On 29-31 March 2022, the STRONG High Seas project, including the Secretariat of the Abidjan Convention and the Secretariat of the Permanent Commission for the South Pacific (CPPS), organised the fifth STRONG High Seas Dialogue Workshop. This workshop brought together more than 130 participants from national governments from the Southeast Atlantic and Southeast Pacific regions as well as global and regional organisations, scientific institutions, academia, the private sector, and NGOs. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop was held online.
Under the title ‘Towards Integrated Ocean Management of the High Seas: Lessons Learnt for Regional and Global Action’, workshop participants discussed various topics relevant to marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), presented the outputs and outcomes of the STRONG High Seas project, and spoke about targeted actions to foster multi-stakeholder cooperation both between governance levels and across sectors to support the successful implementation of the future agreement on marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ Agreement). The workshop provided a setting for States and stakeholders from the Southeast Atlantic and Southeast Pacific regions, and beyond, to share lessons learnt and identify key actions for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJ.
- There is a need for a BBNJ Agreement that can be effectively implemented in the future. This will require multistakeholder partnerships and cooperation to meet its objectives as well as ensuring that all nations can also benefit from its implementation.
- The “not undermining principle” is a key issue. Need to make sure there is a harmonious coexistence between the BBNJ Agreement and existing instruments. This is contingent on dialogue and exchange of information.
- There is a need to establish in the BBNJ Agreement clear mechanisms for cooperation and coordination with other relevant bodies. There is also a need to clarify the role of bodies established under the future BBNJ Agreement. If these are not clear, the BBNJ Agreement will not be effective.
- Capacity can only be beneficial if it is focused on what people and countries need. Long-term needs-based support, stakeholder dialogues and engagement, exchanges in knowledge and technologies as well as regional structures are important in this regard.
- The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) encourages States to cooperate on a regional basis to protect the marine environment and the regional level can support global conservation goals.
- Various types of regional cooperation across different topics and levels (e.g., scientific, combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU fishing)) exist in coastal waters and areas beyond national jurisdiction.
- There is sufficient scientific information and knowledge to take action to conserve and sustainably manage ABNJ. The precautionary principle should be the basis for all decision making.
- Cooperation, especially at the scientific level, has been successful (e.g., NACES, Coral Reefs of the High Seas Coalition) and has helped to take decisions based on the best scientific knowledge available. However, there is a need to find a way to make the science-policy interface more direct and accountable.
- There is still a need to bring different types of information together (e.g., across scientific disciplines) and involve all relevant stakeholder groups to ensure multiple perspectives are involved in decision making, including e.g., the designation, design, implementation, and enforcement of management measures.
- Many initiatives have promoted the importance of the ocean as a climate regulator and as a carbon sink. However, climate change is not a dominant factor in the BBNJ negotiations due to geopolitical interests.
- All ongoing policy processes (BBNJ, climate change, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), WTO fisheries subsidies) are interconnected. It is thus very important to bring people together, to ensure their engagement, and to ensure synergies and complementarity between the various agreements and fora. In particular, there needs to be constant reporting between the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and the BBNJ regime.
- We are lacking a multilateral ‘home’ for ocean issues and the ocean community. The future BBNJ Agreement could provide such a home for the ocean community.
- The BBNJ agreement is negotiated from a legal perspective, rather than an environmental perspective. This will make it difficult to ensure the effectiveness of the BBNJ Agreement on the ground. Furthermore, there needs to be a stronger lobby for the environmental case within the BBNJ negotiations, in the negotiations under the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and also in other fora.
- The STRONG High Seas project is one of the flagship projects financed by the German Government. It has had an important and valuable contribution in bringing people together and showing that cooperation, particularly at the national and regional levels, is crucial.
The workshop was the final one in a series of five Dialogue Workshops organised under the STRONG High Seas project in the Southeast Pacific and Southeast Atlantic regions with the aim to bring together stakeholders to discuss the current challenges as well as opportunities for global and regional ocean governance, as well as foster exchange of knowledge and information, and build new networks. These Dialogue Workshops apply an interactive approach to enable information exchange between participants and explore various topics relevant to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ABNJ.
Summaries for previous Dialogue Workshops in the regions can be found here under Workshop summaries.
The workshop presentations can be found here.