What is a zero draft?

Peggy Kalas, coordinator of the High Seas Alliance, give us an update on the agenda for the next few days and explains the importance of moving into negotiations around a zero draft.

What is the Zero Draft and Why Does It Matter?

By Duncan Currie*

A zero draft usually presents the first version of an agreement. Many delegations have called for such a first draft to facilitate and focus the negotiations, and support the development of a zero draft by the President, acting in her own capacity, before the next session of the IGC, that reflects the preponderance of views expressed by delegations during these 2 weeks (and informed by the Prepcom). This zero draft would form the basis of negotiations for the next session of the IGC.

In essence, a zero draft typically lays out the background and issues in a preambular section, followed by principles, and specific proposed provisions in the operative section.

There are a number of ways the text could take shape: It could be expressed in headings, in text, or in terms of issues by the 4 clusters (MGRs, ABMTs, EIAs and CB/TT) and could include text options for certain issues.  Many delegates believe that the text should go beyond headings and include suggested text.

In view of how much work the intergovernmental conference has ahead, it would seem preferable for this text be made available well ahead of the second IGC and if possible, by the end of this year. This would give delegations enough time to conduct the necessary national and regional consultations on the zero draft, and, if delegations are to submit comments, to enable them to do so before the next session.

A recent example of a zero draft in a related negotiation, the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, is here.  The July 2012 draft of the Arms Trade Treaty submitted by the President of the Conference is here.  

UNGA resolution 72/249: Para 4. Decides that the conference shall hold a three-day organizational meeting in New York, from 16 to 18 April 2018, to discuss organizational matters, including the process for the preparation of the zero draft of the instrument.

*Blogs are written in an individual capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the High Seas Alliance