On 19 September 2023, on the margins of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Summit that is taking place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the International Seabed Authority (ISA), together with Bangladesh and Argentina hosted a high-level event to discuss how to accelerate sustainable development through deep-sea science and innovation.

The high-level event was also the opportunity to launch a global call to action for ensuring the stewardship of the international seabed area (the Area) and its resources for the benefit of all humanity through deep- sea science, technology and innovation. The global callhas been signed by the Hon. Russ Kun, President of Nauru, the Hon. Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, the Hon. Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, the Hon. Fekita ‘Utoikanau, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism of Tonga, the Hon. Ian Borg, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Malta, the Hon. Anniken Huitfeldt, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, the Hon. Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Singapore.

In his opening remarks, the Honourable Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, MP, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh noted that “the deep-sea, known as the ‘common heritage of mankind,’ serves as the sanctuary for a vast array of biodiversity and environmental treasures, covering over 50% of the world’s total seafloor. The significance of the deep-sea extends beyond SDG-14. It plays a pivotal role in maintaining our planet’s environmental equilibrium, including carbon dioxide absorption and climate regulation, thereby contributing significantly to SDG-13. Furthermore, the untapped resources within its depths have the potential to bolster global efforts to eradicate poverty and combat hunger.”

“During the ongoing SDG Summit, member States will take stock of progress towards the implementation of the SDGs. Concurrently, UN Members are actively working for endorsing ‘A Pact for the Future’ in 2024. The implementation of the Global Call to Action for Deep-Sea Research may not only support the early realization of the 2030 development agenda but also contribute to the formulation of post-2030 development blueprint”, he added.

After highlighting the importance of the mandate assigned to ISA by UNCLOS and the 1994 Agreement and consolidated with the recent adoption of the BBNJ Agreement, for ensuring the stewardship of the Area for the benefit of humankind, several delegations emphasized that at the core of such a mandate resides the duty to promote and encourage marine scientific research including through programmes and activities that should enable the effective participation of nationals of developing States in activities in the Area and the transfer of technology and knowledge.

The central role of science in the effective implementation of UNCLOS and the 1994 Agreement was also underscored as a fundamental pillar of the sustainable management of global commons and a cornerstone of a strong multilateralism to achieve inclusive, balanced and equitable sustainable ocean management for all, as evidenced by an independent report commissioned by the Secretary-General of ISA in 2021 on the contribution of ISA to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Involving world renowned experts* and building on several round of stakeholder consultations, the report concluded that ISA meaningfully contributes to 12 of the 17 SDGs and particularly through its pivotal role in strengthening the rule of law in ocean governance, preventing unregulated exploitation of deep-seabed mineral resources and ensuring the effective protection of the marine environment, advancing marine scientific knowledge and understanding in the deep-sea, developing effectively the capacities of developing States as well as strengthening national institutions, advancing women’s empowerment and leadership in deep-sea research while promoting equitable sharing of benefits.

H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, ISA Secretary-General, in his welcome remarks, stressed the contribution of UNCLOS over 40 years, to international peace, legal order and security in the ocean and sustainable development of ocean space and its resources, by offering a comprehensive and universally accepted set of rules, rights and obligations.

“Of course, a lot of work is still ahead of us. For this reason, ISA has taken the lead in shaping the global agenda for deep-sea research through the implementation of its Action Plan for Marine Scientific Research, which has been adopted in 2020 by all its 168 Members. The Plan and the actions carried out under its six strategic research priorities contribute, day after day, to the objectives of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development”, he said.

“By establishing strategic partnerships to advance marine scientific research in the Area, ISA and its partners contribute to generating better knowledge and global understanding of the deep sea and its ecosystems. The science undertaken and the data and information collected directly inform global decision- making processes and policy agendas for transformative actions”, he added.

Secretary-General Lodge further highlighted that the Call to action launched today was aimed at furthering collective action around four key priorities, namely: (i) increasing investments in science and technology, (ii) aligning relevant research agendas at various levels with the ISA MSR Action Plan as Global Deep-Sea Research Agenda, (iii) promoting deep-sea literacy, and (iv) leveraging ISA experiences in support of the implementation of the BBNJ Agreement.

Concluding the opening segment, H.E. Mr. Guillermo Carmona, Secretary of State for Malvinas, Antarctica and the South Atlantic of the Argentine Republic, stressed the role of Argentina as the Champion for the MSR Action Plan.

