6 December 2011: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) has delayed action on its annual omnibus text on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. The draft under consideration refers to the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) as a unique opportunity to consider measures to implement internationally-agreed goals and commitments on the conservation and sustainable use of the marine environment and its resources.
The draft resolution (A/66/L.21), which was considered but not acted upon in the UNGA’s plenary meeting on 6 December 2011, would have the Assembly initiate a process to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity, which would focus on sharing ocean benefits, environmental impact assessments (EIAs), capacity building and the transfer of marine technology, inter alia, and would identify gaps and ways forward.
Numerous speakers underlined that the upcoming UNCSD should prioritize the challenges facing the “blue” and “green” economies. They stressed that Rio+20 would provide an opportunity to highlight the priorities of ocean conservation and management, in particular in the implementation of measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems and agreements to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Brazil, which introduced the draft, said that it would allow the UNGA to initiate, on the basis of recommendations of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Biodiversity, a process to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity, beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), together and as a whole, marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits, measures such as area‑based management tools, including marine protected areas, and environmental impact assessments, capacity‑building and the transfer of marine technology.
Representatives of small island developing States (SIDS) expressed concern about such issues as over-fishing, ocean acidification, pollution and climate change, warning that these challenges threaten their livelihoods and even their survival.
During the discussion, Venezuela said it was not acceptable that the management of sea resources should be decided upon in an exclusive legal framework, and appealed for a key role for other international instruments in dealing with marine biodiversity beyond territorial waters. China called for a gradual progression of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group, so it could take developing countries’ needs into account.