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Image: A team of scientific divers assess the marine biodiversity on the top of a seamount in Porto Santo, Madeira, Portugal. © Nuno Vasco Rodrigues/UN World Oceans Day 2023

UN Adopts Historic Global Treaty on Oceans

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By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, 20 June 2023 (IDN)— After years of negotiations, the United Nations has reached an agreement on a Global Ocean Treaty aimed at ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity which covers over two thirds of the world’s high seas.

“You have pumped new life and hope to give the ocean a fighting chance”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, following the adoption of the treaty on June 19. (P07) GERMAN | JAPANESE | TURKISH

Singling out the treaty as a demonstration of the strength of multilateralism, he said: “By acting to counter threats to our planet that go beyond national boundaries, you are demonstrating that global threats deserve global action, and that countries can come together, in unity, for the common good”.

Dr Palitha Kohona, a former Chief of the UN Treaty Section, told IDN: “As the former co- chair of the UN ad hoc working group on Biological Diversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BDBNJ), which finalized its report at about 3.00 AM on a cold snowy February morning in 2015, it gives me tremendous joy to see the formal adoption of the UN Oceans Treaty”.

The oceans, he pointed out, are so very important to sustain life in our threatened planet. Life began in the oceans.

“Now we absolutely need to protect the oceans to sustain life. I hope that countries would go through their internal processes quickly and proceed to sign and ratify this treaty when it is opened for signature”.

He said 60 ratifications will be required for the treaty to enter into force.

“It will be a major achievement for the UN as we approach the SDG targets of 2030. The Oceans Treaty will be another vital pillar of the framework being developed under the Law of the Sea Convention, sometimes referred to as the Constitution of the oceans.”

UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters June 19 the agreement will be open for signature at UN Headquarters for two years from 20 September this year, the day after the 2023 SDG Summit. It will enter into force after ratification by sixty States.

“The Secretary-General urges all States to spare no effort to ensure that the Agreement enters into force and calls on them to act without delay to sign and ratify it as soon as possible,” he said.

Chris Thorne of Greenpeace’s Protect the Oceans campaign said the Treaty is a win for all life on this planet. Now those same governments which agreed, must urgently ratify and begin delivering vast ocean sanctuaries on the high seas.

“The science is clear, we must protect at least 30% of the oceans by 2030 to give the oceans a chance to recover and thrive.”

He said that “2030 looms large on the horizon, and the scale of our task is vast. Less than 1% of the high seas are protected. Millions of people from all over the world have demanded change and together we have achieved this historic agreement, but we still have a long way to go”.

“We are committed to achieving 30×30. We will work day and night to ensure this Treaty is ratified in 2025, and ocean sanctuaries free from destructive human activities covering 30% of the oceans become a reality by the end of this decade.”

Meanwhile, building on the legacy of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, this groundbreaking agreement significantly strengthens the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in over two-thirds of the ocean.

The UN said the treaty provides an essential framework for cross-sectoral cooperation between and among States and other stakeholders to promote the sustainable development of the ocean and its resources and to address the manifold pressures it faces.

The effective and timely implementation of this Agreement will make crucial contributions to achieving the ocean-related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

According to the UN, the Agreement addresses four key issues.

It sets up a framework for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from activities with respect to marine genetic resources and digital sequence information on marine genetic resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction, ensuring that such activities benefit all of humanity.

It will enable the establishment of area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, to conserve and sustainably manage vital habitats and species in the high seas and the international seabed area. Such measures are critical for archiving the “30 by 30” global target to effectively conserve and manage at least 30 per cent of the world’s terrestrial and inland water areas, and of marine and coastal areas by 2030, as agreed in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

It will ensure that environmental impacts of activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction are assessed and considered in decision-making.

It also provides, for the first time, an international legal framework for the assessment of the cumulative impacts of activities and the consequences of climate change, ocean acidification and related impacts, in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

And it will facilitate cooperation in capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology to assist Parties, in particular developing States Parties, in achieving the objectives of the Agreement, so as to level the playing field for all States to responsibly utilize and benefit from marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Furthermore, the Agreement addresses several cross-cutting issues, such as its relationship with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and relevant legal instruments and frameworks and relevant global, regional, subregional and sectoral bodies, as well as funding and dispute settlement.

It also sets up institutional arrangements, including a Conference of the Parties, a Scientific and Technical Body and other subsidiary bodies of the Conference of the Parties, a Clearing-House Mechanism and a secretariat.

The Secretary-General urged all States to spare no effort to ensure that the Agreement enters into force, and called on them to act without delay to sign and ratify it as soon as possible.

“This is critical to addressing the threats facing the ocean, and to the success of ocean-related goals and target—including the 2030 Agenda and the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework”, he said.

He also expressed readiness to help States make this happen. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Image: A team of scientific divers assess the marine biodiversity on the top of a seamount in Porto Santo, Madeira, Portugal. © Nuno Vasco Rodrigues/UN World Oceans Day 2023





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