Senior environment officials from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) met recently in Belize as CARICOM rationalises its position on the United Nations (UN) process to establish an international legally binding agreement on sustainable use of marine resources.
The two-day workshop held 20-22 February 2017, in Belize City, Belize, was titled, ‘CARICOM Regional Workshop on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction’.
Foreign Minister of Belize, the Hon. Wilfred Elrington, addressing the opening, said that CARICOM Member States had championed the negotiation and adoption of the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), which was opened for signature in Jamaica. He also reminded that when the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea was constituted, two CARICOM citizens – Edward Laing of Belize and Dolliver Nelson of Grenada, joined the ranks of the first 21 Members of the Tribunal.
“Judge Laing and Judge Nelson are no longer with us, but they, together with other key jurists from our Region, including the sitting Judge Anthony Amos Lucky of Trinidad and Tobago, have left a legacy on the international stage that is definitive of our Region’s commitment to uphold the law of the sea.
“We have now been called upon to address an area of the law of the sea that has not been adequately provided for in the UNCLOS, whether for want of scientific knowledge, implementation, or as a result of governance and legal gaps,” he said.
For CARICOM, he noted, the implementation of this agreement was the only feasible option to ensure that developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in particular, benefited equitably from the conservation, sustainable use and exploitation of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
Critically, he said, the agreement presented an opportunity to strengthen the Convention and to help States with the implementation of provisions of UNCLOS relating to resources which would not have been contemplated to be the exclusive domain of any State, however large and industrialised.
Minister Elrington told the gathering of regional experts in the legal field, in fisheries, environment and international relations that it was critical for the meeting to identify the essential elements for a new implementing agreement, taking into account regional interests, the Community’s contributions to the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources and potential benefits to be secured in such an agreement.
The Hon. Dr. Omar Figueroa, Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, also addressed the meeting noting that the wide range of expertise gathered at the meeting reflected the complexity of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.
This multi-sectoral approach was necessary, he said, to address the complexities of the issue. He urged the participants to use the platform for knowledge-building, sharing and networking, and to establish a solid foundation upon which the CARICOM could formulate well-informed positions.
The meeting engaged in technical discussions on the proposed Implementing Agreement under the United Nations Law of the Sea on Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdiction. It identified areas for further study and research for the Region to enhance its participation in the preparatory process. It also identified key actions to be taken at the national and regional level ahead of the next Preparatory meeting of the United Nations scheduled for March 27th to 7th April 2017.