On 3 May 2023, during an official visit to Italy, the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, met with the Minister for Civil Protection and Sea Policies, Senator Nello Musumeci, the Minister for the Environment and Energy Security, Mr. Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, and the Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr. Giorgio Silli.
The purpose of the visit was to discuss progress in the work of ISA, including the latest developments in the negotiations on the draft regulations for the exploitation of mineral resources in the international seabed area (the Area), as well as to explore areas of future cooperation between Italy and ISA.
State Party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and, therefore, a Member of ISA since 1995, Italy has been a Member of the ISA Council since 1996.
Invited to reflect on the achievements of ISA, Secretary-General Lodge underscored the fundamental role that ISA has played in the global ocean governance architecture over the past 29 years, particularly in relation to the development of the rule of law in ocean affairs and support of the sustainable management of the ocean and its resources.
Mr. Lodge stated that creating an international organization specifically to manage the deep seabed prevented uncontrolled exploitation of deep-sea mineral resources. “ISA encourages international scientific research and exploration while ensuring that all activity in the deep ocean is carried under strict conditions, following a precautionary approach,” he said.
“Thanks to the regime established by UNCLOS, the scientific knowledge generated is available to all. At the same time, ISA is committed to expanding opportunities for scientists from developing States, including women scientists, to participate fully in international scientific research,” he added.
The Secretary-General emphasized the significance of the newly adopted BBNJ Agreement in reinforcing ISA’s mandate under UNCLOS and the 1994 Agreement, particularly in its role as custodian of the Area and its resources for the benefit of humankind. The Secretary-General also commended ISA and its Members for their commitment to supporting the agreement’s effective implementation.
“I congratulate Italy on its key role in the finalization of the BBNJ Agreement and look forward to working closely with the Government of Italy and relevant national agencies to support the implementation of the Agreement, to which ISA is fully committed,” Mr. Lodge further added.
Senator Musumeci mentioned that Italy is developing its inaugural “Plan for the Sea,” which will include provisions for deep-sea mining and will place a strong emphasis on safeguarding the marine environment. “We highly appreciate the role of ISA in establishing, within the framework of UNCLOS, a regulatory architecture that will allow the exploitation of seabed mineral resources without transferring its costs to society and future generations,” he said.
Minister Silli restated Italy’s full commitment to working towards finalizing the regulations on the exploitation of mineral resources of the Area. “We are convinced that managing global commons requires a sound regulatory framework based on sustainability and ambitious levels of protection of the environment,” he said.
Minister Pichetto Fratin further underlined Italy’s commitment to continue elaborating an institutional and regulatory framework for the exploitation of mineral resources in the Area based on the most solid scientific knowledge, the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach.
Minister Pichetto Fratin also stressed that UNCLOS contains an obligation to negotiate the regulations on the exploitation and that there is no strong legal basis for a “moratorium” or a “precautionary pause.” He agreed with Secretary-General Lodge that ISA needs to ensure a high and ambitious level of environmental protection of the deep sea, in line with the objectives of sustainable development.
The Secretary-General and ISA delegation also met with the President of the Commission on Environment and Productive Activities of the Chambers of Deputies to discuss the development of national legislation for activities in the Area and with Fondazione Leonardo-Civiltà delle Macchine, where they participated in an information session with representatives of the government, the navy, the industry, the academic community, think tanks and the media.
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