Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and LOS Sends Outcome to UNCSD

UN eadquarters on a sunny day24 June 2011: The UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process (ICP) on Oceans and the Law of the Sea has completed its meeting on the theme “contributing to the assessment, in the context of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), of progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges.”

During its 12th meeting, which convened from 20-24 June 2011, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, delegates also discussed the potential for expanding the mandates of Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs). On overview of progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of relevant oceans and seas outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, discussions covered: transfer of marine technology; the effectiveness of and upcoming review of UN-Oceans; governance needs of coastal states; bilateral options for addressing issues affecting areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ); incorporating ocean acidification into integrated management; and the impacts of bottom trawling, ballast water and marine noise.

On new and emerging challenges, discussions covered: the outcomes of the fourth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to Study Issues Relating to the Conservation and Sustainable use of Biodiversity in ABNJ; whether there is a need for an implementing agreement to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS); changes in fish migratory patterns in the tropics and respective consequences for tropical developing countries; the importance of marine spatial planning for climate change adaptation; the need for inclusion of ocean-related discussions in the Durban Climate Change Conference in December 2011; linkages between harmful subsidies and overfishing; and the role of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in contributing to the environmental pillar for Rio+20.

On the road to Rio+20 and beyond, participants discussed: the importance of targets; the need to protect the high seas; the interface between ocean and climate negotiations; the need for political engagement from a higher level at UN-Oceans to promote integrated governance; and the importance of participation by the oceans community in UNFCCC discussions.

The Co-Chairs' Summary of Discussions will be sent to the UN General Assembly for consideration at its 66th session under the agenda item, “Oceans and the law of the sea.” The Chairs will request that the President of the Assembly also submit the report to the UNCSD Bureau for incorporation in the compilation document, on which the “zero draft” of the UNCSD outcome will be based.

No consensus could be reached on a second document, the Co-Chairs' Proposed Elements (for forwarding to the UNCSD process), except on the importance of ensuring the elements relating to small island developing states (SIDS) be reflected in the Co-Chairs' Summary Report, at the request of Fiji. The SIDS elements include: reaffirm the importance of sustainable fisheries for the economic, environmental and social well-being of SIDS; and urge States and international organizations to increase efforts to address the particular vulnerability of SIDS to the effects of climate change on the oceans. [IISD RS Coverage of ICP 12]