Health of Oceans Critical to Planet’s Well-Being, Delegates Stress, as Conference Begins on Drafting Legally Binding Instrument Protecting Marine Biodiversity

An intergovernmental conference to draft the first ever treaty addressing biodiversity on and beneath the high seas opened its first substantive session at Headquarters today with speakers emphasizing the urgency of forging an agreement � ideally by consensus � as soon as possible, but acknowledging the significant challenges that lay ahead.

Convened pursuant to General Assembly resolution 72/249, the session � continuing through 17 September � is seeking to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Rena Lee (Singapore), President of the intergovernmental conference, in opening remarks, said the coming days represent an opportunity to make a difference in the way the world manages the oceans � a chance to undertake a course correction, if you like, while we still can, she said, adding that if Member States pull together and work openly, transparently and inclusively, it is my firm belief that we will get there.

Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under Secretary General for Legal Affairs, United Nations Legal Counsel, and Secretary General of the conference, said there is ample evidence of increased pressures on the world's oceans. Left unaddressed, their cumulative effect will lead to a destructive cycle in which the oceans will no longer be able to provide many services that humans and other life on this planet depend on. Sustainable oceans and seas can contribute to poverty eradication, sustained economic growth, food security and creation of sustainable livelihoods, he continued, while helping to build resilience to the impacts of climate change.

The representative of Maldives, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, said the objective is to agree on a legally binding instrument as soon as possible. Noting that marine areas beyond national jurisdiction cover 45 per cent of Earth's surface, he said the conference must aim for an instrument that is inclusive and universal.

Egypt's representative, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the world's oceans are still not getting the attention they deserve. It is about time to switch gears for more concrete steps after lengthy and comprehensive discussions, he said, urging delegations to work together in good faith and to elaborate a text as soon as possible.

The representative of the European Union delegation said that the conference should discuss options on substantive issues so that, by the end of the session, areas of convergence will emerge. Drafting the final text should begin only when there is sufficient clarity on its broad design, he said.

Canada's delegate was among several to emphasize that the health of the oceans and seas is critical to the planet's economic, social and environmental well being. One major objective will be to set the stage to produce a zero draft � or rough sketch of a potential agreement � from which progress can be achieved. We understand the challenges ahead, and firmly believe that together we can succeed in better protecting and managing our oceans, he said.

Papua New Guinea's delegate said the vulnerability of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is a stark reminder to the international community of the importance to end the unbridled plundering of the ocean's resources. Preserving marine life is especially crucial for the livelihood and survival of the Pacific region, he said, pledging full commitment to reaching an international instrument on the matter while underscoring the need to keep the negotiating process transparent and accountable.

In the same vein, Palau's delegate, on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, looked forward to an open and transparent process. We want to ensure that respect prevails, she added, emphasizing the importance of all participants listening to each other.

The representative of Paraguay, speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, said a new international instrument on biodiversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction must preserve the rights of landlocked developing nations as embodied in the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Such an instrument must recognize the needs of developing States with regards to capacity building and the transfer of technology and knowledge, he added.

At the outset of the meeting, the conference adopted its programme of work and elected by acclamation the following as Vice Presidents: Algeria, Morocco, Mauritius (African Group); Federated States of Micronesia, Japan, China (Asia Pacific Group); Bulgaria, Poland, Russian Federation (Eastern European Group); and Belgium, Canada, United States (Western European and Other States Group).

The remaining three Vice Presidents, from the Latin American and Caribbean States Group, are to be elected by secret ballot on Thursday, 6 September, after the nomination of Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli, Director, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, said a voluntary trust fund to help developing countries attending the conference had facilitated the participation of 23 delegates. It now is virtually depleted, she said, adding that even small but regular contributions from several Member States would effectively help sustain the facility.

Also speaking today were representatives of Algeria (on behalf of the African Group), Bangladesh (on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries), Barbados (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Singapore, Philippines, Monaco, Argentina, Togo, Thailand, Australia, Seychelles, Ecuador, Federated States of Micronesia, Norway, Tuvalu, New Zealand, Fiji, Venezuela, Iceland, Morocco, Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica, China, Brazil, Peru, Republic of Korea, Iran, Mauritius, Russian Federation and Viet Nam.

The Permanent Observer of the Holy See also spoke.

The current session of the intergovernmental conference is the first in a series, with the second and third to take place in 2019 and the fourth and last session planned for the first half of 2020.

