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On 30 November 2021, the Secretariat of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) launched a new report entitled The Contribution of the International Seabed Authority to the Achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ISA Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, commissioned the report under the Strategic Plan and High-Level Action Plan of the Organization for 2019-2023, which explicitly recognize the importance of ISA to align its programmes and activities to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The report was presented during a high-level virtual event that brought together more than 120 participants. The discussions were structured around three thematic panels: the legal framework of the Area, marine scientific research and benefit-sharing, and strategic partnerships. All categories of stakeholders involved in the work of ISA had an opportunity to hear from experts and representatives of governments and international organizations from Argentina, France, India, Indonesia, Namibia, Vietnam, Portugal, South Africa, Tonga, the UN Global Compact and the GEF-UNEP Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP).
In his opening remarks, ISA Secretary-General highlighted that the report presents a wide range of views and acknowledged contributions made by many stakeholders who agreed to be interviewed and share their inputs and by ten internationally renowned experts in the preparation of the report (Mr. Saleem Ali, STAP GEF-UNEP; Ms. Gillian Davidson, Resolve; Mr. Bebeb Djundjunan, Indonesia; Judge Maria-Teresa Infante, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea; H.E. Ms. Mathu Joyini, South-Africa; Mr. Pedro Madureira, Portugal; Mr. Mariusz Orion-Jedrysek, Poland; H.E. Ms. Alison Stone Roofe, Jamaica; Mr. Siosiua ‘Utoikamanu, Tonga; H.E. Mr. James Waweru, Kenya).
“The report we are launching today provides remarkable insight into the breadth and scope of ISA’s activities. More importantly, it provides hard evidence that ISA and the legal regime established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 1994 Agreement contribute to 12 of the 17 SDGs in a meaningful way,” ISA Secretary-General said. “I am confident that we will deliver transformative actions to advance the 2030 Agenda with the continued support of all to ensure the sustainable stewardship of the deep seabed and its resources for the benefit of all humanity.”
H.E. Mr. Holger Martinsen, Legal Counsel of Argentina and Chair of the Meeting of the States Parties to UNCLOS, noted that “setting up ISA through UNCLOS was a bold and critical commitment of the international community” and that “ISA’s work is guided by the principle of the ‘common heritage of [hu]mankind,’ which undoubtedly constitutes its core mandate and presents ISA’s most significant contribution to the SDGs at the same time.”
H.E. Mr. Olivier Guyonvarch, Permanent Representative of France to ISA, reminded that the principle of the common heritage of humankind and the legal framework overseen by ISA eliminated the “free access” to the Area and its resources and prevented the States and companies that have the funds and the technology to exploit these resources from doing it. “ISA is the first and only international legal body which implements an obligation of generosity for the benefit of all, especially for the less well-off countries,” he said.
H.E. Ms. Mathu Joyini, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN and one of the experts who contributed to the report, commended ISA for making an explicit commitment in its strategic plan to contributing to the SDGs and evaluating its contribution with clear indicators. “Being an expert in this review process was a very fulfilling experience. I commend the robust process and methodology followed,” said Ambassador Joyini. She stressed that deep-sea mining could contribute to the realization of the SDGs, particularly for developing countries, landlocked and geographically disadvantaged countries and small island developing States, thanks to the principle of the common heritage of humankind and the equitable sharing of financial and other economic benefits.
H.E. Mr. T. S. Tirumurti, Permanent Representative of India to the UN, recalled that India was one of the first pioneer investors who conducted deep-sea exploration in the Central Indian Ocean Basin (CIOB) since 1984. As a result, India has collected and shared important scientific information to increase our understanding of the CIOB. Ambassador Tirumurti stressed the strategic importance of ISA’s DeepData database and contractors’ environmental data made available to the public and the scientific community. He highlighted capacity-building as an important contribution of ISA to sustainable development. “These efforts in capacity-building and education have benefitted large numbers of professionals. We view this engagement with other developing countries as crucial for sharing the benefits with all humanity.”
H.E. Mr. Dang Dinh Quy, Permanent Representative of Vietnam to the UN, emphasized that deep-seabed mining has a great potential to help curb the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and “get the SDGs back on track.” “Looking forward, priority should continue to be given to the development of rules, regulations and procedures for the exploitation of mineral resources to provide a framework for rule-based management of mineral resources in the Area,” Ambassador Quy said.
Addressing the importance of strategic partnerships to succeed in the transition to low-carbon economies, Mr. Sturla Henriksen, Special Advisor on Oceans at the UN Global Compact, reminded participants that the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) recently held in Glasgow, United Kingdom, was the first-ever “blue COP”. “From now on, the ocean will be an integrated part of the climate discussions,” Mr. Sturla said. “To succeed, the transition needs to be fair and equitable. ISA is placed at the very core of the climate-nature-people nexus. ISA is developing a science-based regulatory framework seeking to protect ocean health and marine biodiversity. At the same time, ISA is exploring the potential that seabed resources have in contributing to the soaring demand for critical metals and rare earth elements needed to decarbonize our societies. ISA is pioneering a regulatory framework for an industry that is yet to be developed to sustainably manage our most important common and cannot do it independently. We have a common responsibility and should all contribute.”
In her closing address, the Honorable Retno Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, stressed that it is important that developing countries actively participate in ISA’s work. “Through the years, ISA has provided many capacity-development programmes to its Member States on how to explore and exploit the deep seabed. These programmes are vital to address the knowledge and technology gap between developed and developing countries. It is critical to ensure more active participation from developing countries in these programmes,” she said. “Indonesia stands ready to render its full support to ISA in advancing its work towards the achievement of the 2030 Agenda,” she added.
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