UN General Assembly adopts resolution to negotiate legally binding instrument on conservation and sustainable use of the high seas

On 24 December 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to convene an intergovernmental conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, for conclusion of an international legally binding instrument on the “conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction”.

The instrument, if concluded, will be the first major international agreement to protect the marine environment of the high seas since the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (“UNCLOS”). Part XII of UNCLOS sets out a series of obligations designed to “protect and preserve” throughout the marine environment. The instrument will seek to address a number of specific environmental challenges in the high seas, including around “the conservation and sustainable use of marine genetic resources”, marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology.

The negotiation process will consist of four sessions lasting 10 days each, with the first taking place in September 2018, the second and third in 2019, and the fourth in the first half of 2020.

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