The first session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC)on an international legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) was held from 4th – 17th September 2018 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Mrs Matilda Bartley of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Mrs Shirley Malielegaoi of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment joined Ambassador Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia and Permanent Mission staff as part of the delegation that participated in the First Intergovernmental Conference (IGC1).
After two weeks of negotiations and discussions, the participants of the IGC1 under the leadership of the President of the conference, Ms Rena Lee from Singapore, summed up the progress of work including the different options on funding; procedural options on area-based management tools (ABMTs) and marine protected areas (MPAs); practical modalities for environmental impact assessments (EIA); and approaches to move forward on access and benefit-sharing from marine genetic resources. Ms Lee has confirmed that she will prepare a document in advance of the second IGC to facilitate text-based negotiations and enable fruitful discussions towards a legally binding instrument.
Mrs Matilda Bartley delivered the statement on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) members on Friday 14th September 2018, the last day of negotiations acknowledging the positive head start of the whole process and giving credit to the work of the facilitators. Mrs Bartley indicated in the statement the commitment and priority that the region has placed on this process and to ensure the mobilization of the forums mechanisms to advance the regions positions. The statement reiterated the special case of SIDS as one of the important principles for the binding instrument and supported a strong international framework that promotes the use of ABMTs like MPAs.
In addition, Mrs Shirley Malielegaoi delivered Samoa’s national statement on the same day and reaffirmed Samoa’s commitment to the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Mrs Malielegaoi stated the importance of the oceans as a major source of sustenance and the need to ensure collaborative efforts to conserve and sustainably manage our marine biodiversity within and beyond national jurisdiction so as to benefit all mankind. The statement touched on three key issues that must be considered in the binding document. These include, i. ensure that there is a threshold requirement to gauge the need to carry out an EIA based on the precautionary approach. ii. Harmony between the existing legal frameworks. iii. Fair and equitable benefit sharing given limited capacity and resource constraints that Samoa has as well as giving special due regard to the special case of SIDS.