ISA and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat (UNDESA) registered, at the 2017 UN Ocean Conference, a joint Voluntary Commitment entitled “The Abyssal Initiative for Blue Growth” (#OceanAction16538).
This Voluntary Commitment has led to the development of the Abyssal Initiative project which is implemented by ISA in partnership with UNDESA. The objectives of the Abyssal Initiative project are twofold. First, ensuring that the P-SIDS Sponsoring States are in a position to comply with their national and international obligations as seabed activities progress. Second, that the necessary governance structures and mechanisms required are in place in order to achieve these objectives in an effective manner.
A critical aspect of this project, which echoes the requirement contained in the ISA Strategic Plan for 2019-2023 (Strategic Direction 5.1), was to ensure that the capacity-building needs of the participating countries (Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and Tonga) were clearly identified (priority No. 1) and that such essential step be done by the beneficiary countries themselves (priority No. 2). It is in such a perspective that a regional workshop was organized by ISA and UNDESA in the Kingdom of Tonga in February 2019. Representatives of nine different Pacific island countries as well as representatives from international (ISA, UNDESA, Commonwealth Secretariat) and regional organizations (SPC, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Pacific Island Development Forum), civil society and non-governmental organizations (PIANGO, Council of Churches), the private sector (Deep Green, Tonga offshore Mining Limited) and representatives of the Legal and Technical Commission of ISA were in attendance. The workshop resulted in the identification of critical capacity-building needs that should be addressed for P-SIDS sponsoring activities in the Area to be able to fulfil their responsibilities under UNCLOS. These capacity-building needs have been regrouped in four categories:
- operationalization of the legal and policy frameworks relating to the role and responsibilities of P-SIDS Sponsoring States;
- increasing capacity of P-SIDS Sponsoring States to participate in marine scientific research programmes in the Area and access the results of the research;
- environmental management and monitoring of exploration activities undertaken in the Area by P-SIDS Sponsoring States; and
Based on this preliminary assessment, two capacity-building workshops have been organised in August 2019. The first one was held in Yaren, Nauru, from 7 to 8 August 2019 and the second one, in Tarawa, Kiribati, from 12 to 13 August 2019.