“Science plays a crucial role in the achievement of the SDGs and, in this regard, ISA has a leading role in promoting marine scientific research activities in the Area as well as in promoting capacity building and technology transfer for developing countries”, he added.

The Hon. Mark Brown, Prime Minister of Cook Islands delivered a keynote address through which he noted that “At the national level, the Cook Islands is blessed with an abundance of natural ocean resources, which includes deep seabed minerals. We have spent the last two decades responsibly and sustainably developing our deep seabed minerals sector, in line with the precautionary approach”.

“Through our deep-sea exploration programme, we are building a significant body of information and research as we strive to complement commercially motivated research with more marine scientific research, not least from our own government scientists. The research priorities set out in the ISA MSR Action Plan provides the Cook Islands with a useful guide to align our national deep sea research agenda”, he added.

Addressing the audience, the Hon. Mrs. Fekita ‘Utoikamanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism of the Kingdom of Tonga noted that “Inclusive, balanced, and equitable sustainable ocean management is only possible through a renewed commitment to multilateralism and by upholding UNCLOS and the 1994 Agreement. The ISA is a key institution in the architecture of UNCLOS, with a unique mandate as Steward of the Area.”

“The ISA is also a key actor for the full implementation of Agenda 2030 and for the achievement of SDGs. The ISA Marine Scientific Research Action Plan, as the global deep-sea research agenda adopted by all ISA member States in 2020, is a driving force for transformative changes and actions that Pacific Small Island States advocate for. Access to deep-sea technologies and research for many vulnerable countries, including small island developing States is a major challenge due to the significant costs associated with developing such technology”, she added.

Signing the call to action, H.E. Ms. Anniken Huitfeldt, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway underlined that “Norway is committed to a sustainable and knowledge-based ocean management, in order to achieve the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and seas and their resources”. “Norway supports the UN Decade of Ocean Science as well as the key role played by the International Seabed Authority in advancing deep-sea research in the Area and the equitable sharing of results thereof”, she added.

Discussing the role of deep-sea science in accelerating progress towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, Pr. Enrico Milano, Legal Adviser at the Permanent Mission of Italy to the UN noted that “Italy is fully committed to the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources. The recent partnership established between ISA and the Italian National Research Council (CNR) is testament of the importance Italy attaches to advancing deep-sea research, through ISA, as a driver for the full achievement of the SDGs”.

Reflecting on the importance of capacity development and institutional strengthening, H.E Dr. Simone Borg, Ambassador Cimate Action and Legal Adviser on the Law of the Sea of the Republic of Malta underlined that “Malta is proud to join the Global Call to Action. Marine scientific research is at the core of implementing the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda. A scientific understanding of the deep sea is fundamental to achieve its sustainable use”, she said.

H.E Mrs. Rena Lee, Ambassador for International Law from the Republic of Singapore joined the discussion and underscored that “Singapore supports efforts to promote marine scientific research and enhance deep sea literacy. It is incumbent upon all of us to better understand the Area, which is the common heritage of humankind as provided for in UNCLOS”.

Ms. Maria Teresa T. Almojuela, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Office for United Nations and International Organizations (DFA-UNIO) of the Philippines noted that “the Philippines supports the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and looks forward to the implementation of the ISA’s Action Plan on Marine Scientific Research to maximize its contribution to the UN Decade as well as the various initiatives and partnerships established to promote cooperation and coordinate marine scientific research efforts. We join this call for action.”

In closing, the Honourable Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen, MP, Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and the ISA Secretary-General, H.E Mr Michael W. Lodge invited all members of ISA and competent organizations to join the call.


*Prof. Saleem Ali, Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel, GEF-UNEP; Ms. Gillian Davidson, Leadership Council, RESOLVE; Mr. Bebeb Djundjunan, Director of Legal Affairs and Territories. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia; H.E Ms Maria-Teresa Infante, Judge, ITLOS; H.E. Ms. Mathu Joyini, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN; Prof. Pedro Madureira, Deputy Head, Portugues Task Group for the Extension of the Continental Shelf; Prof. Marius Orion-Jedrisek, Former Secretary of State, Chief National Geologist, Deputy Minister of Environment of Poland; H.E. Ms. Alison Stone Roofe, Permanent Representative of Jamaica to ISA; Ms Siosua ‘Utoikamanu, ISA Legal and Technical Commission and H.E. Mr. James W. Waweru, Registrar of Treaties, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kenya.


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Ms. Shanique Gregory, Senior Communications Assistant, ISA, sgregory@isa.org.jm