High Seas Treaty, A historic step forward in safeguarding international waters
Following nearly two decades of discussions, the United Nations member countries have reached an important agreement on a legal framework to protect portions of the ocean outside national jurisdictions, on March 4th, 2023. This historic deal, known as the High Seas Treaty, marks a significant step forward in safeguarding international waters and in respecting the 30x30 pledge called for by the GBF agreed in December 2022 (to protect a third of the sea and land by 2030).
Under the UN High Seas Treaty, international waters outside the 200 nautical miles limits of national jurisdiction and covering over 60% of the world ocean will be provided with a comprehensive legal framework. The 4-element ‘package’ includes modalities for 1) establishing area-based management tools (ABMT) including marine protected areas 2) sharing benefits of marine genetic resources (MGR), 3) capacity building and technology transfer (CB&TT) and 4) conducting and reporting environmental impact assessments (EIA) for activities generating potential impacts on the area.
Monaco’s commitment to high seas
Monaco has relentlessly pursued its support for advancing BBNJ (Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction) negotiations in recent years, by rallying its partners, using its influence, and advocating for the treaty's success. The Principality has played an instrumental role in promoting the importance of protecting marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction and has been a strong advocate for the inclusion of robust area-based management tools, environmental impact assessments, and capacity building.
In 2020, HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco together with former US Secretary of State, Mr John Kerry and a select group of heads of government convened the “High Seas Treaty Dialogue” in Monaco, organised by the Norwegian Nobel Institute and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, to discuss the issue of protecting the ocean and the importance of preserving international waters.
Monaco joined the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, a global initiative that seeks to protect and restore the ocean, at the One Ocean Summit in Brest on 11 February 2022. The Coalition was formed in 2020 to advance ambitious global commitments to protect 30% of the planet by 2030 and to ensure that the benefits of nature are shared equitably and fairly.
Last but not least, Monaco has been a key contributor in the creation of High Seas Marine Protected Areas, particularly in the Ross Sea through a project supported by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. To this date, only 1% of High Seas are protected and this treaty gives hope for the future of our planet.
Despite the potential challenges to implementation that remain, the treaty, once formally adopted, ratified, and entered into force, will be a game-changer when it comes to managing the ocean. Providing a strong overall policy framework, it could efficiently coordinate efforts and break down the silos of ocean management, guiding all to a shared goal.