ISA Side Event: 4th International Conference on SIDS | Leveraging SIDS knowledge, technology, innovation and capacity to advance deep-sea research for the benefit of humanity

27 May 2024 - 27 May 2024

Antigua and Barbuda




The role of marine scientific research in support of the sustainable co-management of the ocean and its resources is central to an effective peaceful and legal order, particularly in areas beyond national jurisdictions (ABNJ). Small Island Developing States (SIDS) depend heavily on ocean-based industries and are subsequently highly exposed to the consequences of ocean degradation. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and amplified the vulnerability of SIDS and LDCs, resulting in a new array of challenges. Both groups could develop their resilience through economic diversification and the development of their ocean resources.

For the last 30 years, and since the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), this intrinsic relationship has served as a foundation for the development and implementation of the global regime of the international seabed area (the Area), notably because of the catalysing responsibilities recognized to the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in its capacity to act as Steward of 54% of the word’s ocean seabed.

Established as the unique global intergovernmental organization assigned with the mandate to regulate and organize activities in the Area, ISA is also equipped with unique competences aimed at enabling an integrated management of any activities carried out with at its core the precautionary approach. At the centre of such competences is the responsibility to promote and encourage marine scientific research in the Area as well as the duty to disseminate the result of such research when available. ISA may also carry out research in its own right.

An independent report commissioned by the ISA Secretary-General in 2021 concluded that the role of ISA in advancing scientific knowledge and understanding in the deep ocean is a key driver for the full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the context of the proclamation by the United Nations General Assembly in 2017, of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (resolution 72/73), these competences and responsibilities led ISA to design and agree on a dedicated global deep-sea research agenda which took the form of an Action Plan adopted unanimously by all its members in December 2020.

This Action Plan is structured around six strategic research priorities under which, the stewardship of the Area for the benefit of all humanity is being anchored in best available science and knowledge. Given they play a key role in the sustainable management of ocean and coastal resources, SIDS are also priority partners of ISA.

Accordingly it is the responsibility of ISA to ensure that capacity development programmes are designed and implemented to strengthen the capacities of developing States and technology less advanced States.

Progress in the implementation of this global deep-sea research agenda is being reported annually to the Assembly of ISA, as well as to the Meeting of States Parties to UNCLOS and as part of the information shared by the ISA Secretary-General to the UN General Assembly.

Having acknowledged the critical role ISA plays in supporting marine scientific research for the advancement of 12 out of 17 SDGs, an important step forward was taken in September 2023, when, in the margins of the SDG Summit held at the UN Headquarters in New York, ISA, together with Bangladesh and Argentina, launched a global Call to action for ensuring the stewardship of the Area and its resources for the benefit of all humanity through deep-sea science, technology, and innovation.

The Call, aims at furthering collective action around four key priorities, including (i) increasing investments in science and technology; (ii) aligning relevant research agendas at various levels with the MSR Action Plan as global deep-sea research agenda, (iii) promoting deep-sea literacy, and (iv) leveraging ISA’s experiences in support of the implementation of the Agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (2023 Agreement).



This side event will provide a unique opportunity to highlight how ISA, through its  unique and exclusive mandate, has significantly contributed during its 30 years of existence to the protection of the environment beyond national jurisdiction for the benefit of all humanity and to the enhancement of the rule of law in the oceans by developing sound and stringent regulatory frameworks based on the precautionary approach, best available science, transparency and equity in accessing the Area and its resources. It will also be an opportunity to explore and discuss challenges, opportunities and best practices in deep-sea research and the role of partnerships to build resilience in the ocean economy in SIDS in line with their priorities.

The panels will be able to discuss the role of science in informing the decision-making processes, the precautionary approach, inclusivity and transparency in the work of ISA.References will also be made to the successes of selected capacity development initiatives, such as the Abyssal Initiative for Blue Growth, which ISA has been implementing for the past four years with its partners to advance the interests and build the necessary capacity of ISA member States, towards the implementations of the SDG Goals highlighted above.