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BBNJ treaty negotiations

Rachel Tiller and two of the Elizabeths – Nyman (far left) and Mendenhall (middle)

The second Intergovernmental Conferene (IGCII) started on March 25th and lasted until April 5th 2019 in New York City. I once again was fortunate enough to be able to participate in the negotiations as an observer, and along with my colleagues Elizabeth Nyman, Elizabeth Mendenhall and Elizabeth De Santo, we spent two weeks gathering data, interviewing participants, developing a database of delegate and NGO/IGO interventions, and writing on articles together. It was  exhaustive – as per usual – but also every rewarding in terms of not only data gathering but also in terms of experience with following negotiations, and learning more about the informal rules of the game – as well as on a personal level – spending time with good colleagues. We were once again happy to be part of the NGO group as we are organized through the International Studies Association. We therefore were able to sit close to the delegates and follow the proceedings closely.

One interesting part of these negotiations was that it became clear that there is little belief among the more experienced delegates that this treaty would be finished negotiated by the time of the end of the fourth IGC in about year. Some predicted many more years of negotiations, whereas others considered that one or two more sessions would be necessary. Others believed that perhaps it could be done in

Good Morning NYC and BBNJ negotiations

the next year – but it depended on what level the treaty would be at – would it be detailed or not? A loose treaty with few obligations could be done with in time, this delegate suggested, but if they wanted to ensure that some of the more contentious issues were finished deliberated – such as benefit sharing of marine genetic resources, and capacity building and transfer of marine technology, then this would take longer.

Sitting in the NGO section of the IGC2 for the BBNJ treaty

Also interesting was that the common heritage of mankind (CHM) was not talked about as much anymore as it was during the first rounds of negotiations. We suspect this is because there is strong evidence of this concept from UNCLOS being strongly and literally tied directly to minerals in the seabed – as organized by the International Seabed Authority – and that allowing for this to be applied to marine genetic resources in this implementing agreement would lead to opening the door for having to renegotiate UNCLOS as well – which is unacceptable to most delegates.

The path is moving smoothly towards a first draft of the treaty though and it is expected that this will be sent out to delegates in due time before the next round of negotiations – which is planned for the end of August 2019.

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