The intergovernmental conference will meet again on Wednesday, 5 September at 10 a.m. to continue its work.

Opening Remarks

RENA LEE (Singapore), President of the intergovernmental conference on an international legally binding instrument 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, opened the conference, recalling its mandate to elaborating a text and to do so as soon as possible. She drew attention to the enormity of the tasks before the conference, the complexity of the issues, the variety of issues and the different pathways to achieving an agreement. However, she said, the conference represents an opportunity to make a difference in the way the world manages the oceans � a chance to undertake a course correction, if you like, while we still can. She added that the manner in which the organizational meeting in April unfolded filled her with confidence. There will be difficult conversations, she said, but if delegations continue with the spirit of cooperation seen in April, working together, openly, transparently and inclusively, and by pulling together, it is my firm belief that we will get there.

MIGUEL DE SERPA SOARES, Under Secretary General for Legal Affairs, United Nations Legal Counsel, and Secretary General of the conference, said he is confident that this session will be fruitful and lead to the development of an instrument that all delegations can agree to. Such consensus must contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. There is ample evidence of increasing pressures on oceans. Scientists, through various assessments of the marine environment, including the first Global Integrated Marine Assessment, have confirmed this. If such pressures and their impacts are not addressed, their cumulative effect will lead to a destructive cycle in which the oceans will no longer be able to provide many services that humans and other life on this planet depend on.

Sustainable oceans and seas can contribute to poverty eradication, sustained economic growth, food security and creation of sustainable livelihoods, he continued. Protecting the marine environment will also help build resilience to the impacts of climate change. I have no doubt that your negotiations at this session will be conducted in a spirit of cooperation in recognition of the vital importance of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, he added.

General Exchange of Views

MOHAMED GAD (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said work so far on a marine biological diversity instrument was the result of the determination of Member States, civil society and other stakeholders, with the current session marking a new phase. However, in the Group's opinion, the world's oceans are still not getting the timely attention they deserve. It is about time to switch gears for more concrete steps after lengthy and comprehensive discussions, he said, calling on delegations to work together in good faith and to elaborate a text as soon as possible. Describing the conference president's aid to discussions as a valuable guide that flagged areas where the session must focus its attention, he said the Group also looked forward to addressing the way forward before the conference's second session, including the preparation of a zero draft treaty format text.

MEHDI REMAOUN (Algeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating himself with the Group of 77, said that, while progress has been made to overcome challenges, some divergences remain. We need to sail smoothly towards the final treaty text, between this session and the three others ahead of us, he added. The African Group fully supports negotiations based on a zero draft from the second session of the intergovernmental conference. We believe that you have the authority and ability to produce such a text, he continued. The zero draft will serve as a negotiating text and as such, be subjected to an intergovernmental negotiations process. The elements contained therein shall by no means be considered as representing consensus, he added.

He welcomed discussions on the meeting dates of upcoming intergovernmental conference sessions, in particular the third one, adding that if time allows, the Group will be happy to discuss the issue and go to negotiations of the annual United Nations General Assembly resolutions on oceans and law of the sea with the same understanding. We must absolutely avoid holding another session in September, he stressed. The Group looks forward to fruitful intergovernmental exchanges during the upcoming days and to frank, direct and open minded dialogue that aims to bridge gaps.

The representative of Maldives, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, and associating himself with the Group of 77, said the objective is to agree a legally binding instrument as soon as possible. Noting that marine areas beyond national jurisdiction comprise 45 per cent of Earth's surface, he said much remains unknown about the high seas, with only a tiny fraction having been explored. However, the resources they contain must be preserved and sustainably used for future generations. The conferment must aim for an instrument that is inclusive and universal, he said, encouraging all partners to contribute constructively to the proceedings. Hopefully, he added, the conference will emerge from its first session with a clear idea of the way forward.

The representative of Bangladesh, speaking on behalf of the Group of Least Developed Countries, and associating himself with the Group of 77, said the intergovernmental conference process need not defer to text based negotiations until all questions are conclusively addressed. Seeing merit in the decision to form informal working groups, he said the appointment of experienced facilitators will help avoid repetition of preparatory committee consultations and guide the process towards a zero draft, which should be presented well ahead of the conference's next session.

