A Treaty, covering half of the Earth’s surface, was signed as part of the United Nations High Level Week
The High Seas Treaty, also known as the agreement on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ), was signed on September 20, 2023, in New York. This happened after a discussion that lasted 18 years. The first success came on March 4, 2023, when the text of the first international treaty for the protection of biodiversity in the high seas was adopted. The next step was taken on June 19, when UN member states formally adopted the BBNJ Treaty to safeguard life in the ocean beyond national jurisdiction.
At least 60 countries were required to sign and ratify the Treaty. Already, on the first day, 67 States and 1 Regional Economic Integration Organization have signed the BBNJ Agreement, which enables its entry into force. The EU and its Member States have played a key role in reaching the agreement, by leading a ‘High Ambition Coalition’ on BBNJ of 52 countries.
This Treaty makes it possible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and deliver Target 3 of the Global Biodiversity Framework to protect at least 30% of our seas by 2030. Its adoption will also accelerate the accomplishment of many other SDGs – as world leaders stated in ‘Our ocean, our future: call to action’ at the first UN Ocean Conference – because ‘our ocean is critical to our shared future and common humanity in all its diversity’, playing a vital role in climate regulation, food security and nutrition, peace and justice and more. The agreement provides for the common governance of about half of the Earth’s surface and 95% of the ocean’s volume, the largest habitat on our blue planet, to:
- promote equity and fairness;
- tackle environmental degradation;
- fight climate change; and
- prevent biodiversity loss in the high seas.
Тhe High Seas Treaty will allow the establishment of marine protected areas in the high seas at global level, safeguarding the ocean from human pressures, reducing climate change, protecting biodiversity and achieving the objective to protect at least 30% of the planet by 2030. Thus, the treaty addresses a blaring gap in ocean protection, as only about 1% of the high seas is currently protected.
The treaty also sets a framework for a fair and equitable sharing of monetary and non-monetary benefits from marine genetic resources, and for capacity building and transfer of marine technologies to developing countries, as well as a voluntary fund to support developing countries to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 on ‘Life Below Water’.
The adoption of this agreement is a historic achievement. It complements the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which provides the legal framework under which all human activities in the ocean take place. This Treaty is the perfect example of how, by working together around the world, we can accelerate action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.