UNGA Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

Topic: Drafting a Treaty on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

Working Language: English

Delegation: Single Delegation (40 delegates)

Rules of Procedure: Beijing Rules of Procedure (Motion-oriented)

Introduction to the Committee and Topics:

High seas make up around two-thirds of the ocean yet fall out of national jurisdiction. Long enduring the lack of regulations, the high seas face over-exploration, a declining environment, and substantial marine biodiversity loss. The 1982 United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea contains certain provisions regarding high seas. However, the previously existing system had been repeatedly accused of its fragmentation and incompleteness. 

Aware of the disparity between the yearning reality and insufficient mechanisms, the world has taken a 20-year path to the conclusion of the new high seas treaty. In 2004, the United Nations began preparatory meetings in search of addressing the gaps in the UNCLOS framework. Step by step, in 2018 based on recommendations of the Preparatory Committee, UNGA’s resolution 72/249 came to the conclusion of convening the Intergovernmental Conference and officially initiated the discussions. 

In accordance with this resolution, the Conference is open to all Member States of the United Nations, members of the specialized agencies, and Parties to UNCLOS. From 2018 to 2023, delegates had gathered in New York and joined five meetings in total. Issues including the treaty’s effectiveness, the status of existing mechanisms, the definition of certain terms, implementation methods, varied responsibilities, etc., had been discussed. The most heated debate arose from the principles of “freedom of high seas” and “common heritage of mankind,” also the basic beliefs of the two major blocs.

The negotiation is undoubtedly a laborious and lengthy process. Yet based on the information provided by the Preparatory Committee and genuine cooperation respecting the special circumstances of each State, delegates of the Intergovernmental Conference eventually managed to conclude the new high seas treaty on 19 June 2023. “The ship has reached the shore.”