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ISA and Partners Join Hands at the 4th SIDS Conference

ISA and Partners Join Hands at the 4th SIDS Conference

On Monday, 27 May 2024, in the margins of the 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the International Seabed Authority (ISA) welcomed representatives of governments, international and regional organizations and academia in a side event to discuss “Leveraging SIDS knowledge, technology, innovation and capacity to advance deep-sea research for the benefit of humanity.”

This side event was co-hosted by Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica and Singapore and co-sponsored by the Cook Islands, Fiji, Malta, Norway and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). It provided a unique opportunity to highlight how ISA, through its unique and exclusive mandate, has significantly contributed to the protection of the environment beyond national jurisdiction for the benefit of all humanity and to the enhancement of the rule of law in the oceans by developing sound and stringent regulatory frameworks based on the precautionary approach, best available science, transparency and equity in accessing the Area and its resources during its 30 years of existence.

In his welcoming address, ISA Secretary-General H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge underscored the fact that SIDS, also referred to as Big Ocean States (BOS), were a special case for sustainable development. “Over the last 10 years, BOS have made remarkable progress towards a more integrated approach to sustainable development and to building resilient prosperity for the current and future generations. This progress is a testament to the resolute ownership and leadership shown by BOS across international forums,” he said.

“ISA is no exception. In pursuing the unique opportunities provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) when it comes to access to the resources of the Area to develop ocean-based economies, BOS have pushed forward the bold and ambitious collective vision of a shared future for humanity based on the sustainable use of the Area and its resources,” he added.

“Yet, our journey has only just begun. It is for this reason that, since 2020, ISA has been leading the shaping of the global agenda for deep-sea research through its Action Plan for Marine Scientific Research in support of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, endorsed by all its 168 Members. Structured around six strategic research priorities, this global deep-sea research agenda enables ISA and its partners to contribute, day after day, to advancing global science, knowledge and understanding in support of more resilient prosperity and the development of sustainable ocean economies for BOS as well as least developed countries and landlocked developing countries,” he concluded.

Invited to deliver the keynote address, the Honorable Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, noted that “For us, data and knowledge is more valuable than the resources itself. This is because it is only with knowledge and understanding that we can make sound decisions to unlock our blue economy and improve our lives and those of our children. Knowledge empowers us all. As such, it is important to continue identifying and prioritizing avenues for ocean knowledge and scientific advancement at national, regional and global levels.”

“I note that ISA celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Most, if not all, ISA’s work so far has been and continues to be entirely dedicated to advancing science and global knowledge of the deep sea for the benefit of us all. ISA stands as a cornerstone of science and evidence-based governance of the global commons and the prerequisite for the sustainable use of ocean resources as well as the protection of the marine environment,” he further added.

Reflecting on the importance of UNCLOS as the basis for multilateral cooperation on the law of the sea and ocean affairs, Dr. Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs of Singapore, highlighted the need for the consistent application of the rules established by ISA and the need for an increased focus on capacity-building to enable SIDS to benefit from the legal regime fully. “I encourage SIDS to leverage ISA’s many initiatives to advance scientific, environmental and technological knowledge and to advance research on various aspects of seabed exploration and the deep-seabed environment. Singapore welcomes more partnerships with SIDS to cultivate deep-sea literacy for our shared benefit, including capacity-building in marine science and technology,” he said.

Mr. Andreas Motzfeldt Kravik, State Secretary with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, echoed the importance of the rule of law and the need to strengthen strategic partnerships to ensure full and effective implementation of UNCLOS. “Norway supports ISA and the ongoing work among States Parties to finalize the regulatory framework for exploration and exploitation of minerals in the Area, in accordance with UNCLOS,” he said.

Under-Secretary-General Mr. Li Junhua, head of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the 4th SIDS Conference, emphasized the central role of deep-sea research and science for the sustainable development of oceans and their resources as well as the leading role of ISA in this endeavor, including through the adoption of the ISA Action Plan for Marine Scientific Research in support of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development in 2020 serving as global deep-sea research agenda. “The responsible use and protection of our ocean is critical for advancing the 2030 Agenda and to the well-being of SIDS and other low-lying and coastal territories. The global deep-sea research agenda is a key tool to support well-informed decision-making in SIDS and beyond,” he said.

