CARICOM negotiators have hailed the just-concluded agreement for the historic Ocean Biodiversity Treaty as an excellent example of the success that can be achieved when we work as one Region, with one voice.
The negotiations for the historic Treaty on Conservation and Sustainable use of Marine Biodiversity Areas, Beyond National Jurisdictions, concluded on 4 March 2023 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The provisions of the Treaty aim for better governance of the high seas – that’s the area beyond the 230 miles of the exclusive economic zones of countries – including a more integrated approach to regulation and the capacity to benefit sustainably from the marine resources.
CARICOM’s strong negotiating team comprised representatives of Member States, technical officers, and representatives of CARICOM Institutions, who divided subject areas among themselves. Ambassador Janine Coye Felson of Belize, was Overall CARICOM Lead and facilitated discussions on Marine Genetic Resources, including the fair and equitable sharing of benefits. Mr. Kurt Davis, Deputy Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the United Nations, was responsible for institutional arrangements and also facilitated discussions on cross-cutting issues; Dr. Kahlil Hassanali of the Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago covered environmental impact assessment; Ms. Nellie Catzim of Belize, CARICOM technical coordinator, was responsible for area-based management tools, including marine protected areas; Ms. Juliette Babb-Riley of the Government of Barbados was Overall CARICOM Team Lead and covered marine genetics resources; Guyana Government’s Donnette Streete covered financial resources and mechanisms; and Ms. Kimberly Louis of the Government of Saint Lucia led on capacity-building and transfer of marine technology. Professor David Berry of The University of the West Indies (UWI) was CARICOM Expert supporting in the areas of area-based management tools and institutional arrangements, while Professor Judith Gobin also of The UWI was another CARICOM Expert on the team. The CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) supported the team of negotiators.
Two of the negotiators – Ms. Babb-Riley and Mr. Davis – and Ms. Amrikha Singh, the CARICOM Secretariat’s Programme Manager for Sustainable Development, spoke of the truly unified approach the Caribbean Community adopted. The CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), in 2016, agreed on the regional approach to the negotiations and provided its over-arching framework.
Mr. Davis emphasised the high level of trust that was reposed in regional negotiators.
As an indication of the efficacy of CARICOM’s negotiating strategy, Ms. Babb-Riley said that other regions adopted a similar approach to their negotiations.
The negotiators also highly praised the support they received from the CARICOM Secretariat.
Ms. Babb-Riley said the conclusion of the treaty is a big win for multilateralism.
“It is always difficult to get 193 countries to agree on anything and in this regard, we were able to, despite the challenges that are facing multilateralism and international rule of order, to conclude these negotiations. So I think we should be proud of that.
“The agreement contains important provisions which should promote equity in terms of building the capacity of developing countries and small island developing states like our own to participate more meaningfully in activities that are taking place in areas beyond national jurisdictions. So it’s a new opportunity for us…and I am hopeful that with the support of our regional institutions and others, that we, as a Region, can benefit from the provisions contained in this treaty,” she said.
The next steps will include tidying up the text, and translation into other UN languages before the treaty is formally adopted.