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BBNJ: General Statement

Statement by Deputy Director General Kjell Kristian Egge on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, 25 March 2019.

There is no need for me to remind you of the urgency in the situation in the ocean. There are dramatic problems in the ocean. Overfishing, pollution, microplastics, climate change, acidification etc. are threathening the marine biodiveristy.

I believe we agree on the severeness of the situation. Therefore there is a momentum to do something as regards areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). The resolution establishing the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) was passed by consensus in December 2017.

Norway wants a new regime governing marine genetic resources (MGR) in ABNJ. This regime should be pragmatic, cost-effective and functional and it should promote research and innovation. The regime should also secure access to benefit sharing, particularly for developing countries. For Norway it is important to underline the link between a duty to share benefits from the utilization of MGR in ABNJ and a duty to contribute to competence building and transfer of marine technology. The goal is the same: to help developing countries be able to fulfill their obligations and utilize their rights under the Law of the Sea.

In relation to areabased management tools, including marine protected areas (MPAs), the implementing agreement (IA) should implement UNCLOS by adding value to and committing existing sectorial and regional mechanisms to increase their constributions to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in ABNJ. The IA should establish principles and procedures in order to incetivise and trigger activity in IMO, ISA, RFMOs, Regional Seas Mechanisms etc. The new procedures should secure transparency and accountability. The duty for States to cooperate across different mechanisms should be strengthened for an holistic and ecosystem based ocean management.

The basic idea behind environmental impact assessments (EIAs) is that we should know what we are doing before we do it. This is of course closely linked to the Precautionary Principle. EIAs are  also an important source of knowledge for conservationa and sustainable use of marine resources in general. Based on the UNCLOS rules on EIAs, the IA should establish principles and procedures for the conduct of EIAs, making sure not to duplicate, but rather reenforce EIAs under other instruments. From our national experience, operators should play a major role in conducting EIAs and the responsibility should eventually rest with the falg State. Provisions on Strategic Impact Assessments should be considered.

A regime for competence building and the transfer of technology is a necessary requirement for the effective implementation of the IA. I have allready mentioned the link to benefit sharing from utilisation of MGRs and the desire to assist developing countries to raise their ability to contribute to the better management of ABNJ. We would hope that this would also make it possible for developing countries to better manege their own waters and utilize their rights under UNCLOS.

My final remark is that Norway will be looking for an IA for the future. We must not draft the IA as if  the world is static because it is not. New activities will appear, traditional activities might disappear, developing States ability to utilize their rights and possibilities under UNCLOS might improve, mandates of existing management mechanisms might change and imrove, new mechanisms will be established. When drafting the IA we need to factor this in.