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A Very Quick Look at the Revised Draft Text of the new Agreement on Marine Biodiversity in Areas beyond National Jurisdiction

Published on January 23, 2020        Author: 


On 27 November 2019 the President of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on the conservation of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) issued a revision of the Draft text of an agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. The revised draft text will serve as the basis for the next round of negotiations, to take place in March/April 2020. Its primary focus, as the President observes in the accompanying note, is “on streamlining the text” (p. 2), including by way of eliminating certain options which had not received any support during IGC-3, reformulating others, and including new language yet elsewhere. The structure of the revised text remains however “largely unchanged” (p. 2), and indeed, also the length of the document. Finally, the President invites delegations to submit further proposal between 2 January and 3 February, which will be then compiled in a single document ahead of IGC-4. It is important to note that IGC-4 is the last scheduled negotiating session, and the initial goal was to have an agreement adopted by then. However, given the state of the negotiations at the end of IGC-3, it seems extremely unlikely, if not altogether impossible, that this goal can be achieved. This impression is further supported by a quick review of the revised draft. While length need not be a factor, even a quick read-through of the text reveals how little progress has been made, which reflects the outcome of IGC-3. Additionally however, the President has been very careful in “streamlining” the options, in line with the constant reminder from the room that this is a State-driven process, a reminder which also inevitably poses important limitations on the President. However, a process as complex as these negotiations, with many entrenched positions on all the key issues, needs a strong, active guidance from the President and from the working group facilitators, something which for the most part has perhaps been lacking.

So, what is new in the revised draft text? While a thorough review is not possible here, the post will highlight some of the novelties of the text that stood out as I read the draft for the first time. Read the rest of this entry…

Filed under: EJIL Analysis, Law of the Sea