The representative of the European Union delegation said the conference should go beyond the conceptual debates that characterized the preparatory committee proceedings and move to text based negotiations. The bloc's aim for this session is to identify key functions of the instrument as well as possible corresponding regulatory options and solutions. During the next two weeks, he added, the conference should discuss options on substantive issues so that, by the end of the session, areas of convergence will emerge. Drafting the final text should begin only when there is sufficient clarity on its broad design. Expressing confidence that the current session will make progress, he said there must be sufficient progress on key aspects in order to move quickly to the elaboration of the text for negotiation.

Providing an overview of the Union's position, he said nothing in the implementing agreement should prejudice the rights, jurisdiction and duties of States under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Rather, that agreement must be designed to operationalize and strengthen the obligations on conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment and its biodiversity already embodied in that Convention. Moreover, the implementing agreement should complement and strengthen cooperation among existing international and regional organizations and relevant instruments, while respecting their mandates and avoiding duplication. In addition, it should improve marine scientific research at the international and regional levels, enhance the spread of information and knowledge at the global level, and strengthen capacity building to ensure that all States can meet the Convention's objectives and requirements for marine biodiversity.

JULIO CA�SAR ARRIOLA RAMA�REZ (Paraguay), speaking on behalf of the Group of Landlocked Developing Countries, reviewed its primary concerns, including freedom of the high seas, freedom of movement through transit States, the preservation � as the common heritage of mankind � of the seabed and ocean floors, the preservation of the marine environment, the exploration and fair use of marine resources, and capacity building. He emphasized that the special needs and specific challenges of landlocked developing countries are recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Vienna Programme of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries for the Decade 2014 2024, with the latter setting out as a top priority freedom of movement to facilitate access to the sea.

He stressed that a new international instrument on biodiversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction must preserve the rights of landlocked developing countries as embodied in the Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Group will support a new instrument that will improve access and participation in areas outside national jurisdiction through a regime that is just and equitable and considers the concerns of vulnerable countries. He said that such an instrument must recognize the needs of developing States, especially those that are landlocked, with regards to capacity building and the transfer of technology and knowledge.

The representative of Palau, speaking on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States and associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said her delegation looked forward to the process being conducted in an open and transparent manner. We want to ensure that respect prevails, she added, emphasizing the importance of all participants listening to each other. The international community is still far from consensus on many issues and needs to focus on various elements that have to be captured in the instrument. The new treaty must deliver on high aspirations.

A key objective is including in discussions the special situation of small island developing States, she continued. The format suggested for the session is comforting, she added, emphasizing that the Pacific small island developing States are fully ready to engage in discussions. She also expressed gratitude to all partners who have supported Pacific small island developing States over the years.

JULIETTE RILEY (Barbados), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and associating herself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said that despite best efforts, not all countries may be positioned to ratify the new instrument. Nevertheless, CARICOM will remain committed to engaging with all delegations to ensure the conclusion of an agreement. Negotiations on the instrument should not be limited to current scientific understanding but must allow for advances in knowledge and technology.

Addressing the impacts facing oceans as imperative, she added that she looked forward to discussions on the zero draft. As we have stated on a number of occasions, we are not starting from scratch, she reiterated. The international community has the benefit of a two year preparatory process and non paper which can be used to move towards concrete text proposals.

The representative of Canada said that the health of the oceans and seas is critical to the economic, social and environmental well being of the planet. One major objective to achieve, during this first substantive session, is to set the stage to produce a zero draft from which progress can be achieved. He emphasized the importance of finding a practical and workable approach for the appropriate sharing of benefits � while respecting existing rights and obligations under international law. The conservation and proper management of oceans must be a priority for all. Bordered by three oceans, Canada is in many respects a maritime nation, with many aspects of its daily life inextricably linked to oceans and their resources. We understand the challenges ahead, and firmly believe that together we can succeed in better protecting and managing our oceans, he said.

