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Statements in International Organisations


United Nations - General Assembly: Ad-Hoc Open-ended Informal WG to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction -Agenda item 5(b) (New York)

Intervention on behalf of the European Union by Permanent Mission of Slovenia to the United Nations


Co-Chairpersons, I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.

The European Union, which brings together 27 States and nearly 500 million citizens, benefits from more than 50 years of experience in cooperation and coordination. We have developed common policies in many areas linked to the oceans, like fisheries and maritime transport. We are pursuing this trend via the promotion of an integrated approach to ocean matters, as can be reflected in the initiatives for a European maritime policy and the European marine strategy which have been recently endorsed by the European Union.

Beyond the European level, we believe that international cooperation is critical when it comes to addressing global challenges like the protection of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

It is critical, as neither a single State nor a single institution will ever be in a position to provide an efficient answer to the multiple threats affecting such biodiversity.

It is even more critical as the management of the oceans comes today under the competence of a profusion of global and regional instruments which, to a large extent, develop their agenda independently from each other. The EU and its Member States participate in and support the activities of those bodies, which are essential instruments for the management of human activities impacting the oceans. But we also acknowledge that the current fragmentation of all those institutions makes is difficult to develop an effective and integrated policy to protect marine biodiversity in ABNJ.

The first shortcoming linked to this fragmentation relates to the difficulty for the international community to establish a comprehensive diagnosis of the state of marine environment for areas beyond national jurisdiction. Scientific work is largely run through specialised committees. A lack of clear and common understanding of the situation definitively undermines the prospect of moving forward together to protect marine biodiversity in ABNJ as a whole.

The second shortcoming is that measures adopted by existing bodies focus first and foremost on mitigating environmental impacts from different activities. Regional Fisheries Management Organisations have closed some high seas areas to fishing with bottom gears to protect fragile marine ecosystems; under the IMO, areas have been designated as deserving special protection from shipping activities (i.e. under MARPOL 73/78 and the revised IMO Guidelines for the Identification and Designation of Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs); the ISBA is developing projects to minimize the environmental impacts of future deep sea mining activities. All those efforts are significant, but they are largely carried out without coordination and developed by organizations not created with the specific aim to protect the marine environment.

The result of this fragmented (and potentially overlapping) framework is the absence of a clear global strategy, which would be commensurate with the need to protect marine biodiversity in ABNJ. There is insufficient cooperation for the identification of areas in need of protection as well as for the adoption of consistent measures in the areas concerned. The very limited progress towards the establishment of multi-purpose MPAs in those areas is a clear demonstration of this weakness. While area-based management tools are recognised as one of the most efficient instruments to protect biodiversity and are being increasingly used in land and in national maritime waters, it has not proved possible until now to set up multi-purpose MPAs in ABNJ. This deprives fragile ocean areas of effective protection and jeopardizes our objective to fulfil our commitment to establish by 2012 a network of such areas.

The EU sees the absence of clear cooperation and coordination mechanisms as a serious governance problem, which is far from being only theoretical.

The situation in the North Atlantic Ocean provides a good illustration of the situation. High seas areas in the North Atlantic are subject to a set of various sectoral, regional and global rules and institutions with distinct mandates. While fisheries matters are to a large extent governed through the competent RFMO (NEAFC) and assessment of marine biodiversity is mainly provided through the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), OSPAR is specifically dedicated to develop an environmental approach to the marine environment in the region and IMO standards are being applied to regulate shipping activities. In addition, as in any other marine area beyond national jurisdiction, activities occurring in the North Atlantic Ocean are subject to a set of rules, recommendations or guidelines stemming from other global instruments like ISBA, FAO or the CBD.

With this institutional patchwork in place, current discussions between interested States to develop an integrated policy to protect marine environment in the North Atlantic, notably via the use of area-based management tools, prove very challenging.

To fill those gaps, we consider that cooperation and coordination should be improved through short term and pragmatic measures, via enhanced contacts between international and regional bodies in charge of the high seas issues. In that regard, we welcome recent progress on MoUs between e.g. NEAFC and OSPAR, and CITES and FAO. The EU also welcomes the common work undertaken between IMO and FAO on port State measures or the joint efforts performed within the UNGA, the FAO and RFMOs on the protection of vulnerable high seas marine ecosystems from fishing gears. The EU wishes to underline that bringing about concrete initiatives on cooperation and coordination requires the development of a joint agenda, based on shared interests of competent bodies. Such a cooperative agenda could e.g. focus on area based management tools.

The EU will press for better cooperation in all institutions to which it is a Party, with a focus on the assessment of ocean biodiversity, the identification of areas in need of protection and the adoption of consistent measures in the areas concerned.

We remain convinced however that ad hoc solutions and case-by-case arrangements will, not on their own permit to solve the general lack of coordination we are facing.

The protection of ocean biodiversity deserves that coordination between competent ocean bodies be duly organised. To our view, the development in the medium term of a regular coordination process is the best way to achieve that aim.

Such a procedure would foresee that competent international and regional bodies are brought together and articulate their work on the basis of a common understanding of the state of play of marine biodiversity relying on internationally agreed criteria. The relevant competent institutions would be called to act consistently in the area covered in line with modern ocean governance principles and in view of attaining an ambitious degree of preservation of marine environment there.

It should be emphasised that the responsibility for enacting measures applying to specific activities would clearly remain within the remits of the competent bodies and that such process would actually reinforce their role in the protection of ocean biodiversity.

We believe that this organised cooperation would be especially crucial for the implementation of measures applying in multipurpose MPAs. This is one of the reasons why the EU considers that such process should be a key element of a future implementation agreement under UNCLOS.


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Date: 05.05.2008