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High Seas Alliance encouraged by initial UN discussions on protection of the high seas

On the final day of this week’s UN Working Group meeting to discuss ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) the High Seas Alliance was encouraged by the majority of world governments voicing their support for a high seas biodiversity agreement.

High Seas Alliance Coordinator, Peggy Kalas addressed States at the close of the session with a final intervention saying:

 “We’ve been encouraged by this meeting and the constructive and collegial participation by delegations. We also are encouraged that these discussions were held openly and transparently.”

Many State delegates shared the view that this week’s meeting was very useful and one of the best so far with a free and varied flow of ideas.

In the first of three BBNJ intersessionals, UN Member States exchanged views on scope, parameters and feasibility of a potential international instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The outcome of the session was an informal document that listed the issues raised by States, and will be the basis of the next round of discussions.

The High Seas Alliance welcomed statements by numerous countries from a broad geographic representation in support for a high seas biodiversity agreement including the group of 77+China, the European Union, South Africa, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Costa Rica, Brazil, India, Ecuador, Pakistan, Benin and the Dominican Republic.

NRDC Director of International Oceans Program, Lisa Speer said: “ We’re seeing more and more countries getting on board and opponents are becoming fewer in number and more isolated. “

IUCN Senior High Seas Advisor, Kristina Gjerde agreed and said:

“State discussions have moved away from whether or not we should have a high seas biodiversity agreement to how will we implement this agreement.” 

A final decision on whether the UN General Assembly should consider a new Implementing Agreement under the Law of the Sea Convention must be made by the end of the UNGA’s 69th session in September 2015.

With much ground for countries still to cover before reaching a final decision, Peggy Kalas further urged States and said: “As governments go back and deliberate next steps, we’d like to remind you of the urgency of the problems at hand.  The oceans are at the tipping point and they have no voice. We are their voice.”

The next BBNJ intersessional meeting will take place at the UN’s NY headquarters from 16-19 June 2014.  Join the High Seas Alliance for full coverage on the discussions.