Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

The 22nd meeting of an intergovernmental conference met to discuss an instrument regulating treatment of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction.

One of the debated points was the involvement of coastal states in research expeditions in such areas. Tonga stated that when and how consent must be obtained from coastal states must be clearly outlined, as should the criteria for a “meaningful” consultation. Chile and Singapore echoed that no provision should undermine the rights and obligations of coastal states. The US, however, strongly stated that coastal states do not have any special rights over areas beyond their exclusive economic zones.

Another question that was raised by Argentina was what happens with resources collected before the entry into force of this document. As it stands, the document focuses on the moment of collection to determine whether resources fall under its jurisdiction. Argentina argued that this limits the UN’s ability to prove when the resources were collected and proposed instead to focus on when the genetic material was used.

A hot topic was the consistency between this agreement and international law, namely United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). China stated that the document should not undermine the jurisdiction of other countries or international law. For example, China claimed that the UNCLOS agreement of 1995 made very detailed fishing agreements on the high seas so this new agreement should not be applicable to fishing resources. Japan went further to say that any disagreements between the document and the convention should be interpreted in the manner of the convention.

Some countries like Japan also noted that the instrument was alarmist in its treatment of material genetic resource collection given that this collection requires very little water and has little impact on the marine environment.

Meeting​: Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction – Second Session

Date/Location​: Wednesday March 27, 2019; 10:00 to 13:00; Conference Room 4, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY

Speakers​: Facilitator, Argentina, Switzerland, China, Turkey, Singapore, Chile, Tonga, Japan, United States

Written by: WIT Representative Bertina Kudrin


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