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On 29 June 2022, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in partnership with Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Cook Islands, Malta, Norway, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Tonga, the African Union, the Pacific Community and IORA hosted a high-level side event on the margins of the 2022 UN Ocean Conference held in Lisbon, Portugal. This high-level event was the opportunity to discuss concrete actions towards fostering international and regional cooperation in support of the sustainable development of ocean-based economy of LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.
Several dignitaries attended the high-level event including the Vice-President of Tanzania, Hon. Philip Isdor Mpango; USG Liu Zhenmin, Secretary-General of the 2022 UN Ocean Conference and Head of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA); the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism of Tonga, Hon. Fekita ‘Utoikamanu; the Minister of International Development of Norway, Hon. Anne Beathe Tvinnereim; Hon. Mangaliso N. Ndhlovu, Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry, Zimbabwe; Rear Admiral Md. Kurshed Alam from Bangladesh; Ms. Alex Herman, Seabed Minerals Commissioner from the Cook Islands and H.E Mrs. Vanessa Frazier, Permanent Representative of Malta to ISA and the UN.
The discussion took place in the context of the legal regime for the deep seabed as set out by UNCLOS which specifically recognizes the interests and needs of developing States, whether coastal or landlocked, and with due consideration to the specific needs of LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS.
“Fundamentally, the mission of ISA is to strengthen capacity in order to promote the effective participation of all developing States in deep-sea exploration and ensure that the benefits of marine science and technology are distributed equitably,” highlighted the Secretary-General of ISA, H.E Mr. Michael W. Lodge in opening the event.
“The need for improved capacities and access to marine scientific research programmes in the international seabed Area has also been explicitly recognized as a priority by the members of ISA when they adopted the Action Plan for Marine Scientific Research in support of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, in December 2020,” he stated.
“I am committed to redouble the efforts of the Authority to support LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS to participate effectively in all aspects of the work of the Authority and for that, to mobilize political will and resources to build and develop the capacity of the most vulnerable,” he added.
The Vice President of Tanzania, Hon. Philip Isdor Mpango, delivered the keynote address. “The economies of many LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS are built on oceans and related resources and services. Therefore, having a regulated ocean-based economy is imperative for delivering the 2030 Agenda. Under the SDG target 14.7, we have the responsibility to enhance the economic benefits to our countries, derived from sustainable use of marine resources. For this to be realized, we will have to work in partnership and invest in requisite skills, science and technology, innovative solutions, and research and development,” he said.
The Hon. Fekitamoeloa Utoikamanu, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Tourism of Tonga, emphasized the challenges faced by vulnerable countries in accessing and sustainably utilizing their oceanic resources associated with the significant costs of deep-sea technologies, marine scientific research and deep-sea mining. “Access to deep-sea technologies and research for many LDCs, LLDCs, and SIDs is a major challenge due to the significant costs associated with developing such technology. Even access to a research vessel with appropriate laboratory facilities. This becomes an impediment to the efforts of these vulnerable countries to access and sustainably utilize their oceanic resources. These challenges are even greater when we consider the new and emerging industries linked to marine scientific research and prospects for deep-sea mining especially given the high-cost and advanced technologies associated with these activities,” she said.
Hon. Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Minister of International Development of Norway, also reaffirmed Norway’s commitment to support ISA’s endeavors in relation to all the pillars of its mandate under UNCLOS. “We are ready to continue to assist in building capacity and competence in areas where Norway has specific expertise and experience,” she said.
USG Liu Zhenmin, Head of UN DESA and Secretary-General of the 2022 UN Ocean Conference commended ISA “[...] the great effort of Mr. Michael Lodge and the Secretariat of ISA for carrying forward the wishes and needs of ISA’s Member States, by implementing endorsed capacity development initiatives, contributing positively, to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda.”
“ISA’s mandate is clear, a responsible and capable global regime to organize, regulate, and control all mineral-related activities in the Area for the benefits of humanity,” he added.
