The 28th session of the Assembly of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) closed on 28 July 2023 after five days of meetings in Kingston, Jamaica. The meeting was presided over by H.E. Mr. Alhaji Fanday Turay, former Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations and upcoming Minister for Transportation and Aviation of Sierra Leone.
Due to different positions amongst delegations in relation to procedural aspects, and after a week-long discussion, the Assembly decided to adopt the provisional agenda for the 28th session of the Assembly without the inclusion of two supplementary agenda items proposed by delegations. One of the supplementary agenda items was proposed by Germany concerning the terms of reference for a periodic review of the international regime of the Area pursuant to article 154 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The other supplementary agenda item was a proposal by Chile, Costa Rica, France, Palau and Vanuatu for the establishment of a general policy related to the conservation of the marine environment, including consideration of the effects of the “two-year rule”. In relation to the first item, the Assembly decided to include the proposal for a periodic review in the provisional agenda for the twenty-ninth session of the Assembly in 2024. The Assembly also decided to extend the current Strategic Plan of the Authority 2019-2023 to 2025 and requested the Secretary-General to review and update the High-Level Action Plan 2019-2023 as necessary for the same period. On the second proposed supplementary agenda item, the Assembly did not agree to include the matter in the agenda as initially proposed but agreed that an item on the role of the Assembly for the conservation and protection of the marine environment could be proposed for inclusion on the provisional agenda for the twenty-ninth session pursuant to rule 10(e) of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly.
Key highlights of the Assembly included the participation of the President of the Republic of Nauru, the Honorable Mr. Russ Kun; the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, the Honorable Mr. Mark Brown; the Minister of State of Jamaica, the Honorable Mr. Alando Terrelonge; and the Secretary of State of France, Mr. Hervé Berville who all delivered national statements under the agenda item pertaining to the presentation by the Secretary-General of ISA, H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, of his Annual Report under Article 166(4) of UNCLOS. The report, comprising an official document (ISBA/28/A/2) and an illustrated publication entitled “Just and equitable management of the common heritage of humankind”, details the progress realized in the work of ISA from July 2022 to June 2023 as well as the status of UNCLOS and related legal instruments, the status of the Area, the status of the contributions to the budget of ISA, the status of contracts for exploration and the implementation of activities identified to deliver against the nine strategic directions and associated high-level actions of the ISA Strategic Plan and High-Level Action Plan for 2019-2023. Under this agenda item, delegations were also invited to discuss the report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the ISA Action Plan in support of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (ISBA/28/A/8). About 70 delegations delivered statements under this agenda item including 60 Member State delegations and 10 observer delegations. The vast majority acknowledged the central role and mandate of ISA to ensure the stewardship of the Area and its resources for the benefit of humankind and stressed the important role of ISA in the newly adopted BBNJ Agreement. Many delegations also underscored the importance for Member States to protect the integrity of UNCLOS and the 1994 Agreement and acknowledged the contribution of ISA in advancing the 2030 Agenda. Most of the delegations also highlighted the significant progress made under the Strategic Plan 2019-2023 and commended the Secretariat for the work achieved during the reporting period as well as the notable progress made including in relation to the development of the draft exploitation regulations and related standards and guidelines. The majority of the delegations further underscored the positive outcomes and the important work being done through the different programmes, projects and initiatives aimed at promoting and encouraging marine scientific research in the Area to inform decision-making processes and enable the implementation of the precautionary approach. Particularly emphasis was also placed by most of the delegations taking the floor on the significant contribution ISA is making towards strengthening and developing capacities of developing States members of ISA and commending the numerous initiatives targeted at advancing women’s empowerment and leadership in ocean affairs. Another important achievement of the Assembly was the adoption, upon the recommendation of the Council, of a supplementary budget for 2023-2024 to cover the costs associated with the establishment of the position of Interim Director General of the Enterprise.
The Assembly also elected Ms. Xing Chaohong from China to fill a vacancy on the Finance Committee.
The Assembly approved eight requests for observer status with ISA submitted by: the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation; Environmental Justice Foundation; Te Ipukarea Society; Norwegian Forum for Marine Minerals; Arayara International Institute; Minderoo Foundation; Sustainable Ocean Alliance; and the International Council on Mining and Metals.
ISA Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge presented the Fourth Edition of the Secretary-General’s Award for Excellence in Deep-Sea Research to Ms. Rima Browne from the Cook Islands. Ms. Browne is a geographer at the Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Authority. She was recommended for the Award by the advisory committee appointed by the ISA Secretary-General for her contribution to mapping the seabed of the Cook Islands.
While accepting her award, Ms. Browne thanked the Secretary-General and the advisory committee for the opportunity. “The final map has come together quite well. We are pleased with what we have achieved via its application. I am so thankful to receive this prestigious Award, as it is a win not only for my country but for the Pacific region as well,” she said.
The Assembly also approved two memoranda of understanding presented by the African Group. One, between ISA and the International Relations Institute of Cameroon concerning the establishment of a curricula on the law of the sea and Part XI of UNCLOS for African diplomats and another one between ISA and the National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries of Egypt concerning the establishment of a joint regional training and research center in Alexandria.
Finally, the Assembly endorsed a decision to accept the amendments to the statute of the International Civil Service Commission adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations at its 77th session.
Closing the 28th session of the Assembly, the President, H.E. Alhaji Fanday Turay, noted: “I am indeed pleased with the overall outcome of the 28th session of the Assembly. Delegations proved that the collegial spirit of multilateralism is still very much alive, and the Assembly was again able to undertake its work in an efficient and progressive manner. I am grateful also that States remain committed to contributing to the Common Heritage of Humankind”.
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