A New Law of the Sea: Draft of U.N. Agreement Available

On 25 June 2019, an advance, unedited 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 was released.

Environmental Protections

Aside from measures concerning area-based management tools, such as marine protected areas, the draft document also outlines obligations to conduct environmental impact assessments for planned activities in the marine environment. One of the key provisions for this is that such assessments shall take into account possible impacts in adjacent areas within national jurisdictions. It also regulates the establishment of procedures for the prevention, mitigation, and management of potential adverse effects of authorized activities.

The draft Agreement also regulates activities and access with respect to marine genetic resource, including the sharing of their scientific and economic benefits.

Marine Technologies

Among the regulatory topics are marine technologies, including the generation, development and transfer of marine technology, as well as the sharing of benefits arising from their use. The Agreement includes articles covering cooperation in and modalities for capacity-building and transfer of marine technology. The types of capacity-building and transfer of marine technology may include, and are not limited to:

  1. The sharing of relevant data, information, knowledge and research;
  2. Information dissemination and awareness-raising, including with respect to traditional knowledge;
  3. The development and strengthening of relevant infrastructure, including equipment;
  4. The development and strengthening of institutional capacity and national regulatory frameworks or mechanisms;
  5. The development and strengthening of human resources and technical expertise through exchanges, research collaboration, technical support, education and training and the transfer of technology;
  6. The development and sharing of manuals, guidelines and standards;
  7. The development of technical, scientific and research and development programs, including biotechnological research activities.

The draft Agreement establishes a scientific and technical body or network, which shall be composed of multidisciplinary experts, which shall provide scientific advice to the Conference of the Parties to the Agreement, including on advice on environmental conservation and marine technologies. It also designates that secretariat functions for the Agreement be performed by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the Office of Legal Affairs of the United Nations. Lastly, it establishes a clearing-house mechanism, consisting primarily of an open-access web-based platform. It shall also include a network of experts and practitioners in relevant fields. The web-based platform will disseminate information with respect to activities related to marine genetic resources; data and scientific information; the sharing of benefits; environmental impact assessments, and information about both opportunities and requests for capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology.

The draft Agreement is available here.

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