Invited to reflect on how improved regional and international cooperation can enhance marine scientific research capacity to leverage fully the benefits offered by the blue economy, Rear Admiral Md. Kurshed Alam, Secretary and Head of Maritime Affairs United in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh noted: “A sustainable ocean-based economy or blue economy conceptualizes oceans and seas as “Development Spaces” where spatial planning integrates conservation, sustainable use of living resources, oil and mineral wealth extraction, bio-prospecting, sustainable energy production and marine transport. The projections suggest that by 2030, on the basis of a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean economy could more than double its contribution to global value added, reaching more than $3 trillion.”
“Countries will join in a cooperative mechanism only if they obtain positive gains, and probably also only if they feel they will get fair shares of the overall gains. Countries sharing a blue economy resource may all be willing to cooperate and share the gains from cooperation equitably, but if they believe their potential partners are not, they are unlikely to reach a cooperative solution. This failure to cooperate is not due to an unwillingness to share, but to an unwillingness to trust. International organizations can also participate in, or help create institutions to foster trust,” he added.
Ms. Alex Herman, Seabed Minerals Commissioner of the Cook Islands, then underscored the tangible benefits already brought by some concrete initiatives implemented at the regional level. “Fully realizing our blue economy aspirations requires cooperation like we have never seen before. It requires collective action and cooperation at multiple levels – national, regional and international. It requires involving all our stakeholders – governments, international and regional organizations, academic institutions, civil society, industry and our public. It requires an integrated whole of society approach. Because ocean governance is a whole of society issue. We saw the recognition of this through SDG 14 – and over the years we are seeing a shift from business as usual towards improved regional and international cooperation,” she said.
“I take this opportunity to gratefully acknowledge the Abyssal Initiative for Blue Growth supported by ISA, UN DESA, and Norway. It is through capacity building initiatives such as this that has helped the Cook Islands increase and solidify our understanding and knowledge in the field of the deep seabed marine environment and marine scientific research,” she added.
Talking on behalf of the Chair of the Group of LLDCs, Hon. Mangaliso N. Ndhlovu, Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality Industry of Zimbabwe, noted the low level of ratification of UNCLOS among these countries despite the rights to access and the right to use the ocean space including the marine resources provided to them by UNCLOS. “The international community, including financial and development institutions, private sector, multilateral organizations and agencies and donor countries, are important in providing financial and technical support to LLDCs and transit countries to address challenges as well as to support LLDCs participation in ocean science and their participation in the blue economy,” he added.
H.E Ms Vanessa Frazier, Permanent Representative of Malta to ISA and to the UN emphasized the importance of strategic partnerships. “Strategic partnerships [thus] serve to enable the transfer of the required knowledge and expertise which enable capacity-building in LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS as well as the provision of onshore and offshore infrastructural facilities. Moreover, in the case of LDCs with coastal areas and SIDS, partnerships may also help to facilitate the important tasks of ocean monitoring and surveillance which may include enforcement related to illegal activities as well as those related to human and environmental safety,” she stated.
“In the case of LLDCs, regional partnerships and agreements should facilitate access to coastal areas which these states have a right to by virtue of the provisions of international law. Thus, LLDCs would also be able to participate in, and reap the rewards of, the blue economy, facilitating their socio-economic development,” she added.
“To all developing States I say the same: this organization is yours, as well as the opportunities it opens to all. I therefore urge all LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS to continue to take full advantage of the regime and realize the benefits that are available,” concluded Secretary-General Lodge.
The high-level event was also the opportunity for attendees to hear from many other international experts such as Mr. Sandagdorj Erdenebileg, Chief, UN-OHRLLS; H.E. Mr. Walton Alfonzo Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN, Chair of AOSIS; H.E. Ms. Josefa Leonel Correia, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture, African Union Commission; Prof. Pedro Madureira, ISA Legal and Technical Commission, Portugal; and Dr. Jerome Aucan, Head, Pacific Community Center for Ocean Science, Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
All available statements delivered at the event as well as photos are available here: https://isa.org.jm/event/isa-side-event-unoc2022-fostering-international-and-regional-cooperation-support-sustainable
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Ms. Stefanie Neno, Communications Specialist, ISA, firstname.lastname@example.org
 Least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States
 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea