30.03.2017 - Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission

Healthy Oceans, Resilient Islands: Special Workshop with Small Island Developing States

Libois Corenthin: Didier Reynders, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaks at SIDS BBNJ Workshop

Over 100 representatives of 35 Small Islands and Developing States (SIDS), scientists as well as representatives from the UN and EU, with a special interest and expertise in the BBNJ process were brought together at the IOC Project Office for IODE in Oostende and at the European Commission in Brussels during 7-9 March 2017.

The workshop participants discussed capacity building needs and priorities of SIDS in the context of a potential new United Nations Treaty to conserve and sustainably use marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ) – the so-called “high seas”. Discussion topics also included the transfer of technology, marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments and marine genetic resources.

The Government of Belgium and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) organized the workshop in light of preparations for the third Preparatory Committee meeting on BBNJ, scheduled for 27 March - 8 April 2017 in New York.

Ambassador Mr Ahmed Sareer, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations opened the meeting stressing that SIDS are large but vulnerable ocean states where the status of the ocean has a direct impact on their viability and development. Because of the interconnectivity of the islands with the ocean, the SIDS interests in a UN Treaty to protect our marine living resources go beyond just equitable sharing of benefits. Islands can only be resilient when oceans are healthy.

The emphasis of the workshop was on Capacity Building and Transfer of Marine Technology (CB/TMT), a subject at the heart of the BBNJ negotiations. It was recognized that SIDS have their particular challenges and therefore need a specific model for CB/TMT. It was felt that the work of existing international organizations like the IOC of UNESCO and its OBIS data sharing platform are structures to build on, but SIDS also need to engage more in relevant decision fora as well as strengthen SIDS-SIDS cooperation and twinning with other parties.

Mr Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium thanked the IOC of UNESCO for being a key partner in organizing this workshop. Belgium hosts one of the IOC project offices, in the city of Ostend. The Project office is a global capacity building hub, where ocean experts from around the world meet and are trained in data and information management. It is the center of the world’s largest global database on marine biodiversity called “OBIS”. The Ocean Biogeographic Information System is recognized by the UN General Assembly and has the potential to become a data and information clearing house for BBNJ.

More detail on this workshop can be found at: http://sidsworkshop.be.

For more information, please contact:

Ward Appeltans (w.appeltans@unesco.org).




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