UN delegates arrived at IGC3 prepared and ready to make progress and engage in text-based negotiations for the first time.
The two weeks were allocated across an initial Plenary, Informal Working Groups on each of the key elements (including cross-cutting issues for the first time) and Informal Informals, with sessions running late on several occasions in order to conclude the Articles under consideration.
This process was well supported by DOALOS through the swift provision of, for example, Conference Room Papers (CRPs) which enabled all delegates to follow proposals submitted by States and regional groupings.
Informal Informal sessions in a smaller room setting allowed for five observer seats each for civil society, and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) which demonstrated a welcome commitment to transparency by the President and Bureau. The High Seas Alliance provided a coordination service for all civil society members attending (this includes NGOs, business and academia) to facilitate the daily allocation of seats.
On the substance of the negotiations, HSA remains committed to the goal of a final treaty text that includes the provisions necessary to actually protect the ocean against the mounting anthropogenic threats, and impacts from fishing, shipping, plastic, chemical and noise pollution, as well as significant threats related to climate change and ocean acidification.
Some delegates have expressed the view that progress here has been better than expected with a level of engagement enabling steady progress. Among NGOs however, there is concern that the ambition must remain high. After 15 years of discussions in capitals around the world and at the UN, we should not settle for a status quo agreement. We need to go well beyond that if we are to continue reaping the many services that the ocean provides.
Looking ahead to the process for the final negotiation session in the Spring of 2020, some delegations have expressed a desire for greater informality within the closed sessions to enable a more intense level of discussion. It is certainly clear that there is much work to do during the intersessional period, and this could take the form of bilaterals, workshops, and smaller working groups to find a way forward on the many difficult that remain.
The HSA remains committed to the adoption of a new treaty in 2020 as a timely response to the urgency of the crisis in our ocean and climate.