LIONEL YEE WOON CHIN (Singapore), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Alliance of Small Island States, said it is important to keep in mind that we are not operating in a completely green field. There are many existing treaties and frameworks that to some degree cover issues of marine biodiversity. Foremost among them is the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea itself, which enshrines principles, such as the freedom of navigation. It is important to continue to respect such principles and rights. Given the complex issues of law, science and policy which have to be grappled with at this conference, he said that many perspectives need to be heard.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said regulations to protect the environment are not only a moral imperative, but a vital solution to a dire situation that needs immediate action. Reaching the shared goal of conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity calls for an agreement that includes a long term strategy for the health renewal and development of the world's oceans, building on the Convention on the Law of the Sea. That agreement should be broad in application, he said, filling current regulatory gaps while precluding the need to renegotiate a global agreement every time a new resource is discovered or a different commercial activity is pursued. He proposed a responsibilities based perspective, rather than one based on rights; acknowledgement of the differences between conservation and sustainable use; a focus on the promotion of cooperative research, study and analysis of ocean resources; distinguishing between resources with immediate economic value and those with potential value; regulating access to and use of resources; and the consideration of risk prevention measures, thus giving a substantive role to due diligence obligations. Emphasizing the political and economic changes that have taken place since the Convention's adoption eight years ago, he said mankind's need for resources suggests that the blue economy is poised for momentous growth. It is up to the conference to anticipate change, prioritize life in all its forms, and put our common home at the forefront.

TEODORO LOPEZ LOCSIN, JR. (Philippines), associating himself with the Group of 77, said a legally binding instrument on the management and use of biodiversity must be guided by the principles of respect for the rights, obligations and interests of State Parties as enshrined in 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It should respect the rights and jurisdiction of coastal States over all areas under their national jurisdiction, including the continental shelf within and beyond the exclusive economic zone. From oceans came life, from the oceans life draws meaning and preserves the conditions whereby life is possible on Earth, he added. In managing a resource common to all, everyone stands to gain and therefore must take up their share of responsibility.

The representative of Monaco said that, after more than 10 years of work, the process leading to a legally binding instrument on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction now is reaching its final stage. Emphasizing that conservation and sustainable use must go hand in hand, he said the work being carried out is both short- and long term in nature. Delegations must be inspired by those who negotiated the Convention on the Law of the Sea, who were visionary in their action.

ALEJANDRO VERDIER (Argentina) said a multilateral instrument to govern the conservation and sustainable use of marine diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction will help mitigate the adverse impact of human activity on marine life. Despite a proliferation of global and regional organizations dealing with ocean issues, there remains no single global institutional mechanism that regulates all issues relating to marine diversity outside areas of national jurisdiction. As such, any agreement cannot be limited to calling for coordination among existing mechanisms. Argentina champions an instrument with a robust global institutional mechanism and a mandate to achieve its successful implementation, he added.

DEKALEGA FINTAKPA LAMEGA (Togo), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of African States, said that to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, a legally binding international instrument must be developed as soon as possible. Noting his country's active participation in the four preparatory meetings, he said his delegation is committed to the goal of submitting a zero draft for review before the second session, to be held in 2019.

SUPARK PRONGTHURA (Thailand), associating himself with the Group of 77, highlighted several issues important to his delegation, including one regarding access and benefit sharing of marine genetic resources. Noting the difficulty of distinguishing between fish used for genetic properties and those used as a commodity, he said that all fish in the high seas should be governed by the principle of the common heritage of mankind. With respect to benefit sharing of marine genetic resources, he said that the conference should consider practices as reflected in relevant international instruments. These include the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from Their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity, among others.

The representative of Australia said it is time to be ambitious and aim for universal participation in a strong and effective treaty, which allows for the full and equitable participation of all States. The treaty should give life to the concept of collective obligation as outlined in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This first meeting must lay the groundwork for and charter a path towards a zero draft text. It will be important to remind ourselves to look up and remain focused on our overall goals, he added.

The representative of Seychelles, associating himself with the Group of 77, African Group, and the Alliance of Small Island States, said the text will provide a positive contribution to humanity. Most importantly, today marks the beginning of a new chapter. The agreement should serve the interest of the whole planet. The world's oceans are under increasing pressure, he said, adding: Through this instrument we can take a step to ensure that the ocean's resources are preserved for future generations. This first conference is a gateway to identifying critical tools. Negotiations must facilitate a smooth process towards attaining a binding text. Small island and African States like the Seychelles will benefit greatly from an exchange of ideas.

The representative of Ecuador, associating himself with the Group of 77, commended the conference President for her aid to discussions document. He added that the time has come for tangible steps to be taken, in order for negotiations to bear fruit as soon as possible.

