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CARICOM Stakeholder Priorities For How International Waters Should Be Managed: Input From Consultations On The Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction(ABNJ) (the BBNJ Agreement).

About the Agreement

The Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI) has been providing support to
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) negotiators with stakeholder engagement and
outreach in the development of the new 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 in Areas Beyond National
Jurisdiction(ABNJ) (the BBNJ Agreement). The main areas being addressed in this
Agreement are:

  • Marine Genetic Resources (MGRs)
  • Area-Based Management Tools (ABMTs) including marine protected areas (MPAs)
  • Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs)
  • Capacity Building and Transfer of Marine Technology (CBTT)

Why is this Agreement Important?

Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) are what is referred to as a “global
commons”. Since they extend beyond any nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which
extends 200 nautical miles from shore, ABNJ belong to no one – and everyone! Thus a
major concern amongst developing countries is how can they get a share of the
benefits (including financial benefits) from ABNJ when they lack the technological
capacity to do so as well as how can they ensure the protection of ocean resources. There
is a fear that those who are equipped can exploit and destroy deep-sea environments
for profit thus leaving developing countries to deal with the aftermath and lost
opportunities. The BBNJ Agreement seeks to prevent this from happening by addressing
tools and capacity needed for management of ABNJ as well as equitable access and

Although very little is known about the deep sea, it provides a lot of benefits since these
areas are ecologically linked to territorial waters and they produce a substantial part of
oxygen reserves as well as genetic material that can be used for drugs and antibiotics.
Furthermore, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as the Caribbean are
especially dependent on ocean ecosystems for fisheries and tourism. Because of their
vastness, ABNJ is often seen as inexhaustible and impervious to human activity but in
reality, destructive fishing practices, plastic pollution, global warming and ocean
acidification are causing serious negative impacts. The BBNJ Agreement also intends to
address some of these threats.

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What are the Priorities for the Caribbean

Following consultation with various CARICOM stakeholders (government agencies, civil
society organisations, private sector, academia, regional/international agencies, private
individuals and resource users) across multiple platforms (national workshops[1]; key
informant interviews and an online survey), CANARI has synthesised ten priorities for the
Caribbean (CARICOM region) recommended by stakeholders regarding the
conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in ABNJ.

10 Priorities:

1. Recognition of the importance of biodiversity in the high seas

Stakeholders have generally weak familiarity or engagement with the BBNJ Agreement, including among key government agencies with regulatory responsibilities relevant to ocean use and management. However, biodiversity in ABNJ is key for Caribbean economies and socio-cultural identity. Thus it is a high priority for CARICOM stakeholders across all sectors to be informed about how their rights, responsibilities and interests are linked to biodiversity in ABNJ, and how the BBNJ Agreement will affect this. This is needed for input into the negotiations and implementation of the BBNJ Agreement and to effectively inform future regional, national and local policies and action.

2. Need for funding/financing

A lack of financial resources is the biggest limitation to marine scientific research and
exploration in the Caribbean. Development of a High Seas Biodiversity Fund was
recommended to provide funding to support the implementation of the BBNJ Agreement. This should include enabling the sharing of benefits and specifically assisting developing states to conduct monitoring in ABNJ. Sustainable financing is essential for the implementation of a global agreement, however, it needs to be reasonable, affordable
and shared.

3. Stakeholder Involvement

Across sectors, the involvement of stakeholders is critical and all stakeholders are
equally important to engage (i.e. national and local government bodies, coastal
community resource users and residents, private sector, civil society, academic and
research organisations, and regional agencies). Stakeholder involvement is essential for facilitating multidisciplinary knowledge sharing, building stakeholder awareness, enabling equitable benefit sharing, and fostering buy-in and reducing conflicts, which increases compliance. Stakeholder involvement is especially important in the MPA planning process and also at all stages of the EIA process. Mechanisms for effective multi-stakeholder engagement need to be available at various stages (proposals, the designation, implementation monitoring and compliance) to ensure that different interests and perspectives are addressed and there are coordination and collaboration.

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4. Capacity Building

Multiple stakeholders (government, private sector, civil society, resource users,
academia and regional or international agencies) stand to tremendously benefit from capacity building and technology transfer in the region. Capacity development should be targeted at the regional level to facilitate enrichment that can subsequently be adopted nationally whilst also supporting the transfer of knowledge and technical cooperation across CARICOM. It was recommended that a regional roster of experts should be developed to encourage regional collaboration. Regional centres of
excellence should also be developed and utilised to deliver capacity across the region.

5. Equitable access and benefit-sharing

Equitable access and sharing of benefits are priority issues that should be addressed by the BBNJ Agreement. Developing countries are less able to access and optimise the possibility of resources in ABNJ due to lack of technology and knowledge and the BBNJ Agreement should help to address this inequality. Intellectual property rights mechanisms should be developed for biodiversity resources in ABNJ.

6. Data access

In order to efficiently and effectively utilise resources in ABNJ, regional collaboration is
essential to address the need for developing states to have access to credible
databases, baseline data and research information. Data and information from
research conducted in the region (particularly by non-CARICOM organisations) must be shared with and be accessible to CARICOM members.

7. Defining jurisdictions

One challenge for defining the area covered by the BBNJ Agreement, which focuses on areas outside of national jurisdictions, will be addressing existing overlaps and conflicts with the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of countries and territories. Boundaries need to be defined and distinguished to explicitly understand where countries’ jurisdictions lie.

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8. Sufficient Monitoring

Monitoring systems are needed with sufficient capacity to monitor areas in ABNJ as well as in territorial waters. This is essential to monitor the impacts of activities in ABNJ and their subsequent impacts in terrestrial waters, as well as how activities in territorial waters may impact biodiversity in ABNJ.

9. Compliance Frameworks

A compliance framework is needed, including mechanisms for negotiation and conflict resolution among multiple (sometimes conflicting) uses. Monitoring and compliance are essential for these efforts to be successful, especially relating to State Parties who may not be signatories to the BBNJ Agreement.

10. Multi-tiered decision-making based on best available science

With regards to decision-making across the four focus areas of the BBNJ Agreement, a
new body (e.g. a Scientific and Technical Body) is needed, but with input from existing bodies. Furthermore, decision-making should be multi-tiered and based on the best available science, which should draw on CARICOM experts. Facilitating and building capacity at national and regional levels to feed into decision-making would be needed.

Related Documents to BBNJ Agreement

What happens in international waters affects all of us – CARICOM stakeholders from government, private sector, communities, civil society, academia and regional agencies have rights, responsibilities and interests in the sustainable use and protection of biodiversity in international waters.

Get more information: https://www.un.org/bbnj/
Get involved! Contact CANARI: info@canari.org

Special thanks to the Oak Foundation for support to CANARI to assist CARICOM negotiators with the engagement of CARICOM stakeholders


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