Following more than a decade of informal de- liberations, States at the United Nations (UN) are currently negotiating an “international legally binding instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in ar- eas beyond national jurisdiction” (“BBNJ Agreement”). The negotiations aim to strengthen the international legal framework for the protection and management of the global ocean by addressing gaps in the current framework and building on existing obligations under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to cooperate to protect and preserve the marine environment and conserve marine living re- sources.
This policy brief explores how integrated ecosystem-based management (EBM) in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) can be advanced at the regional level and how the BBNJ Agreement can build on experiences in other legally binding agreements to strengthen region- al cooperation, coordination and coherence. To this end, five building blocks are identified: 1. A robust global body such as a Conference of Parties capable of taking decisions and adopt- ing recommendations; 2. A suite of regional mechanisms for integrated policy development and coordination; 3. Effective science-policy advisory mechanisms; 4. Overarching environ- mental obligations and principles; and 5. Operational principles to ensure good governance.
A review of the current President’s draft text of the BBNJ Agreement highlights where the text could be strengthened to advance EBM. In particular, the BBNJ Agreement could draw inspiration from a range of existing instruments and craft specific obligations to: cooperate to promote in-situ conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats; mainstream biodiversity into all decision-making bodies and processes; and strengthen regional cooperation by supporting existing institutions and by building cross-sectoral platforms for cooperation.