As we celebrate International Women’s Day, I wish to reiterate our full commitment to advancing women empowerment and leadership in all areas of work of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), especially in the fields of law of the sea and marine scientific research. I personally attach the highest importance to this commitment. As one of the International Gender Champions since 2020, I have taken several steps to ensure we deliver collective transformative results.

The first step is to ensure that the ISA Secretariat maintains gender parity in staffing, including at the most senior levels. We have made significant efforts on that front. As of today, 54 per cent of ISA staff members are women. Specific measures have been adopted to facilitate their professional engagement without compromising on their important family roles.

The second step is to improve women’s empowerment and leadership in marine scientific research. In collaboration with the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, ISA launched the Women in Deep-Sea Research (WIDSR) project precisely a year ago on this date. The WIDSR project brings to life the voluntary commitment to “Enhance the role of women in marine scientific research” (#OceanAction15467) registered by ISA at the 2017 United Nations Ocean Conference. The WIDSR project currently has more than 20 partners from ISA Member States, research institutions, contractors and world-leading scientists. The objective is to identify and address the specific challenges faced by women scientists from developing States, including those from least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island States, in marine and deep-sea research fields.

Much has been done. We are pleased that the 2021 external review of the contribution of ISA to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes the leading role ISA plays in advancing women empowerment and leadership in marine scientific research in support of SDG 5 (Gender equality), particularly through the implementation of a wide range of initiatives and dedicated capacity-development activities and programmes. As a result, 500 individuals from developing States have benefited from ISA capacity-building initiatives, including 44 per cent of women.

And more is yet to be done. One of the flagship capacity-building initiatives of ISA is the Contractors’ Training Programme. Since the launch of the WIDSR project, seven contractors have pledged to reserve half of their training opportunities for women whenever possible.

In the future, our priority is to expand our support beyond marine scientific research and ensure that the central role of women is recognized more broadly in ocean affairs and the development and implementation of the law of the sea. In December this year, the international community will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This will be an opportunity to take stock of numerous contributions of UNCLOS to peace and order in the ocean and the sustainable development of ocean spaces and resources. The Secretariat of ISA will host a Women in the Law of the Sea conference to highlight important contributions of women to the development and implementation of the law of the sea, the participation of women in the institutions created by UNCLOS and related regional and sub-regional organizations, and explore pathways to enhancing the potential for women to contribute to the future of the law of the sea.

We do hope that many of you will join us in this endeavour and support our commitments towards more gender parity and mainstreaming in global ocean governance and marine scientific research.