High Seas Treaty negotiations: Half-Time reflections on IGCFinal. Victory in reach, but need to pick up pace in 2nd half!

HSA/Civil Society

If the process for High Seas treaty negotiations were a football match- then we are most definitely in extra-time! 

With almost daily reminders of the planetary crisis, the stakes get higher each day to conclude a treaty that once entered into force, will help protect ocean life in almost half of the planet that make up the High Seas. 

Governments are currently meeting in New York on how to best protect marine life in these areas beyond national jurisdiction. This is the 3rd so-called final meeting.   

On Monday morning (20th February) the President of the Conference, Ambassador Rena Lee of Singapore, kicked off treaty negotiations on Monday morning, and everyone in the room went straight to work, recognizing there is no time for formalities and general speeches. The aim of this meeting is to get the job done and bring negotiations to a successful close after five years of talking and 2 decades in the making.

All week long delegations have been feverishly pouring over the draft text in informal informals (yes this is the term not a typo) and small working groups to try to come to alignment on key outstanding issues. But while there still is a general optimism that the treaty is within reach, there is a frustration that some governments are re-opening issues that many thought had been dealt with in previous rounds of talks. The clock is ticking down on the remaining valuable negotiation time, and what is left is becoming more and more precious by the hour. 

Key sticking points continue to be issues that will determine how effective the treaty will be in changing the status quo on key elements of the treaty- such as decision-making, financial resources for implementation, capacity building and technology transfer, the power of the treaty to establish marine protected areas, the ability to restrict potentially harmful activities from taking place and how to equitably share the benefits of marine genetic resources.

As we reflect on week one, it’s key for governments to prepare themselves for a busy week two.  A key message from the NGOs that are cheering from the sidelines is to increase discipline, keep eyes on the ball, and speed up the game! There is no more time for curve balls or unhelpful delay of game tactics. We all depend on a healthy ocean and must work together now to get this treaty into the back of the net by Friday night!

By Bec Hubbard, Director of the High Seas Alliance