The first panel invited participants to discuss the intrinsic linkages between deep-sea research and science as well as sustainable management in relation to the Area and its resources as well as the need to mobilize resources and leverage investments, particularly to enable SIDS to participate actively.

Professor Dale Webber, Director of the Centre for Marine Sciences at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, noted that, “SIDS, especially in the Caribbean, have seldom had opportunities to explore, with profundity, our deep-sea ecosystems. It would be extremely beneficial for SIDS, through the capacity development and institutional strengthening contribution of ISA, to further enhance their deep-sea science and gain knowledge of the resources.”

Mr. Joe Appiott, Coordinator for Marine, Coastal and Island Biodiversity with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, stressed the long-standing and positive cooperation with ISA and the critical importance of the scientific information and data collected in the deep sea to contribute to the objectives of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

The second panel focused on exploring how strategic partnerships could effectively support SIDS’s participation in existing and emerging ocean sectors of the blue economy.

H.E. Mrs. Vanessa Frazier, Permanent Representative of Malta to ISA and the United Nations, emphasized the critical role played by effective partnership. “By leveraging strategic partnerships, SIDS can enhance their participation, resilience and sustainability in existing and emerging ocean sectors. As a committed strategic partner, Malta launched the “Island for Islands” initiative in 2021, which is aimed at enhancing collaboration between small island States, including SIDS, allowing them to share knowledge and experiences,” she said.

Highlighting the pivotal role of positive cooperation among institutions to maximize synergies and impact for the benefit of SIDS, H.E. Dr. Salman Al Farisi, Secretary-General of IORA, noted that, “IORA and ISA share a common view on the important role of SIDS in the sustainable management of ocean and coastal resources. Since the signing of the memorandum of understanding on collaboration between ISA and IORA in 2022, many capacity-building projects have been undertaken with special emphasis on developing dedicated activities that aim at advancing women’s empowerment and leadership in ocean affairs, including the law of the sea and deep-sea research matters.”

The need for south-south cooperation and ownership in knowledge generation was underscored by H.E. Mr. Jagdish Dharamchand Koonjul, Permanent Representative of Mauritius to ISA and the United Nations, as an essential element to be taken into consideration to ensure that meaningful partnerships are established. He also highlighted the need for knowledge-sharing and cooperation in relation to marine scientific research, including in relation to traditional knowledge, and the importance of capacity-building to equip SIDS with all the capacities required to further sustainable management of ocean resources. Finally, the need to ensure access to laboratories, technologies and scientific equipment was identified as a key element to enable full ownership of research results.

Dr. Branson Belle, Director of the Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the Five Islands Campus of the University of the West Indies in Antigua and Barbuda, insisted on the need to align education objectives to maximize the impact of partnerships and capacity development opportunities.

“Leveraging partnerships in education and research is also critical to enable SIDS to participate and benefit in opportunities arising from the emerging blue economy,” he said.

Invited to deliver the concluding remarks, the Honorable Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, stressed the role ISA has played for over 30 years in advancing deep-sea research to inform decision-making processes effectively.

“ISA has the unique mandate under UNCLOS to ensure the effective protection of the Area and its resources as the common heritage of humankind. Jamaica was instrumental in the conclusion of UNCLOS. We wholeheartedly support the work of ISA in its role to protect the environment beyond national jurisdiction,” she said.

“As the host country of ISA, we are pleased with the work ISA has accomplished in 30 years of existence and its significance for the deep-sea regime. We look forward to the even greater focus and strategic activities that ISA will conduct in the years ahead for the sustainable development of ocean economies, based on scientific research, particularly for SIDS,” she concluded.

For more on this side event, see here:

To follow ISA’s engagement at the 4th SIDS Conference, see here:


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