High-Level Expert Meeting – Building a Strong High Seas Treaty: What is the Role for Regional Ocean Governance?

On 8 September 2018 in New York, the STRONG High Seas project, together with Germany, the Abidjan Convention Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Permanent Commission for the South Pacific, hosted a high-level expert meeting alongside the first meeting working towards a new high seas treaty.  Sixty-five participants gathered in an informal setting to discuss the role and contribution of regional and sectoral ocean governance in developing and underpinning the implementation of a strong high seas agreement.

The first of three substantive sessions of the meeting was moderated by Julien Rochette (IDDRI) and focused on regional efforts to strengthen management of ABNJ, discussing a wide range of experiences – Mariana Blanco (MarViva Foundation) spoke of the Costa Rica Thermal Dome from, Richard Cronin (OSPAR Commission) covered the OSPAR area, whereas Abou Bamba (Abidjan Convention Secretariat) highlighted the Abidjan Convention States and Ruth Fletcher (UNEP-WCMC) gave a review of various area-based planning tools.

In the second session, participants turned towards how regional and sectoral governance mechanisms could support an effective international instrument. Contributions explored both the challenges for effective governance within the fragmented current framework, as well as provided some thoughts on how to overcome these and integrate existing mechanisms into a new agreement. The second session was moderated Sebastian Unger (IASS), while Kristina Gjerde (IUCN) and Glen Wright (IDDRI)  provided some food for thought on integrating existing mechanisms into a new agreement and which was followed by remarks from John Brincat (European Commission) and Edvard Hviding (Permanent Mission of Palau to the UN).

In the final session of the day moderated by Ben Boteler, a varied panel of speakers provided insight into ongoing processes that could strengthen governance of areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), such as from Jihyun Lee (CBD Secretariat) speaking of the activities of the CBD Secretariat, Finnian Cheshire (New Zealand Permanent Mission to the UN) explained current efforts to reduce or eliminate harmful subsidies, Julie Rigaud (IOC-UNESCO) described the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and Renée Sauvé (Fisheries and Oceans, Canada) spoke of the the upcoming Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi. governance of ABNJ.

The STRONG High Seas project (‘Strengthening Regional Ocean Governance for the High Seas’) is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI). The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.

Additional reading material and presentations from the meeting can be found online here.

Figure from Gjerde, K., Boteler, B., Durussel, C., Rochette, J., Unger, S., Wright‚ G. (2018): Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction: Options for Underpinning a Strong Global BBNJ Agreement through Regional and Sectoral Governance, STRONG High Seas Policy Brief.