Pacific Islands Forum Meet to Plan Ahead for Last Round of High Seas Treaty Negotiations

26 February 2020

Suva, Fiji- The regional preparatory meeting for the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) on Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction opened this morning at the headquarters of the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva, Fiji. Over the next three days, delegations of Pacific Islands Forum members will discuss common interests and develop regional positions ahead of the negotiations to commence in New York in late March, 2020.
Opening the meeting, Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum and Pacific Ocean Commissioner, highlighted the significance of the BBNJ process for the Pacific Region. “I am confident that you will work towards achieving a strong and robust treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction – the most significant international law of the sea treaty of the 21st century.”
She emphasised the importance for robust cooperation to promote our collective interests. “As negotiators, you are carrying the voice of the Blue Pacific to the international stage and this necessitates a deepened understanding and recognition of our collective positions and priorities.”
Speaking on behalf of the Forum Chair Tuvalu’s High Commissioner to Fiji, H.E Temate Melitiana, said the Forum members were ready to do their part and conclude the negotiations by 2020.
“Forum Leaders have reaffirmed time and again that we are the custodians of the largest oceanic continent in the largest ocean on the Blue Planet. We have many interests linked to the Ocean, some may seem to be contradictory” said HE Melitiana. “However, it is our responsibility to find the right balance to recognize that all these interests can be mutually supportive, such as conservation supporting sustainable use and vice versa. We cannot find this balance without proper informed discussions”.
A key priority for the region in these negotiations is the recognition that this new legal instrument must incorporate and recognize the relevant traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples and local communities, the special case of Small Island Developing States and the interests of adjacent coastal States. The ultimate objective is to improve global management of areas beyond national jurisdiction and effectively halt the loss of our valuable and precious marine biodiversity as well as ensure a healthy and resilient Ocean.
The fourth session of the IGC will meet from March 23 until April 3rd. Pacific delegations will be supported by a team of regional experts from regional organisations who have been supporting delegations along with the Pacific Ocean Alliance (POA) throughout the process, which commenced in 2015. Coordinated by the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC), legal, policy and technical experts have been providing assistance and support in the negotiations to Forum members, in preparing for and throughout the conference sessions in accordance with the Forum Leaders decision(s).
[ENDS]
For more information, contact: Riibetaa Abeta from the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Email: Riibetaa@forumsec.org

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