March 24, 2017 - OBISSIDS BBNJ

Healthy Oceans, Resilient Islands

Nearly 100 representatives of 35 Small Islands and Developing States (SIDS), scientists as well as representatives from the UN and EU, with a special interest and expertise in the BBNJ process were brought together at the IOC Project Office for IODE in Oostende and at the European Commission in Brussels during 7-9 March 2017. This workshop presented an opportunity to discuss capacity building needs and priorities of SIDS concerning the elements of a potential new UN Treaty to conserve and sustainably use marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction (BBNJ). The topics were transfer of technology, marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments and marine genetic resources. This workshop, co-organized by the Government of Belgium and UNESCO-IOC, was organized in light of preparing for the third Preparatory Committee meeting on BBNJ to be held next week 27 March to 8 April 2017 in New York.

SIDS are large but vulnerable ocean states where the status of the ocean has a direct impact on their viability and development. Because of the interconnectivity of the islands with the ocean, the SIDS interests in a UN Treaty to protect our marine living resources go beyond just equitable sharing of benefits. Islands can only be Resilient when Oceans are Healthy
- Ambassador H.E. Mr Ahmed Sareer, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and Permanent Representative of Maldives

The emphasis of the workshop was on Capacity Building and Transfer of Marine Technology (CB/TMT), a subject at the heart of the BBNJ negotiations. It was recognized that SIDS have their particular challenges and therefore need a specific model for CB/TMT. It was felt that the work of existing international organizations like the IOC of UNESCO and its OBIS data sharing platform are structures to build on, but SIDS also need to engage more in relevant decision fora as well as strengthen SIDS-SIDS cooperation and twinning with other parties.

With the rapid development of science and new technologies, the potential benefit from exploitation on the high seas and seabed area can be huge, but the complexity of the nature of the ocean is still poorly known. Establishing a robust process for Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as well as a network of Marine Protected Areas will be crucial to ensuring conservation and sustainability for the benefit of all. A new implementing agreement should not hamper marine science but should bring fairness in the sense that all Member States including SIDS can participate and benefit on an equitable basis. A new treaty provides an opportunity for SIDS in building a strong agreement to maximize participation, through consultation, transparency, open-access sharing of data and information, but also through building capacity in using the data and information to create knowledge.

Belgium hosts one of the IOC project offices, in the city of Ostend. The Project office is a global capacity building hub, where ocean experts from around the world meet and are trained in data and information management. It is the center of the world’s largest global database on marine biodiversity called “OBIS”. The Ocean Biogeographic Information System is recognized by the UN General Assembly and has the potential to become a data and information clearing house for BBNJ.
- Mr Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium

More information on this workshop can be found at: