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High-Level Expert Meeting – Towards an Effective High Seas Treaty: Building on and Strengthening Regional Ocean Governance

On 30 March 2019 in New York, the STRONG High Seas project, together with Germany, hosted a high-level expert meeting alongside the second meeting of the International Governmental Conference working towards a high seas treaty. It brought together around 30 experts for an informal discussion regarding the legal and institutional framework of a new agreement, in particular options for the establishment of MPAs and promoting coherence of AMBTs under a new agreement.

The day began with a short welcome and introductory presentation by Guido Genrich, Head of the Delegation of Germany, and Dr. Carole Durussel, co-lead of the STRONG High Seas Project. This was followed by informal working groups and discussions.

In the first and second session participants engaged in a lively and open discussion on the possible modalities for designation and implementation of marine protected areas and other management tools in the high seas, as well as how a new treaty could provide for effective oversight and enforcement. They highlighted the range of existing initiatives underway to enhance cross-sectoral cooperation and management of high seas biodiversity, noting both the success stories and challenges. Potential options for the proposal and designation of protections were discussed, including the possible role for regional and sectoral organizations, with participants highlighting the need for solid scientific mechanisms, stakeholder participation, and clear obligations on States to cooperate and coordinate on conservation and sustainable use.

In in the last round the role and tools for monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) were considered. It was noted as a key factor in ensuring the effectiveness of a future treaty. Participants described a wide range of technological and policy tools that are available, as well as many existing organisations that have a mandate to conduct MCS activities. They also highlighted that transparency could be a guiding principle for strengthening MCS of the high seas, implemented through enhanced reporting, data sharing and capacity building.

The ideas developed in the discussions from the workshop are to be published in a policy brief.

This meeting builds on a prior expert meeting held during the first round of negotiations in September 2018 that brought together 65 participants to discuss the role and contribution of regional and sectoral ocean governance in developing and underpinning the implementation of a strong high seas agreement.

Please find the agenda here

Photos: STRONG High Seas