On 24th December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly took the historic decision to open the negotiations of a treaty to protect biodiversity in the high seas (“Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions” or “BBNJ”). High seas represent two thirds of our oceans and are barely protected today.
The protection of oceans is a priority of Belgium’s diplomacy. From today until Wednesday 28th of March, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium will host at the Egmont Palace in Brussels a meeting to prepare the opening of the negotiations of this new treaty. These negotiations will be launched in September this year, with a first organizational meeting in April, at the UN Headquarters in New York. They are scheduled to run until the first half of 2020 and will be conducted through four Intergovernmental Conferences.
The meeting in Brussels is organized by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Belgian Ministry of the Environment, in association with the High Seas Alliance and the Pew Charitable Trusts, and with the support of the Adessium Foundation. It brings together national and international negotiators, scholars, lawyers and policy experts from 25 nations.
For Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders, it is important to support an ambitious process. It must ensure that the treaty will be as robust and far-reaching as possible to defend the resilience and health of the whole ocean. The new treaty will be a legally-binding agreement to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and could enable measures such as Marine Protected Areas to be established on the high seas.
Coordinator of the High Seas Alliance Peggy Kalas salutes the support of Belgium. “The Belgian Government has been a leading proponent for high seas protection since the beginnings of this process in 2012 at Rio+20. We are grateful for this opportunity for States to gather to ensure that the treaty negotiating process gets off to a strong start, as high seas marine life so urgently needs protection.”