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On 21 June 2021, the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA), Mr. Michael W. Lodge, reported on the status of the work of the Authority to the 31st Meeting of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Mr. Lodge emphasized that ISA has managed to carry on with essential activities despite constraints related to the on-going pandemic of COVID-19 and the lack of in-person meetings since February 2020. The Secretary-General praised ISA Members for having been able to adopt important decisions amid such difficulties, including a budget for the financial period 2021-2022, the election by consensus of one-half of the membership of the Council, the Action Plan in support of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, the implementation of a programmatic approach for capacity-development, and the exceptional extension of the terms of office of the members of the Legal and Technical Commission (LTC) by one year, to December 2022.
“These decisions were critical to ensure business continuity for the Authority and in the long run will help us to recommence our work more effectively and efficiently,” Mr. Lodge said in his address to the Meeting. “It is our aim to convene face-to-face meetings of the Assembly and Council later in 2021 and I will keep States Parties fully informed on the possible dates and modalities for these meetings,” he added.
Reporting on the work of the LTC, Mr. Lodge reminded that, in 2020, the LTC was able to review and recommend the approval of a new plan of work for exploration submitted by Blue Minerals Jamaica Limited. The plan of work was later adopted by the Council and an exploration contract was signed in April 2021. During virtual meetings held from March to July this year, the LTC has reviewed seven requests for extension of exploration contracts and started the review of the annual reports submitted by contractors. The LTC also drafted and issued for public consultation all the phase one standards and guidelines for deep-sea mineral exploitation.
“I would like to take this opportunity to remind States Parties that the consultation period remains open until 3 July 2021. I encourage all States Parties to submit comments so that we can continue to develop the Mining Code in the most open and transparent way possible,” Mr. Lodge said.
The Finance Committee (FC) has also remained in session throughout 2020 and 2021 and continued its important work on the issue of equitable sharing of financial and other economic benefits from activities in the Area. Concerning the financial situation of ISA, Mr. Lodge reported that, as of the end of May 2021, only 65 per cent of assessed contributions to the budget of ISA for the year of 2021 had been paid. “The total amount of arrears for prior periods, from 1998-2020 is $993,251. More worrying is the fact that 56 States are in arrears of contributions for more than two years and, indeed, eight States have never paid any contributions whatsoever since becoming parties to the Convention. This means that 33 per cent of the membership of the Authority is potentially disqualified from the exercise of voting rights,” he emphasized.
Reporting on ISA’s work in the field of marine scientific research and the implementation of its Action Plan in support of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, Mr. Lodge underlined that ISA had officially joined the International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) network to serve as a node for the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS) of IOC-UNESCO. He also pointed out the strategic partnership with the International Hydrographic Organization aimed at supporting the Seabed 2030 initiative by facilitating the provision of high-resolution bathymetric data collected by contractors. He also underscored the significant progress made on standardizing and innovating methodologies for deep-sea biodiversity assessment, including taxonomic identification and description.
Reporting on capacity development activities, Mr. Lodge highlighted the adoption of a new programmatic approach, which has already led to the creation of a network of National Focal Points for Capacity Development. He also mentioned the recent launch of the Women in Deep-Sea Research (WIDSR) project, which aims to address the critical barriers preventing women’s empowerment and leadership in deep-sea research, with a special focus on women scientists from least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Small Island Developing States.
In concluding, Mr. Lodge thanked all States Parties and Members of ISA for the trust and support provided on an ongoing basis to ISA and for having reelected him for another term as Secretary-General.
The written version of the Secretary-General's Statement is accessible here: Secretary-General Statement – 31st Meeting of States Parties to UNCLOS.
For enquiries, please contact:
Ms. Stefanie Neno, Communications Specialist, ISA, firstname.lastname@example.org