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 2023, 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.
Dialogue Lead Facilitator
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.
Janine Felson served as a senior level diplomat of the Government of Belize for over two decades. She held office as legal counsel in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador, Deputy Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Belize to the United Nations. Ms. Felson has been a principal advocate for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in complex international negotiations on global development policy, climate change, climate finance, law of the sea and oceans governance. She held leadership roles throughout her tenure at the United Nations including legal advisor to the President of the General Assembly (2013-2014), CARICOM lead negotiator for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015), AOSIS lead finance negotiator (2014-2020) and Deputy Chair and Chief Strategist for Belize in its role as AOSIS Chair (2019-2020). Ms. Felson has served on the Board of the Green Climate Fund, on the United Nations Secretary General’s High-level Expert Group on the Net Zero Emissions Commitment of Non-State Entities (2022) and recently concluded facilitation of Part II of the new treaty on Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (2023). Ms. Felson is presently an Enterprise Fellow of Melbourne Climate Futures, University of Melbourne Law School, where she is supporting the development of a collaborative climate research hub for the Indo-Pacific Region.
Alain Tellier, lawyer by training, is a retired career diplomat with over 30 years of experience with the Department of Foreign Affairs of Canada (1991/2022). Over the course of that period, Mr. Tellier held postings in New York (1992/94), Geneva (1999/2003), Hong Kong (2007/2010) and Brussels (2012/2016) – the first two as member of Canada’s Mission to the United Nations. At headquarters in Ottawa, he has spent most of his time addressing multilateral files and issues, primarily working out of the Department’s Legal Bureau. The positions held in the Bureau include that of Director of Treaty Law (2010-2012), and Executive Director for Law of the Sea and Environmental Law (2016-2021). In that latter capacity, Mr. Tellier spent five years as Canada’s head of delegation to BBNJ meetings, and was elected as a WEOG’s Bureau member for the INC.
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.