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  • Jamaica is fully supportive of regional efforts aimed at conserving and sustaining existing marine resources outside Caribbean states’ territorial waters.
  • CARICOM countries consider this “broadening” of ocean governance “to be in our best interest”, in recognition of the sea’s significance to their developmental imperatives.
  • The State Minister was speaking at the opening of a regional workshop on the conservation and sustainable use of high seas biodiversity.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, says Jamaica is fully supportive of regional efforts aimed at conserving and sustaining existing marine resources outside Caribbean states’ territorial waters.

Mr. Brown noted that CARICOM countries consider this “broadening” of ocean governance “to be in our best interest”, in recognition of the sea’s significance to their developmental imperatives, as Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

The State Minister was speaking at the opening of a regional workshop on the conservation and sustainable use of high seas biodiversity at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, on May 20.

“We have long looked to the ocean for our sustenance and have grown accustomed to its influence on our lives and livelihood. We are (therefore) willing to engage in constructive and fruitful dialogue, at the United Nations (UN), to enable the General Assembly to take a decision, which we believe is integral to safeguarding the future we want,” Mr. Brown said.

This position is in reference to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, held in 2012, where world leaders gave the UN General Assembly until September 2015 to decide whether to start negotiations on a new implementing agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to protect life in the high seas. The agreement would include a mechanism to create marine protected areas and reserves.

Nearly half of the earth’s surface lies beyond national jurisdiction, making international cooperation critical to managing activities, such as fishing, mining, and potential exploration for marine genetic resources.

Mr. Brown pointed to the international community’s recognition that the task of ensuring equitable distribution, sustainable use and development of the resources of the deep sea “is not complete.” Further, that there is an urgent need to address ocean governance in a more holistic manner, thus ensuring that efforts to protect, conserve and share marine biological resources are prioritized.

He said Jamaica “attaches high importance” to the enhanced mandate of the Open-ended Working Group, through which the scope, parameters and feasibility of an international instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of high seas biodiversity will be discussed.

“We believe that the elements to be considered – conservation, sustainable use – including the sharing of benefits, capacity building and transfer of technology, need to be addressed as a package.  We have continuously reiterated our support for the ‘package’ that was agreed by the Working Group in 2011 and subsequently endorsed by the General Assembly, and maintain that this must be held as the basic building block for the scope of a new international agreement,” the State Minister argued.

He noted that this new agreement should also ensure a level playing field between developed and developing countries, with attention given to the development of benefit-sharing arrangements based on transparency, information sharing and other disclosure requirements.

“We have to work to ensure that in the international discourse we are of one accord, consistently voicing our firm belief that the genetic resources of the deep sea-bed and ocean floor and the subsoil belong to all of us, thereby reaffirming the UNCLOS and General Assembly Resolution 2749,” the State Minister said.

Mr. Brown noted that the workshop is allowing CARICOM states an opportunity to deepen their understanding of the potential scope and parameters for a new international legal agreement; to enable frank exchange on the feasibility of such an agreement; and to share views on national interests and priorities on the issues under consideration.

“Discussions on marine genetic resources, including area-based management tools, marine protected areas and environmental impact assessments will allow government officials to learn from scientific, legal and conservation experts, and assist in national preparations for the remaining inter-sessional meetings in New York in June 2014 and January 2015,” he said.

Government officials, along with scientific and legal experts, are participating in the two-day workshop which is being hosted by the Government with support from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the High Seas Alliance.

It is designed to allow participants to prepare for the upcoming UN meetings and to share views about possible central components of a new international agreement.

The workshop is in line with a series of meetings being held by the UN to explore this issue and to make a decision about a new agreement before the 2015 deadline.