JEEM LIPPWE (Federated States of Micronesia) said that the world wants an international legally binding instrument under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that is robust and comprehensive. He said his country has been actively involved in negotiating major ocean related instruments since the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea and looks forward to continuing the transition in the conference. He welcomed discussion on practical aspects of what elements would need to be reflected as treaty text and which would be worked on subsequently in the context of a scientific, technical or political body. The timing of the release of the zero draft will need to strike the right balance between those that want to move fast and not waste time and those that remind us that doing it right sometimes takes a bit longer.

MAX HUFANEN RAI (Papua New Guinea), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that today marks a watershed moment. The vulnerability of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is a stark reminder to the international community of the importance to end the unbridled plundering of the ocean's resources. The envisioned instrument is indeed a monumental step in the right direction. For Papua New Guinea, matters in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction are as important as activities within its marine areas of national jurisdiction. Preserving marine life is especially crucial for the livelihood and survival of the Pacific region, he added, pledging full commitment to reaching an international instrument on the matter. Emphasizing the importance of partnerships and cooperation, he underscored the need to keep the process transparent and accountable.

The representative of Norway said that there are abundant resources that can be harvested from the sea. Responsible ocean management has the potential to ensure sustainable harvesting and food production, as well as employment, growth and welfare for generations to come. It is therefore essential to adopt an integrated approach to managing areas beyond national jurisdiction. The main ongoing and potential activities in these areas are shipping, seabed mining and fishing. For Norway, it is of vital importance that all States can exercise their rights and fulfil their responsibilities in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the new agreement. Capacity building is a clear priority. For decades, Norway has cooperated with developing States on ocean management. We need to ensure broader participation in research programmes and facilitate the sharing of information on collected material, he said.

The representative of Tuvalu, associating himself with the small island developing States, Group of Least Developed Countries, and the Pacific small island developing States, said that areas beyond national jurisdiction must be effectively managed. The freedom of the high seas is not unlimited. The obligation to protect and preserve the ocean is a responsibility for all. Two concepts should be included in the international instrument, namely improving coordination and participation. The instrument will be an important step towards governance beyond national jurisdiction. Despite a long road ahead, today's gathering is a promising step in the right direction, he added.

ALICE REVELL (New Zealand) said her country's overall aim is to adopt a treaty that helps improve global management and conservation of the high seas and halt the loss of marine diversity. Such an instrument should create a clear legal regime for marine genetic resources that facilitates further research and the equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use. It should also facilitate the establishment of marine protected areas in areas beyond national jurisdiction while making it easier for all States to participate in the conservation and sustainable use of high seas biodiversity, considering the specific needs of small island developing States.

The representative of Fiji, associating himself with the Pacific small island developing States, the Group of Small Island Developing States and the Group of 77, said momentum is key. Together we can make considerable progress even on issues that currently do not hold consensus among Member States, he said. Looking forward to discussions on the scope of the implementation agreement, he said that that should take place against the backdrop of core principles of the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Fiji does not want an outcome that did not complement existing regimes, he said, adding that a new agreement must address the transfer of marine technology, with the special case of small island developing States taken into account.

The representative of Venezuela, associating herself with the Group of 77, said her country attached the utmost priority to the preservation of its rights and policy space as a non party to the Convention of the Law of the Sea. Venezuela's participation in the session cannot be interpreted as a change of its stance vis A� vis that Convention, she added.

The representative of Iceland called the opening of the intergovernmental conference a historic moment. This milestone is an important opportunity to rethink methods of work. We must avoid moving in circles, she added, stressing the need to tackle some principal issues that will affect the way to negotiations. One such issue is the approach to be taken with regards to decision-making and institutional structure. It is important to know where the process is heading in order to know which steps need to be taken. A solid start is therefore to decide whether the instrument will be based on a global, regional or hybrid approach. By answering this fundamental question, the international community will narrow the scope of negotiations and save time. Iceland is in favour of building on existing structures and bodies rather than designing a new system. Such bridge-building takes time but is essential in order to reach consensus, she emphasized.

The representative of Morocco, associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, called today's meeting a historic moment. This is only the first step, he said. The international community is being called upon to work together to reach consensus and guarantee the conservation of oceans and biodiversity. Welcoming the format of the debate, he said all regional groups will be able to focus on the essential issues. We must manage this transitional session to move towards a draft, he added.

The representative of Chile, associating himself with the Group of 77, said that his country remains firmly committed to the sustainable use of oceans and seas. This conference is an opportunity to strive towards a fruitful conclusion of several legal vacuums surrounding a number of areas under discussion, he added. Chile will make every effort to engage in discussions to achieve the goal of a binding draft.

