The high seas, part of the global commons covering almost half of our planet, provide critical ecosystem services, from fisheries to climate regulation. However only 1.2% of the high seas have been protected, putting biodiversity and the security of our planet at risk.
An international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction is urgently required.
The High Seas Treaty Dialogues are bringing together government representatives and experts in a Track 1.5 dialogue to make concrete progress toward the adoption of a United Nations “High Seas Treaty” – 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.
A ‘Track 1.5’ dialogue is designed in this context as an informal convening space primarily for Member State BBNJ delegates, along with select experts from UN agencies, international, regional and sectoral organizations and bodies and civil society.
At the completion of IGC3 in August 2019, Ambassador Rena Lee, President of the BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference, encouraged delegates to “study the proposals made during this session and use the proposals as a catalyst to spark creative solutions that can garner consensus in the room.” It was her hope that “intersessionally, delegations will not only work within their own delegations but also reach out to the other delegations, to find ways forward that everyone can converge around.”
The need for renewed and sustained international cooperation to achieve an agreement is critical, particularly during this extended intersessional period due to the Covid 19 pandemic when in person meetings – including the fourth Intergovernmental Conference (IGC4) – are not yet possible.
The first two informal intersessional BBNJ High Seas Treaty dialogues took place in Oslo (January 2020) and Monaco (March 2020) and brought together, in person, a diverse group of government representatives to discuss some of the most pressing areas of treaty’s draft text. In Oslo, the dialogue was hosted at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and focused Marine Genetic Resources. In Monaco, the dialogue was hosted by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and focused on Area-Based Management Tools, such as Marine Protected Areas and Environmental Impact Assessments. The high-level segment in Monaco was facilitated by the 68th U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, currently serving as the first United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
Since April 2020 the High Seas Treaty Dialogues have convened delegates online, hosted by the governments of Belgium, Monaco and Costa Rica in collaboration with the High Seas Alliance. The High Seas Treaty Dialogues are organized and administrated by The International Center for Dialogue and Peacebuilding.
Ms. Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli retired from the United Nations in February 2020 after more than 32 years of service, including 6 ½ years as Director of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), Office of Legal Affairs. Apart from three years when she served as Chief of the Treaty Section, Office of Legal Affairs, she devoted most of her career in DOALOS to the provision of assistance in the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, as well as in supporting the General Assembly and its processes in considering oceans and the law of the sea, including BBNJ (2004 onwards). She served as the Secretary of the BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference for two years.
Mr. Dire Tladi is a Professor of International Law and SARChI Chair in International Constitutional Law at the University of Pretoria. He is a member of the UN International Law Commission and its Special Rapporteur on Peremptory Norms of General International Law (Jus Cogens). He is also a member of the Institut de Droit International. He is formerly Principal State Law Adviser for International Law at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation and Legal Adviser of the South African Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Mr. Tladi has worked on the issue of BBNJ since 2006, first as a delegate for South Africa (until 2014), and then as a consultant.
Ms. Nilufer Oral is currently the Director of Centre for International Law at the National University of Singapore, as well as a member of the United Nations International Law Commission, and a climate change negotiator for Turkey between 2009 and 2016. Professor Oral is also a former member of IUCN’s Council and co-chair of IUCN Specialist Group on Oceans, Coasts and Coral Reefs.
Mr. Eden Charles is an expert in international law and a Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, also serving as Chairman of the Advisory Board of One Ocean Hub UKRI. A former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Deputy Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations, Mr. Charles served as first Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the conclusion of an international legally binding agreement under the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Mr. Charles, was the Coordinator of the annual UNGA resolution on Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea for 4 years, and is a former facilitator of the working groups of the Meeting of States Parties to UNCLOS on the allocation of seats to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.