Areas beyond national jurisdiction or “the High Seas” are part of the global commons covering almost half of our planet, providing critical ecosystem services, from fisheries to climate regulation. However only 1.2% of the high seas have been protected, putting biodiversity and the security of our planet at risk.
As of March 2022, an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) has been agreed.
The BBNJ Informal Dialogues bring together government representatives and experts in a Track 1.5 process to make concrete progress toward the signature, ratification, entry into force and implementation of a United Nations “High Seas Treaty” – an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
A ‘Track 1.5’ process is designed in this context as an informal convening space primarily for Member State BBNJ delegates, along with select experts from UN agencies, international, regional and sectoral organizations and bodies and civil society.
The need for renewed and sustained international cooperation to ratify this historic agreement – and work toward its effective implementation – is critical.
Since 2020, the BBNJ Informal Dialogues have convened delegates online and in person. The first two informal BBNJ informal dialogues took place in Oslo (January 2020) and Monaco (March 2020) and brought together a diverse group of government representatives to discuss some of the most pressing areas of treaty’s draft text. In Oslo, the dialogue was hosted at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and focused Marine Genetic Resources. In Monaco, the dialogue was hosted by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and focused on Area-Based Management Tools, such as Marine Protected Areas and Environmental Impact Assessments. The high-level segment in Monaco was facilitated by the 68th U.S. Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, currently serving as the first United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
The extended intersessional period (March 2020 – March 2022) due to the Covid 19 pandemic, led to the creation of a virtual platform which has provided delegations from capitol levels, as well as United Nations Headquarters in New York, opportunity to participate in and keep up with the treaty process. The virtual platform has enabled wider participation of states in the BBNJ process.
2023 Evolution of the BBNJ Informal Dialogue Platform
As of February 2023, the “High Seas Treaty Dialogues” has evolved into a multi-year informal Track 1.5 platform “BBNJ Informal Dialogues” will continue to advance progress toward the finalization of an agreement and progress pre and post-entry into force of the agreement.
21 virtual dialogues and 6 in person dialogues will be organized between January 2023 and December 2026.
The continued platform will include an Advisory Committee, Ad hoc Committee and a Consultative Network.
The Advisory Committee: will comprise select representatives from government, UN Member State regional groups and leading marine/ocean conservation organizations. The committee will meet regularly to plan the substance and details of the BBNJ Informal Dialogues.
The Ad hoc Committee: will be convened to work on specific time-bound issues with the Advisory Committee, in support of the BBNJ informal Track 1.5 dialogues. Tasks and composition of the Ad hoc Committee will change over time.
Consultative Network: will include a wide group of representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector as well as scientists, economists and academics. It will meet three times a year to discuss crucial and timely issues related to the adoption, entry into force and implementation of the BBNJ agreement.
This programme is organized and managed by the International Center for Dialogue and Peacebuilding. The platform has partnered with and been supported by the governments of Monaco, Belgium, Costa Rica, the United Kingdom and France, as well as leading ocean and marine science organizations, including the High Seas Alliance and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
Ms. Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli Independent Ocean Expert, Former Secretary of the BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference, Former Director of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), former Chief of the Treaty Section, Office of Legal Affairs. Ms. Goettsche-Wanli retired from the United Nations in February 2020 after more than 32 years of service, including 6 ½ years as Director of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS), Office of Legal Affairs. Apart from three years when she served as Chief of the Treaty Section, Office of Legal Affairs, she devoted most of her career in DOALOS to the provision of assistance in the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement, as well as in supporting the General Assembly and its processes in considering oceans and the law of the sea, including BBNJ (2004 onwards). She served as the Secretary of the BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference for two years.
Mr. Eden Charles is an expert in international law and a Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, also serving as Chairman of the Advisory Board of One Ocean Hub UKRI. A former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Deputy Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations, Mr. Charles served as first Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the conclusion of an international legally binding agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Mr. Charles, was the Coordinator of the annual UNGA resolution on Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea for 4 years, and is a former facilitator of the working groups of the Meeting of States Parties to UNCLOS on the allocation of seats to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
The BBNJ Informal Dialogues platform is a programme of the International Center for Dialogue and Peacebuilding. The dialogues and its process design is managed by Gina Torry, Director of the International Center for Dialogue and Peacebuilding. Ms. Torry is an international peace and security expert specializing in support to mediation and peace processes, including technical support to ceasefire agreements and processes. For two decades, she has worked extensively with the United Nations, its Member States, and civil society on the creation and implementation of international law and policy.
The BBNJ Informal Dialogues Advisory Committee will comprise select representatives from government, UN Member State regional groups and leading marine/ocean conservation organizations. The committee will meet regularly to plan the substance and details of the BBNJ Informal Dialogues.
Ad hoc Committee and Consultative Network
The BBNJ Informal Dialogues Ad hoc Committee will work on specific time-bound issues in collaboration with the Advisory Committee. Its composition and tasks will change over time. The Consultative Network will include representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector as well as scientists, economists and academics. It will meet three times a year to discuss crucial and timely issues related to the adoption, entry into force and implementation of the BBNJ agreement. Input from the Consultative Network will be integrated into the substance and planning of the BBNJ Informal Dialogues.