Strengthening Ocean Governance

Workshop participants in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; Photo: IASS

Workshop participants in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire; Photo: IASS

Two workshops organised in Cali, Colombia (13-14 June 2018) and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (27-28 June 2018) highlighted the importance of high seas biodiversity both globally and to the regions of the Southeast Pacific and Southeast Atlantic. The workshops brought together about 40 stakeholders in each region to discuss key issues, challenges and opportunities for improving ocean governance of the high seas.

There is a pressing need to conserve and sustainably use high seas marine biodiversity. Marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), the high seas and the international seabed Area, comprise nearly two-thirds of the global ocean. This vast global commons contains marine resources and biodiversity of immense ecological, socioeconomic, and cultural importance. The ocean nourishes life in the sea and on land and acts as a heat sink, carbon storehouse and habitat provider that shelters not only commercial fisheries but also species of significant scientific, cultural and spiritual value. Yet, as with waters closer to shore, the health, productivity and resilience of the marine environment beyond national boundaries is under mounting pressure from human development and global environmental change. Not only coastal states but all states suffer from declines in marine environmental health in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Turbulent waves; Photo: Clem Onojeghuo/ unsplash

The project STRONG High Seas, funded by the German Environment Ministry (BMU) under its International Climate Initiative (IKI) and implemented by the Institute for Advance Sustainability Studies (IASS) in cooperation with its partners United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Partnership for Regional Ocean Governance (PROG) and Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI), facilitates the development of comprehensive, cross-sectoral approaches to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction in the Southeast Atlantic and Southeast Pacific and organised the workshops in Cali and Abidjan. Within the two events, scientific knowledge was highlighted as a crucial building block for future governance and management of marine biodiversity. While many data gaps exist, information and data, especially socioeconomic information and information regarding pressures in areas beyond national jurisdiction, need to be assessed more systematically. Such uncertainties make it challenging to develop management approaches and policy responses to high seas pressures.

Participants identified in particular the lack of an information-sharing mechanism and the lack of a centralised information platform in the different region as a key ingredient for better regional cooperation. Improved knowledge exchange, collaboration and cooperation were identified as a key opportunity to advance ocean governance in view of the United Nations (UN) negotiations on an international legally-binding agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). Along these lines, capacity building and technology transfer was identified as the most important BBNJ topic for the region, being the basis for the other BBNJ elements (i.e. area-based management tools, environmental impact assessments, and marine genetic resources) to be negotiated at the UN.

The workshops also identified the need to advance regional efforts on high seas governance, such as developing a shared regional vision for areas beyond national jurisdiction to gather and agree on key principles and relevant issues. Other opportunities highlighted include the establishment of a working or coordination group to help strengthen collaboration and facilitate the development of such a vision as well as tackle key technical and governance questions relevant for the regions.

The workshops were the first in a series of five workshops to be organised by the STRONG High Seas project in each of the two regions. Future workshops will build on these results and continue to advance regional discussions on topics such as the socio-economic benefits of marine resources, mechanisms to support collaboration amongst regional stakeholders, and cross-sectoral approaches for managing activities.

Workshop participants in Cali, Colombia; Photo: IASS