This paper provides an initial analysis of the draft text (released 27 November 2019) of negotiations of an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) for the conservation and sustainable use of the biological diversity of marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ): it highlights key areas of progress and contention, as well as identifying some possible options for strengthening the text.

Key Messages

  • It remains unclear whether the current draft treaty is sufficiently ambitious and developed to deliver an effective governance framework. Many of the key provisions are still in brackets and the level of ambition will depend on the choices made in the final stages of the negotiations.
  • The current draft gives the COP the mandate to establish arrangements that will be of crucial importance for the functioning of the future regime, including the establishment of bodies and funding mechanisms and the adoption of procedures to promote compliance. Such procedures, commonly provided for in international agreements, can slow down the operationalization of the treaty, so it is crucial that any voting rules established will allow States Parties to go beyond the consensus.
  • Enhancing international cooperation and encouraging the adoption of complementary measures within existing frameworks is crucial to the success of the treaty. This is reflected in the current draft treaty, though some provisions could be strengthened.
  • Time will tell if the 2 weeks of negotiations in March will be sufficient to finalize the treaty. The priority should be on drafting an ambitious and robust agreement, even if additional sessions are needed.
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