ASEAN & BIMSTEC Workshop on deep-seabed resources and the Blue Economy

9 Sep 2019 - 11 Sep 2019

Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar



1. Rationale

In previous discussions between Ambassador Suan, Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations and the International Seabed Authority (ISA), Myanmar expressed an interest in an informational workshop to be organised at Yangon in partnership with ISA. The overall objective of such workshop would be to raise awareness among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)[1] and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)[2] on the potential opportunities arising from their increased participation in activities undertaken in the Area. The workshop would also facilitate consultation amongst other relevant actors to facilitate enabling conditions for improved capacity-building opportunities for these countries, particularly Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Land-locked Developing Countries (LLDCs).

2. Background information

Altogether, ASEAN and BIMSTEC members have a combined GDP of $4,2 trillion, and a population of nearly 2,15 billion, which represents about 29% of the global population. In 2007, ASEAN members adopted the ASEAN Charter, a constitutional document providing the grouping with legal status and revamping its institutions.  Since the start of the ASEAN free trade area in 1993, intra-ASEAN trade grew from 19.2% to 25.9% in 2016.  The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is today the third largest economy in Asia and the seventh largest in the world. As a regional group, BIMSTEC constitutes a bridge between South and South-East Asia. BIMSTEC has also established a platform for intra-regional cooperation between ASEAN members. In the last five years, BIMSTEC members have been able to sustain an average 6.5% economic growth.

But despite the fact that ASEAN and BIMSTEC members have benefited from steady economic growth over the years, significant challenges remain in terms of economy and trade, particularly in terms of disparity between the different countries. This is especially so for a group of LDCs among which some also face specific challenges due to their condition as LLDCs. In this context, both of these organisations have identified the need to support regional economic development, including through identification and implementation of specific cooperation projects in the sectors of trade, investment and industry, with technology being a critical objective. Improving regional capacity to respond to global challenges and emerging trade-related issues through enhanced cooperation is also of paramount importance. This is  reflected in the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 as operationalised by the ASEAN Economic Community 2025 Consolidated Strategic Plan[3] and in the 1997 Bangkok Declaration on the establishment of BIMSTEC. In this setting, increased participation of ASEAN[4] and BIMSTEC organisations and their respective members in the work of the Authority and in activities undertaken in the Area presents significant potential prospects for socio-economic advancement.

However, although most of the ASEAN and BIMSTEC members are Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and to the 1994 Agreement, only two countries currently sponsor activities in the Area: India[5] and Singapore[6]. Nevertheless, a number of ASEAN and BIMSTEC members have shown interest in attending ISA’s annual sessions regularly. Indeed, five of them have attended systematically over the last five years (Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Bangladesh and India). Further, as of April 2018, only two countries have benefited from the capacity-building programmes of ISA: Bangladesh and Myanmar[7].

In light of the above, an informational workshop resourced by international and regional experts could add significant value to ASEAN and BIMSTEC members, by raising awareness and increasing knowledge on the importance and opportunities associated with their increased participation in activities in the Area. The workshop would also review issues associated with UNCLOS and the work of ISA on marine mineral resources development, as well as areas of practical cooperation among the participating countries.

3. Objectives of the workshop

The main objectives would be to achieve:

  1. Optimal level of knowledge amongst ASEAN and BIMSTEC members on the mandate and responsibilities of ISA as well as the obligations of sponsoring States and contractors in undertaking activities in the Area;
  1. Understanding of the potential development opportunities arising to ASEAN and BIMSTEC members from increased participation in activities undertaken in the Area; and
  1. Enabling conditions for capacity-building opportunities for ASEAN and BIMSTEC members and for LDCs and LLDCs in particular.

4. Expected results of the workshop

The informational workshop would provide dedicated opportunity to:

(a) provide improved understanding of potential benefits for ASEAN and BIMSTEC members to participate in activities undertaken in the Area;

(b) better informed and increased participation in decision-making processes that affect the Area;

(c) advance relevant technical capacity in relation to activities undertaken in the Area;

(d) contribute to the sustainable development of ASEAN and BIMSTEC members’ Blue Economy.

5. Implementation modalities

The informational workshop would be organised by ISA and co-hosted by the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.

The workshop will bring together experts from the international legal and scientific community with national government officials. Technical experts from relevant UN agencies (DOALOS, ITLOS, UN-OHRLLS) would also be invited.



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[1] Ten countries are currently members of ASEAN: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

[2] BIMSTEC is comprised of seven member States: Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand.

[3] See Action B.9 (‘Global Megatrends and Emerging Trade-Related Issues).

[4] Notably through close collaboration with the ASEAN Maritime Forum.

[5] India has signed two exploration contracts with the Authority. One was signed in 2002 and granted a 5-year extension for exploration in the Central Indian Ocean Basin and another one was signed in 2016 and cover a part of the Indian Ocean Ridge.

[6] Singapore is sponsoring an exploration contract signed in 2015 between Ocean Mineral Singapore Pte. Ltd and the Authority for activities that are undertaken in the Clarion-Clipperton-Fracture Zone (reserved area).

[7] Two individuals from Bangladesh and Myanmar have benefited from the Contractors Training Programme and one national from Bangladesh has benefited from the Endowment Fund.