Abyssal Initiative for Blue Growth
This joint Voluntary Commitment #OceanAction40974 was registered at the 2017 United Nations Ocean Conference and renewed at the 2022 Conference by ISA and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) to strengthen the capacity of Pacific small island States (Pacific SIDS) to sustainably develop and benefit from their blue economy.
Voluntary Commitment 5 contributes to the following SDGs:
In 2019, this commitment was operationalized through the launch of the “Abyssal Initiative for Blue Growth” project at the regional workshop organized in Nuku’alofa, Tonga.
The project aims to support Pacific SIDS to strengthen their capacity to develop and implement appropriate enabling legal, institutional and policy frameworks for the sound and sustainable management of marine mineral resources in the Area. In particular, the Abyssal Initiative aims to enable the four Pacific SIDS that are sponsoring activities in the Area – the Cook Islands, Nauru, Kiribati and Tonga – to benefit from the blue economy through the sustainable development of deep-seabed resources.
This project has two main objectives:
- ensuring that the targeted countries are in a position to comply with their national and international obligations as deep-seabed activities progress,
- ensuring that the necessary governance structures and mechanisms required are in place in order to achieve these objectives in an effective manner.
Since then, the project has received the support of the Government of Norway through the participation of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). It has also received in-kind contributions from Singapore and the United Kingdom through participation of resource experts.
ISA, UN DESA and the Kingdom of Tonga organized a first regional workshop in February 2019 to identify the priority capacity-building needs of Pacific SIDS sponsoring States.
Nine Pacific Island countries participated, along with representatives of international organizations, the civil society, NGOs, the private sector and members of the Legal and Technical Commission of ISA.
The workshop identified four categories of capacity-building needs:
- Legal and policy frameworks relating to the obligations and responsibilities of sponsoring States
- Increasing the capacity of Pacific SIDS to participate in marine scientific research
- Environmental management and monitoring of exploration activities
- Benefit sharing
Role and responsibilities of sponsoring States
The workshop enabled participants to gain a better understanding of the critical elements relating to the role and responsibilities of sponsoring States under international law. It enabled participants to identify ways to strengthen existing mechanisms and processes in place that concur to fulfil their responsibilities.
Additionally, the workshop provided the opportunity to discuss further how can sponsoring States can leverage their relationship with contractors to increase their participation in activities in the Area (non-monetary benefits) including to support their national objectives.
Marine scientific research in the Area
The workshop enabled participants to gain a better understanding of the critical elements relating to the conduct of marine scientific research and how the results of such research can effectively benefit sponsoring States.
Additionally, the workshop provided opportunities to further discuss how sponsoring States can leverage their relationship with contractors to increase their participation in activities in the Area (non-monetary benefits) including to support their national objectives.
Deep-seabed environmental management and monitoring
The workshop discussed topics ranging from the relevant legal framework and the application of the precautionary approach to the responsibilities of sponsoring States, environmental risk and impact assessment, environmental information and data sharing, deep-sea exploration and mining technology.
The workshop concluded with a dedicated session in which Pacific SIDS sponsoring States further identified their specific capacity development needs in relation to these areas of expertise and discussed ways to address them through strengthened cooperation at both national and regional levels.
Equitable sharing of benefits from activities in the Area
The workshop enabled participants to better understand a key component of the common heritage of humankind governing the regime of the Area. It discussed how the legal regime set up by UNCLOS will be operationalized to ensure the equitable sharing of benefits derived from seabed activities and how they could benefit developing countries, in particular Pacific SIDS.
The workshop was also the opportunity to further discuss and update the critical capacity development needs of Pacific SIDS sponsoring activities in the Area.