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Input to new Treaty under UNCLOS

Rachel Tiller in front of the UN building.
Dr. Rachel Tiller from SINTEF Ocean recently attended a closed session with UNAI at the UN building in New York City. She is one of three international experts invited to attend a meeting to the General Assembly decision to develop an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

The aim of this new international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS is to fill jurisdictional gaps, with an emphasis on an observed increased need to manage marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction, that is, areas outside the 200 mile EEZ of a given coastal nation.

- This is a unique opportunity to follow the birth of a treaty. This works comes at a time when we are at the brink of new technological developments that will enable more nations to travel further out to sea into international waters and discover new commercial opportunities and marine resources, says Dr. Tiller

One of the biggest challenges in areas beyond national jurisdiction is access to these resources, and how to strike a balance between sustainable use and total protection of our common heritage. The new legally binding instrument covering this area will ensure that not only the states that have reached the highest technological developments at sea can exploit previously unavailable resources and benefit from these. In her talk, Tiller emphasized how technological solutions for harvesting marine resources can contribute to also manage and enforce the law of the sea.

Another challenge is precisely this enforcement of potential laws that are set relative to for instance quotas for marine resources in these areas. Questions that must be answered are for instance; who will patrol and enforce these areas? How will ships be monitored? How will enforcement distinguish between enforcement of private and state actors on the high seas? In what court of law will potential violations of the law be tried? How will benefit sharing be tackled within this framework? And how will we prepare for changes in fish distribution and migration patterns as a consequence of climate change?

The work is comprehensive and the Preparatory Committee has worked on recommendations on the elements of a draft text for more than ten years. It is expected that by 2018,. The General Assembly will make a decision on whether to hold an intergovernmental conference on this instrument with the end goal of developing a new Treaty. Both coastal nations and land locked nations are active participatns in this process, and Norway is considered one of the five big nations.

Contact person

  • Dr. Rachel Tiller from SINTEF Ocean holds a PhD in Political Science from NTNU. She and Assistant Professor Elizabeth Nyman from Texas A&M at Galveston and Professor Aslaug Asgeirsdottir from Bates College were invited to participate as academic experts within the field of international marine resource management;
  • The session was organized by the International Studies Association in collaboration with the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI);
  • The official title of the closed session was DPI/OD: UNAI-ISA forum on marine biological diversity.

- The session was held on February 28th 2017 at the UN building in New York City from 10-13.