Solomon Islands joins global voice on seas treaty

Opposition Leader, Jeremaiah Manele
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jeremaiah Manele.
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Solomon Islands has joined the global call to have the United Nations Inter-Governmental Conference to conclude its work on the “BBNJ” Treaty, also known as the “Treaty of the High Seas” this year.

The BBNJ is an international agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

This new instrument is being developed within the framework of the United Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the main international agreement governing human activities at sea.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Jeremiah Manele confirmed this when asked by Opposition Leader, Mathew Wale on the update of the BBNJ Treaty.

Manele said the inter-governmental conference has had four sessions, the last one in 18 March 2022 but did not conclude its work.

Three former sessions were held in September 2018 (IGC 1), March-April 2019 (IGC 2) and August 2019 (IGC 3).

“Given the Covid-19 situations, participation of Solomon Islands at the March’s session was done by our country’s mission in New York, off course working along other Pacific Solomon Islands Developing States (SIDS) countries as we normally do when we undertake such negotiations.

“Also, with Associations of Small Islands States (AOSIS) and other groups, but mostly with Pacific SIDS, that is being coordinated by Samoa,” he said.

The negotiations are in four areas:

  1. Marine Genetic Resources, including the questions of benefit sharing
  2. Area Based Management Tools – including Marine Protected Areas
  3. Capacity Building Technology Transfer
  4. Environmental Impact Assessment

A fit session of the inter-governmental negotiations is scheduled to take place from 15-26 August 2022 in New York

Manele said there is now a text on the table for negotiation.

“There is a further revised draft text following the March’s session that has been circulated.

“Some of languages are still in brackets, there are number of options in different areas also in the draft that will be looked at at the upcoming negotiations,” he said.

“We hope the negotiations or the final version of the Treaty will be concluded by the end of this year,” he said.

Manele said there are a number of interest areas and priorities for Pacific SIDS including the recognition of the special circumstances of SIDS in the draft.

He said this is important for us in order to unlock financial support as well as technology transfer and capacity development.

Furthermore, Manele said there is still some work to be done on this area as the draft text has not provide the specific section on the special circumstances of SIDS, except one of the areas on Manager Genetic Resource, there is some reference to SIDS.

“It is also important for us that there is implementation mechanism in place to support country like us to carry out the implementation of the treaty obligations.

“The Pacific SIDS are also pushing a SIDS seat in some of the bodies that the treaty will be established,” he said.

Moreover, Manele said there is also ongoing discussion on this.

He said the issue of traditional knowledge is also priority for SIDS and there is some reference to that in the revised draft that we had.

The discussion on the BBNJ came about followed the 69/292 resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 19 June 2015.

That is the development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.