On Saturday March 4, 2023, the President of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (IGC) tasked with elaborating an Agreement to protect the biodiversity of the high seas declared, “The ship has reached the shore”. After more than 15 years of discussions and negotiations, consensus on an Agreement to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) has finally been reached.

What is in the Agreement, what could it do, and what happens next? A webinar on 15 March 2023 gathered a number of experts closely associated with the longwinded process shared their first-hand analyses and perspectives shortly after the agreement has reached. The webinar was hosted by IDDRI.

Under the agreement, governments can propose areas for protection and management. Among the key elements that need to be included is the description of the conservation and sustainable development objective of the delineated area and a draft management plan. After submission, the Secretariat makes the proposal public and the Scientific and Technical Body (STB) proceeds with an analysis. Monitoring and review processes are part and parcel of the treaty. Existing organisations and the measures they have already adopted must not be undermined.

For countries of the Global South the provisions for Capacity Building and Transfer of Marine Technology (CB TMT) were crucial for acceptance and are concrete measures for equitable and effective implementation. The CB TMT part of the agreement provides enabling mechanisms and institutional structures that give a voice to countries currrently lacking certain maritime capabilities. With the mandatory needs assessment, setting up pipelines for pools of experts, the support of the clearinghouse mechanism and funding there is a vision and mechanisms for long-term outcomes.

While not all negotiating parties were satisfied with the result it is important to keep the momentum and to push for fast ratification. A country not ratifying the treaty or opting out of certain measures is still obliged to cooperate.

This way the chances increase that the ambitious decision of the Global Biodiversity Framework can be implemented, in particular the 30x30 measure - protecting 30% of the land and the sea by 2030.

The complete webinar has been recorded online and can be accessed here