The Ocean We Need for the Future We Want: High time for the BBNJ to make the call to action
At a side-event at the United Nations on Wednesday, the Global Ocean Commission called on UN member States participating at this week’s meeting of the Working Group on Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) to conclude their work by recommending that the UN General Assembly (UNGA) immediately launch negotiations for a new high seas Implementing Agreement during its current session.
This should be the last meeting of the BBNJ formed nearly 10 years ago, in 2006. The time has come to turn words into action and to hand the mantle over to the UNGA – along with a clear message urging it to agree in its current, 69th session to press forward with the new Implementing Agreement that would resolve the current ineffective, fragmented governance of the High Seas.
“As technology advances and demand for resources increases, the high seas are the new frontier for exploration and exploitation but with no clear mechanism for effective, efficient, precautionary and sustainable management. Those with the money and technology to exploit the high seas should not be able to act with impunity, to the detriment of the poor and future generations. The Implementing Agreement would be a crucial step towards remedying this, the latest global equity issue that is emerging,” said Global Ocean Commission co-Chair David Miliband.
The vast majority of States are in agreement with the Global Ocean Commission regarding the need for an Implementing Agreement.
“The proposed international agreement is in the shared interest of all nations”, said David Miliband. “It is the overarching mechanism needed to enhance coordination and cooperation among all nations and existing instruments and management structures to fill voids in high seas governance. It would allow for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas in the most vulnerable and valuable parts of the high seas, for which there is no mechanism today. Before someone begins exploiting high seas resources, it would allow the international community to undertake, consider and agree to environmental impact assessments just like on the rest of our planet”.
Preventing these urgently needed improvements in high seas governance would leave the high seas – and by extension the entire interconnected ocean system – vulnerable to abuse and further decline. Per Thöresson Sweden’s Deputy Permanent representative of Sweden and Chargé D’Affaires, to the United Nations who co-hosted the Side-Event at the UN, “If we do not secure a healthy ocean, it is certain that we will see increased numbers of environmental refugees from regions most vulnerable to environmental stress.”
Sweden’s Ambassador for Oceans, Seas and Fresh Water Support, Lisa Emelia Svensson who chaired the Side-Event emphasized that while attention and momentum is building towards the Paris Climate Summit at the end of 2015 said: “Climate and Ocean action are both sides of the same coin: without a rich and stable ocean, we cannot secure a safe planetary climate system, and without a safe planetary climate system the ocean is at risk. To fulfill our obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, we need to protect the Global Ocean.”