed by the speaker as a major milestone, as it serves to safeguard marine life and biodiversity that are integral to our present and future. Moreover, the agreement marks a powerful demonstration of increased collaboration with our international allies and a significant step toward achieving the COP 15 goal of 30% marine conservation. He declared his immense pride in the outcome.
The Atlantic Ocean is a vast body of water that stretches far and wide. It is situated between the Americas and Europe/Africa and is known for its incredible beauty and impressive size.
The vast expanse of sea water known as the ocean is a thing of beauty. It can be calming, awe-inspiring, and captivating. From the depths of the deep blue sea to the sparkling waves of the shore, the ocean is an incredible natural phenomenon.
The Pacific Ocean is an incredibly vast body of water. It is the largest of the Earth's oceans and covers about one-third of the Earth's surface. It is home to some of the most diverse marine life, including whales, dolphins, sharks, and many other species. Its waters are also rich in minerals which make it an important resource for many countries.
The sea is a vast expanse of water, holding an abundance of life, and covering much of the Earth's surface. It is a place of beauty and mystery, of power and awe. The ocean is an integral part of our planet and our existence.
The sea is an expansive body of water that is home to many species of plants and animals. It is filled with a variety of deep and shallow areas and can be divided into different oceans, such as the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic, and Indian. Oceans provide many benefits to the planet, like moderating the global climate, providing food and resources, and aiding in transportation. They are also essential for the health of our planet, as they absorb carbon dioxide and provide habitats for many species.
The waters that encircle the continent of Antarctica, referred to as the Southern Ocean, are known for their great depths and icy temperatures. This body of water is the fourth-largest ocean and has the distinction of being the world’s youngest, having only been recognized as a distinct ocean in 2000.
Michael Imran Kanu, the African Group leader and representative from Sierra Leone to the UN for legal matters, declared that the treaty was "robust and ambitious". During the negotiations, Kanu shared his worries about the equitable sharing of rewards, but still declared: "We really achieved amazing results" in this area. The agreement also states that monetary and non-monetary benefits will be shared, with an initial capital fund being set up under the treaty. He highlighted the great importance of the "common heritage of humankind" as a primary principle for the high seas, which was a major priority for developing countries. "That was significant for us", he stated.
In a period of less than twelve months, nations have congregated at the UN's base in New York for a third time for the purpose of reaching a "final" settlement. Discussions, which took place from the twentieth of February and extended for two weeks, were the fifth round of talks since the prior negotiations concluded without a settlement in August.
It was an immense accomplishment that 193 countries agreed to something, however, environmentalists were not content as they felt that there was still much room for progress. Particularly, the countries came to a consensus that the existing organizations responsible for governing activities such as fishing, shipping, and deep-sea mining should not be obligated to adhere to the environmental impact assessments specified in the treaty.
A major issue preventing developing and developed nations from reaching an agreement was how to fairly manage and benefit from marine genetic resources. These MGRs, which include the genetic material of deep-sea creatures such as sponges, krill, corals, seaweeds and bacteria, are growing in popularity and may be used in medicines and cosmetics.
Issues that remained unresolved were the method for forming marine protected areas and the system for assessing the environmental effect of activities proposed to take place in international waters.
At the United Nations in New York, the European Union committed to contributing €40m ($42m) in a bid to reinforce the link between wealthy and less affluent nations. This money is meant to help ratify the treaty and begin putting it into practice.
At the New York negotiations, Monica Medina, the US assistant secretary for oceans, international environment and scientific affairs, declared that they were leaving with the capability to set up protected areas in the high seas to accomplish the objective of preserving 30% of the ocean by 2030. She emphasised that the time to commence is now.
She expressed contentment that the US had consented to the central part of a high seas treaty, which comes with a powerful, cooperative plan to build marine protected areas.
Rebecca Hubbard, director of the High Seas Alliance, noted that after a two-week period of arduous negotiations and last-minute heroic efforts, governments have agreed to a set of important matters which will promote the preservation and better control of maritime biodiversity on the high seas.
Jessica Battle, the leader of the WWF's delegation at the negotiations, proclaimed that "no longer will the goings-on of the high seas be forgotten." She added that "we can now consider the cumulative effects of the blue economy and the ecosystems it supports in a comprehensive fashion."