High Seas Treaty Negotiations – a short timeline

HSA/Civil Society

In 2017, the UN convened a series of Intergovernmental Conferences (IGCs) to create an international legally binding Treaty for the High Seas (Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction). Since then five IGCs have failed to secure this crucial Treaty. Before we move into IGC5bis (the resumption of IGC5), here is a brief timeline of the negotiations so far, as reported by China Dialogue Oceans.




The UN General Assembly convene an Intergovernmental Conference –  “under the auspices of the United Nations, to consider the recommendations of the Preparatory Committee established by resolution 69/292 of 19 June 2015 on the elements and to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.”



4 -09.2018


IGC1 – “The first round of talks to establish a new treaty to protect marine life and biodiversity in the High Seas took place at the United Nations in New York in September, with the goal of finalising a Treaty in 2020.”

Read the China Dialogue Article



25.03.2019 – 05.04.2019


IGC2 – Talks continue.




IGC3 – “Ahead of negotiations in New York later this month, some observers are worried about whether a legally binding deal can be reached in 2020 as scheduled. There is only one more round of talks planned next year.”

Read the China Dialogue Article


2020 + 2021 

Talks are delayed by the Covid-19 Pandemic





IGC4 – “The fourth and final scheduled round of talks was supposed to conclude a multi-year process and result in a Treaty. Now, governments will have to keep making progress in the coming months until another round of talks, likely to happen in August.”

Read the China Dialogue Article




IGC5 – “Despite an extra two-week negotiation session, countries ran out of time yet again, stalling over differences on sharing marine genetic resources”

Read the China Dialogue Article