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CARICOM Member States Discuss New High Seas Treaty on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction

CARICOM Member States are encouraged to exchange experiences in the signature and ratification process of the new global treaty on the management of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions (BBNJ).

The United Nations General Assembly approved the BBNJ in June 2023 and the treaty was open for signature in September 2023. So far, 89 UN Member countries have signed the agreement, including six CARICOM Member States – Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, The Bahamas, Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Belize has since ratified, becoming the first CARICOM Member State to do so. The BBNJ will “enter into force” when at least 60 countries ratify it.

CARICOM Member States have been actively engaged from the outset of the negotiations and have been vocal leaders in all aspects of the negotiation process.  To maintain active engagement, CARICOM Foreign Ministers at the Council for Foreign and Community Relations have mandated the formation of a Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group (MSAG) to support and guide countries to ratification and early implementation of the treaty.

At a workshop in Miami, Florida, 11-12 April 2024, Lisa Shoman, CARICOM General Counsel, called for open dialogue regarding experiences at the national level.

“The Law of the Sea and its various implementing instruments have been a great equalizer for this Region- whether it was delimitation of our exclusive economic zones, management of fish stocks important to our food security or management of seabed resources. This new agreement is no different – it presents an opportunity for us to expand our capacities and capabilities and to move more strategically to managing and benefitting from the vast natural resources represented by the Oceans that surround us. Indeed, for those of us who have committed to building blue economies, the constitution of the Sea is a necessary tool in management,” the General Counsel said at the opening of the workshop.

The workshop brought together treaty negotiators, representatives from the offices of Attorneys-General across the Region, and technical experts on oceans and biodiversity. It was aimed at raising awareness of the new treaty at the national level, given its potential for blue economic growth. Participants discussed the legislative and institutional review toward the ratification and national incorporation of the Agreement, as well as the immediate capacity needs for national incorporation and potential donor support. They also identified CARICOM’s priorities for the upcoming preparatory organizational meeting and the session of the Preparatory Commission of the Treaty.

The workshop was made possible with the kind support of The Ocean Voices Programme as well as the PEW Charitable Trust.

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