New UN BBNJ Treaty must be robust, ambitious- SG Puna


By Mereseini Marau

The Blue Pacific has one message at the fourth session of the intergovernmental conference for the new legal instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdictions (BBNJ)- preserve the ocean for the future generations.

After two years’ postponement, negotiators are gathering in New York to resume negotiations on BBNJ.

Pacific Ocean Commissioner Henry Puna at the recent Indo- Pacific Ministerial meeting in Paris said the new instrument should be robust and ambitious.

As agreed by Pacific Leaders, the BBNJ instrument must contribute to the improvement of international ocean governance, meaning breaking away from the status quo of fragmented governance, Puna highlighted.

Among the priorities advanced by Pacific negotiators is the recognition of basing the framework on the best available scientific information and traditional knowledge, recognise the special circumstances of Small Island Development States, as well as the special interests and roles of coastal states. A robust conservation instrument also requires adequate and meaningful provisions of means of implementation, including capacity and technology.

The instrument must also be future proof: taking into account cumulative impacts of activities, as well as of climate change, has also been identified as important by negotiators.

After a brief opening by IGC President Ambassador Reena Lee of Singapore, delegates from the UN family got right into the nitty-gritty of negotiations of the draft text. Over the course of two weeks, delegates would work at finding agreement to conclude the negotiations on this critical treaty.

While abiding by a strict protocol, including limited in-person attendance in the room, wearing masks, limited negotiations times, and observing physical distance, Pacific negotiators were, like their international colleagues, eager to regroup.

The pandemic has limited participation from capital-based Pacific representatives. Pacific negotiators, mostly New York based diplomats, are supported by a team of experts from the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIFS), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP), and the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner.

This round of negotiations will end on 18 March. Pacific Ocean Commissioner Puna wishes them well in their continued efforts to represent the interests of our Blue Pacific region in these critical negotiations.