After two weeks of negotiations on a new marine biodiversity agreement, the first UN PrepCom has concluded on a very positive note. These negotiations are the first of four PrepCom sessions (each two weeks long) through the end of 2017, which will hopefully lead to a formal intergovernmental treaty conference in 2018.
Throughout the meeting, PrepCom Chair Ambassador Eden Charles encouraged full participation from civil society, at one point, asking pointed questions directed to HSA participants. On the last day, delegates discussed both the intersessional period between the PrepCom sessions, as well as the Roadmap for the next PrepCom session.
Chair Eden Charles also lauded the importance of workshops (which have been provided by HSA and its members) and expressed that they be held in NY at UN Headquarters, with a request that be inclusive for all. Many delegations who have been so instrumental in bringing the PrepCom process to fruition, including South Africa, the European Union, Jamaica and Costa Rica, noted civil society efforts in the Plenary, some referencing its important role in providing workshops, and facilitating capacity building within various regions.
HSA members were very encouraged by statements heard from delegations throughout the week, and the spirit and momentum evident in the room, and that after 10 years of discussions, we are now in negotiating mode. “This seminal PrepCom was a very positive start to the two-year process that we expect to lead to a formal treaty conference in 2018” remarked Peggy Kalas, High Seas Alliance Coordinator. “With active participation of civil society, we have now begun to engage in the details of crucial elements, and we will be actively engaged to ensure that the treaty provisions are robust.”
Elizabeth Wilson, Director of International Ocean Policy at The Pew Charitable Trusts said “This meeting was very productive. Governments came ready to proactively and constructively discuss the need for a global regime to establish high seas marine protected areas and reserves and environmental impact assessments.”
Jessica Battle, Marine Manager, WWF International commented “The constructive discussion and active participation in the room on all elements of the package bode well for the next PrepCom session. We stand ready to assist states going forward to achieve a new legally binding agreement with broad participation to ensure the protection and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.”
High Seas Alliance Legal Policy Advisor, Duncan Currie noted that “I am very encouraged that after 10 years of discussions, we are in formal negotiations for a legally binding instrument, and that the negotiations are very serious. It was also very encouraging to hear the broad support for public participation, and endorsement of the High Seas Alliance and its members’ contributions, from the Chair and from many member States.”
Political Advisor at Greenpeace International, Veronica Frank said, “We are encouraged by the open, transparent and inclusive discussion, and by the common understanding that the status quo is no longer acceptable. Greenpeace and the millions of supporters around the world will be following this process closely and expect governments to take the right decisions for healthy, productive and resilient oceans for the billions of people who depend on them and for the rights of future generations to continue enjoying from the critical services the ocean provides”.