Frontiers in Marine Science – Polycentricity and Regional Ocean Governance: Implications for the Emerging UN Agreement on Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction


The United Nations is in the final stages of negotiations on a new UN Agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) (BBNJ Agreement). Much of the current draft text hinges on assumptions that the BBNJ Agreement will automatically serve to enhance cooperation and coordination amongst the vast array of existing regional and sectoral (e.g., shipping, fishing and seabed mining) organizations.

Based on a study of polycentricity theory and regional ocean governance mechanisms, a new article by Gjerde and Yadav (2021) suggests that cooperation does not always come easy, and that diverse mandates, priorities and capacities may stymie progress. Urgent attention needs to be given in the draft text to advancing the enabling conditions identified by Carlisle and Gruby (2019) for effective polycentric governance systems if we are to achieve global ocean conservation and sustainable use objectives.

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