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U.N Adopts Historic High Seas Treaty to Safeguard Marine Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction

On June 19, 2023, the U.N adopted the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty, popularly known as the High Seas Treaty. It is the world’s first agreement to regulate the high seas and preserve marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. According to the U.N press release, this agreement enhances the legal framework supporting the protection and the sustainable use of marine biodiversity. Furthermore, this treaty is said to “promote the sustainable development of the ocean and its resources, and to address the manifold pressures it faces.”

The Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty aims to “ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, for the present and in the long term.” This can be achieved through “effective implementation of the relevant provisions of the Convention and further international cooperation and coordination.” The agreement is particularly recognized for its “30 by 30” initiative, which sets a goal to designate 30% of the seas as protected areas by 2030.

The treaty encompasses four specific objectives. First, it establishes a fair and just system for distributing benefits derived from activities involving marine genetic resources. Second, it allows for the implementation of management tools, such as marine protected areas, that aim to conserve and sustainably manage crucial habitats and species. Third, it guarantees that the environmental impact of activities in international areas is thoroughly evaluated and taken into account in decision-making. Finally, it promotes cooperation in capacity-building and technology transfer among all parties involved, supporting the achievement of the objectives of the treaty.

The adoption of the High Seas Treaty followed an agreement reached in March 2023 and received unanimous approval from all 193 delegates. As reported, the negotiations had been going on for more than ten years.

The U.N press release also states that the Treaty will be open for signing at the United Nations Headquarters in New York for a two-year period, starting from September 20, 2023. To come into effect, the treaty must be ratified by at least 60 countries.

Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres applauded the delegates’ approval of the treaty, emphasizing that “the ocean is the lifeblood of our planet and today you have pumped new life and hope to give the ocean a fighting chance.” He further added that the delegates were “demonstrating that global threats deserve global action, and that countries can come together, in unity, for the common good.” Guterres ended his speech by urging the States to “sign and ratify the agreement as soon as possible.”

In conclusion, the implementation of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Treaty is still not confirmed, requiring ratification by 60 countries over the next two years. Nevertheless, the adoption of the treaty marks a significant milestone in global efforts to protect marine biodiversity.

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