JAMAICA, Kingston (18 February 2018) - - Fifty years ago, the international community took a decision to set aside the resources of the seabed beyond national jurisdiction as the common heritage of mankind and to place its administration in the hands of an international organization to be created for that specific purpose.
Speaking at the Workshop on the draft regulations for the exploitation of mineral resources in the Area: policy, legal and institutional considerations in London recently, the International Seabed Authority's Secretary-General, Michael Lodge mentioned the alternative would have been a first-come, first-served access basis to those mineral resources without international management. He added that there would be serious risk of conflict between rival claimants and that the financial and economic benefits from these riches would end up in the pockets of the few, and with no single organization having regulatory oversight.
"Thanks to the Convention, the financial and economic benefits of this new industry have to be shared for the benefit of mankind as a whole – something that has not been achieved in any other sector."
Mr Lodge indicated that the workshop followed a wide-ranging stakeholder process in relation to the development of the draft exploitation regulations and that submissions had been reviewed by the Secretariat to identify common themes, as food for thought for the workshop.
"Our task now is to operationalize the basic rules set out in the Convention, particularly in Annex III, not to overwrite them or to alter the delicate balance between rights and interests that is contained in Part XI of the Convention. We also need to bear in mind that regulations are primarily intended to govern the relationship between the Authority and contractors and to establish the terms of contracts, not to create new legal obligations nor new legal rights on States Parties."
He also added that he would be addressing the issue of regional environmental management plans, which are called for as part of the Authority’s overall policy framework for environmental management at the Authority's 24th Session Council meeting next month and which include a series of multi-stakeholder workshops to develop regional environmental management plans, including the identification of areas of particular environmental interest, in areas currently subject to exploration activity.
"I know that both the Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations have been calling for action on this matter for several years and that is why I have made this one of the priority issues to be addressed in 2018 and beyond. This is an area where the participation of the scientific community will be particularly important, and I look forward to the active engagement and commitment of all stakeholders in this activity. "
The workshop was hosted by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Royal Society on 12-13 February in London and discussed key policy issues that need to be addressed in the development of mining regulations during the Council sessions in 2018.