Today, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) hosted a side event on “Ensuring the sustainable management and stewardship of the deep seabed and its resources for the benefit of all humanity.” The event, organized in the margins of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development 2021, was co-sponsored by the Cook Islands, Ghana, Jamaica, Korea, Malta, Norway, Singapore, South Africa and Ifremer (France).

Over 140 participants from 64 different countries attended the event, including senior government representatives as well as representatives from international and regional organizations, non-governmental organizations and civil society, the private sector, the scientific community and academia.

As he welcomed the participants, ISA Secretary-General H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge reminded the audience that the mandate of ISA under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the subsequent 1994 Agreement involves five core responsibilities. These include: ensuring that activities in the international seabed area (the Area) are carried out for the benefit of all humanity; ensuring the effective protection of the deep-sea marine environment; promoting deep-sea marine scientific research; ensuring the effective participation of developing States in activities carried out in the Area; and ensuring that the benefits derived from activities in the Area are shared equitably for the benefit of humanity as a whole.

Noting that the implementation of these responsibilities already contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out in the 2030 Agenda, Secretary-General Lodge informed the participants about an independent report commissioned to assess the scope of that contribution, as well as opportunities to further contribute. “One of the key takeaways is that ISA’s work already contributes to advancing 11 out of the 17 SDGs,” he said. “Much more can be done to advance the goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda and I personally consider that to be a fundamental priority of ISA,” he added.

Invited to deliver an opening address, the Hon. Mark Brown, Prime Minister of Cook Islands stressed the importance of the sustainable and responsible development of seabed minerals as a means to make a significant contribution over the coming years to social, environmental and economic wellbeing of the Cook Islands. “All of us, collectively, through ISA have the unique opportunity to put in place the necessary regulatory and governance frameworks that is needed to ensure that the sustainable development of seabed mineral resources benefits all of humanity before any seabed mining begins. For me and my government this is a priority and I look forward to our collective contribution to that,” he said.

Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, emphasized in his opening remarks that, “The General Assembly of the United Nations has consistently recognized the preeminent contribution of UNCLOS to the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all people of the world and the sustainable development of the ocean and seas”. He also added that “Significant steps forward have been made by ISA in the further development of the Law of the Sea, the achievement of the goals of UNCLOS and the sustainable development of the ocean and its resources.”

Commenting on the importance of the rule of law in ocean governance, H.E. Mr. Burhan Gafoor, Permanent Representative of Singapore to the UN, underscored the role of ISA in the overall ocean governance architecture. “ISA has been instrumental in promoting the Rule of Law and sustainable development in the Area, whose resources are the common heritage of humankind. As part of its mandate, it has also implemented various programmes and initiatives that have helped to build the capacity of developing countries to actively and effectively participate in activities in the Area,” he stated.

H.E. Mrs. Vanessa Frazier, Permanent Representative of Malta to ISA and to the UN, recalled Malta’s major contribution to the formation of the Law of the Sea, including through the instrumental role played by Ambassador Arvid Pardo, then Malta’s first Permanent Representative to the UN. “Above all, the common heritage of humankind remains a source of inspiration for us. We believe it is important for the rule of law to be underpinned by ethical principles which allow us to aim for global justice, towards a more peaceful and sustainable future for all,” she said.

Participants also addressed the critical importance of ongoing deep-sea research and the role of science in ensuring the sustainable management of the Area and its resources. In that regard, Mr. François Houillier, President of the Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer (Ifremer) recalled that “One of Ifremer’s raison d’être is to preserve the ocean as a common good and to make it a source of well-being for human societies. We are convinced that science has a key role to play in defining whether and how industry can responsibly harvest deep-sea minerals that are considered as critical for the energy transition.”

Reflecting on the obligation of ISA to promote the effective participation of developing States in activities in the Area and on possible avenues to share the benefits from such activities equitably, Mr. Jens Frølich Holte, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, recalled the importance of international cooperation for the creation of a sustainable ocean economy. “Through our development assistance, we encourage cooperation and partnership between States that are in different stages of economic development and thus have unequal opportunities to thrive in this field. Together, we need to build the necessary capacity and infrastructure, share marine scientific data, and engage in collaborative research and training programmes to ensure that benefits from the deep seabed are indeed shared equitably in a sustainable manner,” he said. “Norway has been committed to ISA ever since its inception. We are proud to have been part of an effort that has already achieved astonishing results,” he added.

H.E. Mr. Harold Adlai Agyeman, Permanent Representative of Ghana to the UN, also noted that, “The sustainable management and stewardship of the deep seabed and its resources offers an additional pathway of support for the implementation of the SDGs through equitable mechanisms for the shared benefits of our common heritage.”

As presented during the event, preliminary findings of the independent report commissioned by the ISA Secretary-General emphasize that ISA’s core mission is aligned with all SDGs. The most central of these are SDG 14 (Life below water) and SDG 10 (Reduced inequalities). Additionally, ISA has also prioritized nine other SDGs: 1 (No poverty), 4 (Quality education), 5 (Gender equality), 8 (Decent work and economic growth), 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), 12 (Responsible consumption and production, 13 (Climate action), 16 (Peace, justice and strong institutions) and 17 (Partnerships for the goals).

The report on ISA’s contribution to the SDGs will be issued later this year and will provide an in-depth review of ISA’s work based on analysis of documentary evidence, along with interviews with experts from a broad range of backgrounds.


More information on the event.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Ms. Stefanie Neno, Communications Specialist, ISA,