18.04.2018 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Linking the UN Decade of Ocean Science and the new UN agreement on the high seas

How can the upcoming Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) help mobilize and boost action around the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ)? On 16 April 2018, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and partner institutions discussed potential interlinkages during a side event to the organizational meeting for the Intergovernmental Conference that will consider the recommendations of the BBNJ Preparatory Committee, in which IOC also takes part.

Today, nearly 50% of the Earth’s surface is covered by marine areas outside national borders, where access to the wealth of resources are beyond the control of any one state, and implemented under a  fragmented regulatory framework, hence creating the need for a new legally binding instrument to conserve and sustainably use marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), also known as the high seas. 

Co-organized with the Permanent Missions of Belgium and Barbados to the UN, the side event highlighted the opportunity presented by the Decade – as a vehicle for innovative and transforma­tive action – to inform BBNJ issues, mobilizing scientists and leav­ing lasting impacts through its ability to engage various communities, from governments to civil society and the private sector.

Peter Haugan, IOC Chair, reflected on ways the UN Ocean Decade could advance scientific knowledge and technical capacities in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), as well as the supporting infrastructure and partnerships needed for the sustainable development of the ocean. He noted that potential contributions to BBNJ objectives encompass:

  • The development of ocean data sharing mechanism;
  • The promotion of a mechanism for coordinating targeted and cooperative marine scientific research;
  • A global seafloor mapping campaign;
  • Reinforced coordination of ocean observation efforts especially in the deep ocean;
  • Improved transfer of marine technology to regions and groups that are pres­ently limited in capacity and capability, especially SIDS and LDCs, through dedicated training programmes and initiatives.

Other participants included: Dr. Sandor Muslow, International Seabed Authority (ISA) who presented the science activities of ISA; Dr. Paul Snelgrove , Ocean Frontier Institute – Memorial University of Newfoundland and Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative (DOSI), focused on key science questions to enable ecosystem-based management in ABNJ; Dr. David Millar, Fugro Pelagos, Inc. presented the GEBCO/Seabed 2030 project on ocean mapping and the role of businesses in technology development; and Mr. Antoine Misonne, Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Belgium, presented the outcome of the BBNJ workshop organized by Belgium in March 2018.

Capacity development and transfer of marine technology are considered absolutely necessary to make the new BBNJ instrument universal, serving all its future Parties and particularly developing countries. A specific side event was dedicated to this topic on 17 April, co-organized by the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Tonga to the UN, the Global Ocean Forum/International Coastal and Ocean Organization, FAO, UNESCO’s IOC and the Ocean Policy Research Institute of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation (Japan).

It featured presentations on a Policy Brief, the result of an international multi-author and multi-institutional effort, prepared especially for the BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference to take place from 4-17 September at UN Headquarters in New York, USA.

For more information, please contact:

Julian Barbière (j.barbiere(at)unesco.org)

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