GA: Conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction

Last updated: 5/8/2012 // At May 8th there was an Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Christine Finbak, Senior Adviser at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, held the following statement.

I would like to thank the panellists for interesting presentations in the informal session. They have certainly provided useful input to our discussions. And we believe that we should have more presentations and discussions like these in for instance the intersessional workshops.

I would like to say a few words about my delegation’s position regarding the main topics included in this agenda item, namely marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits, area-based management tools, environmental impact assessments and capacity-building and the transfer of technology, and how we believe that these issues can be taken forward within this process. On the last issue we believe that the workshops that will be discussed in more detail under agenda item 6 will be key.

Firstly, let me address the issue of marine genetic resources. I will not go into detail about my delegation’s view of the interpretation of the Convention. Suffice to say at this point is that it is my delegation’s understanding that the regime of the Area only applies to the mineral resources as defined in Article 133. Marine genetic resources cannot be said to fall within the legal regime for the Area, and hence do not fall within the Convention’s rules regarding the common heritage of mankind. In my delegation’s opinion, should it be desirable with a similar regime for marine genetic resources, a new instrument must be negotiated. My delegation is open to discuss a possible regulation of marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including the classification of the resources as the common heritage of mankind.

Before concluding on this issue, we however believe that we should look further into a number of issues relating to marine genetic resources in order for the working group to be in a position to identify the best way forward. We believe that the workshops could aid us in this respect. Firstly, we believe that the workshops should clarify to what extent bioprospecting is currently taking place, the consequences for the environment, its commercial and non-commercial effects as well as issues related to IPR.

Further, we should look into what type of regulation exists for bio-prospecting today. In this respect the regulations in UNCLOS, including on marine scientific research is relevant. Regulatory frameworks for marine genetic resources in areas within national jurisdiction, importantly the Nagoya Protocol, as well as the FAO International Treaty on Plant and Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture should be presented. The workshops could explore the issue of how these can serve as a model in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Lastly, the workshops should address next steps, including whether additional regulation is necessary, and if so what regulation is appropriate. The issue of whether we want and need benefit-sharing, and if so to what extent and how this can best be achieved should also be addressed.

Area-based management are important tools to support the ecosystem based approach, on a national as well as a regional and global scale. In our experience, tools within marine area-based management have a great potential in being effective in securing sustainable protection and use of marine biodiversity. My delegation believes that the workshops should look further into this issue, including the current regulation of area-based management tools, including UNCLOS, CBD, the IMO and other global instruments and organizations. Furthermore it is my delegation’s view that the workshops should be presented with examples of regional regulation and cooperation relating to area-based management tools. Cooperation between regional fisheries organisations, regional environmental organisations and global sectoral organisations have proved to be efficient in protecting marine biodiversity in certain regions, for instance in the North-East Atlantic. In this area NEAFC, the regional fisheries organization, and OSPAR, the regional environmental organization, have cooperated on protection issues, liaising also with existing global arrangements such as IMO. Such initiatives may be looked further into in our discussions on these issues in the workshops, as they may be an example of how area-based management tools can be more effectively implemented. The workshops should then try to identify whether there are any gaps, if there are any activities/pressures that are currently unregulated or not satisfactorily regulated. Lastly, the workshops should explore next steps, including implementation of existing measures and a possible new instrument and if so what kind of instrument (guidelines, GA resolution or a legally binding instrument such as an implementing agreement).

Environmental Impact Assessments are important to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond as well as within national jurisdiction. Norway attaches great importance to EIAs and is committed to cooperate in relevant regional and global fora to conduct environmental impact assessments with respect to planned activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction. We are open to look further into more detailed guidelines or rules regarding environmental impact assessments for certain activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction. This issue can also be looked further into at the intersessional workshops.

Lastly, I would like to emphasize that to my delegation the issue of capacity-building and technology transfer is very important. Ensuring conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is also an issue of ability. There is a clear need for capacity-building and technology transfer to States that lack the ability to face challenges arising with regard to marine biodiversity. The issue of capacity-building and technology transfer must therefore be an important element in our discussions of the way forward.

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