The fifth workshop organized within the Abyssal Initiative for Blue Growth (#OceanAction40974) successfully concluded yesterday. The participants gained an increased understanding of the concept of the common heritage of humankind and equitable sharing of benefits arising from activities in the international seabed area (the Area).
The Government of the Kingdom of Tonga hosted the workshop from 20 to 22 June 2023 in Nuku ‘alofa. It was jointly organized by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), with the support of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation.
Over 40 participants attended the event, including representatives from the four Pacific small island developing States (SIDS) currently sponsoring activities in the Area, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and Tonga, as well as international experts, contractors, observers and regional, international and civil society organizations. The workshop discussed key aspects of the common heritage of humankind governing the regime of the Area, how the legal regime set out by the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea will be operationalized to ensure the equitable sharing of benefits derived from seabed activities and how it could benefit developing countries, particularly the Pacific SIDS.
The workshop was also the opportunity to discuss and provide an update on the priority capacity development needs of the Pacific SIDS sponsoring activities in the Area.
In her closing remarks, the Honorable Fekitamoeloa ‘Utoikamanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Tourism of Tonga, thanked ISA, UN DESA and Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation for organizing the workshop. She noted that projects like the Abyssal Initiative are crucial in bringing in the necessary knowledge and capacities for appropriate and responsible management of seabed minerals and implementing the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
“This workshop facilitates effective engagement in shaping the regulations governing exploration and exploitation activities with private sectors. It is also equally important to work together with NGOs, civil society organizations, academia, youth and all other relevant stakeholders to ensure we are all on the same page,” she said.
The Secretary-General of ISA, H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, welcomed “the productive engagement of all participants and experts who contributed to the good outcome of the event.” Reflecting on the fruitful discussions during the workshop, he noted that “ISA stands ready to assist each Member State in fulfilling its obligations and ensuring the equitable sharing of benefits derived from seabed activities.”
Mr. Lodge also acknowledged the successful completion of the Abyssal Initiative for Blue Growth. He invited participants from Pacific SIDS to identify any other capacity development needs for prioritization in the development of future activities and programmes under the ISA Capacity Development Strategy.
The Abyssal Initiative for Blue Growth was launched following the joint Voluntary Commitment (#OceanAction40974) ISA and UN DESA registered at the United Nations Ocean Conference in 2017. Its main objective is to strengthen the capacity of Pacific SIDS to develop and implement appropriate enabling legal, institutional and policy frameworks for the sound and sustainable management of marine mineral resources in the Area.
The Tonga workshop is the fifth and the last organized under phase one of the Abyssal Initiative. It is the fourth thematic regional workshop aimed at addressing the needs of the Pacific SIDS sponsoring States identified during the consultation workshop held in the Kingdom of Tonga in February 2019. Since then, two workshops have been held to address questions related to marine scientific research and the obligations and responsibilities of the Pacific SIDS sponsoring States in August 2019 in Nauru and Kiribati, respectively. Another workshop hosted by the Cook Islands was held virtually in 2021 to discuss environmental management and monitoring of activities in the Area.
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