The representative of Uruguay said the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea strikes a balance reached during a negotiation process that took place 10 years ago. Consequently, the Convention establishes a legal regime over various marine areas. Its provisions have been very innovative. These areas should be respected. The challenges facing delegations are indeed numerous in nature. The acceptance of the schedule of work for this session should be taken as a symbol of States' goodwill to forge ahead. It is important to also bear in mind funding aspects, he added.

RODRIGO ALBERTO CARAZO ZELEDA�N (Costa Rica) said the Convention on the Law of the Sea lacks norms for the regulation and protection of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Several international and regional organizations have been regulating specific human activity in marine areas outside national jurisdictions, but their focus is sectorial and not all States are party to them. Describing her country as a hotspot for marine diversity, she said the conservation and sustainable use of the world's seas and oceans and their biodiversity are key for sustainable development. She added that environmental protection cannot be achieved by protecting marine biodiversity alone. Rather, efforts in that regard must begin on dry land.

The representative of China, associating himself with the Group of 77, said today's session marked a new phase in the development of a legal instrument for biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Negotiations should proceed on the basis of consensus and they should be based on the principles and spirit of the Convention on the Law of the Sea. The rights of all countries to navigation, research and fishing must not be undermined, he said, adding that a new legal instrument should be reasonable and balanced, delivering win win results.

The representative of Brazil said today's session marked the start of a new chapter in an urgent process. For decades, marine resources have been loosely regulated and poorly addressed, with drastic consequences for the world's oceans.

The representative of Peru, associating himself with the Group of 77, underscored the value and potential of marine biodiversity to sustainable development. To that end, a legally binding instrument will contribute to a fair and equitable global economic order. Such a regime must be inclusive in nature, but not impact the legal status of countries not party to the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

KI-JUN YOU (Republic of Korea) said that an internationally legally binding instrument should assure free access to the marine genetic resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction, in accordance with the freedom of the high seas embodied in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. With regard to environmental impact assessments, he said that they should be a useful tool to minimize the adverse impact of activities that might cause substantial pollution of or significant and harmful changes to the marine environment of the areas beyond national jurisdiction, rather than imposing undue restraints on legitimate activities. He also added that States' obligations in relation to the capacity building and the transfer of marine technology should be voluntary and based on their capabilities, as outlined in the Convention and other international instruments.

The representative of Iran said there is an urgent need to establish a legally binding international agreement to deal with various challenges facing oceans. The new instrument must apply existing mechanisms and environmental impact assessments to achieve its objectives in conservation and sustainable use. A new instrument should also avoid overlap and redundancy with existing instruments. The new regime should not affect the freedom to fish in the high seas. The intergovernmental conference should utilize the guiding principles already put forth by previous instruments. With respect to the transfer of technology, the new regime should define concrete obligations. It is time to enter into text based negotiations with the understanding that everyone has a responsibility and obligation to protect and conserve the oceans, he added.

The representative of Mauritius, associating himself with the Group of 77, the African Group and the Alliance of Small Island States, said the protection and preservation of the marine environment is a matter of urgency. There has never been such a need for a comprehensive regime to address so many challenges. Traditional approaches are deemed to be insufficient to conserve marine life. While the new instrument should focus on protecting habitats and conserving species, provisions should be made to examine and study the best use of marine life. We are about to take a giant leap forward, he said.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that on some of the most crucial elements of a legally binding instrument on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, Member States remain far from consensus. Working methods must therefore stimulate delegations to seek concrete consensual solutions. It is unrealistic to expect the conference to prepare by 2020 three different texts. The Russian Federation expects a substantive approach to negotiations, he said, emphasizing that now is the time to be concrete and practical and to avoid political statements. Remarks delivered today by many delegations focusing on the need for consensus gave the Russian Federation reason for cautious optimism.

The representative of Viet Nam, associating herself with the Group of 77, said the instrument under negotiation must fully comply with the provisions of the Convention of the Law of the Sea without prejudice to States' existing rights and obligations contained therein. Access to marine resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction must be properly managed through an international mechanism, with the benefits shared equitably among States. Discussions should continue to be guided by the package agreed in 2011 and based on, among other things, the recommendations of the preparatory committee and the conference President's aid to discussions, she said.

Source: United Nations