UN adopts agreement to protect high seas

The newly-adopted agreement, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, is expected to significantly strengthen the legal framework for protecting high seas.

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People clean the seaside at Muara Angke fishing village of North Jakarta, Indonesia, June 8, 2021. (Photo by Veri Sanovri/Xinhua)

The United Nations on Monday adopted a historic agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction which cover over two-thirds of the ocean.

“The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet. And today, you have pumped new life and hope to give the ocean a fighting chance,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a session of the intergovernmental conference on marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Guterres noted that two decades in the making, the adoption of the agreement “demonstrates the strength of multilateralism.”

“By acting to counter threats to our planet that go beyond national boundaries, you are demonstrating that global threats deserve global action,” said the UN chief.

He called on all states to act without delay to sign and ratify the agreement as soon as possible.

The agreement will be open for signature at the UN headquarters in New York for two years from Sept. 20, 2023, and will enter into force after ratification by 60 states, according to a UN press release.

Waters which lie beyond national jurisdictions, known as the high seas, comprise nearly two-thirds of the ocean’s area. However, figures from the World Wide Fund for Nature show that only about 1 percent of this huge swath of the planet is protected.

The newly-adopted agreement, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, is expected to significantly strengthen the legal framework for protecting high seas.

Among the key issues it addresses, the agreement sets up a framework for the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from activities with respect to marine genetic resources and digital sequence information on marine genetic resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction, ensuring that such activities benefit all of humanity, the UN said.

It will enable the establishment of area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, to conserve and sustainably manage vital habitats and species in the high seas and the international seabed area.

Such measures are critical for archiving the “30 by 30” global target to effectively conserve and manage at least 30 percent of the world’s terrestrial and inland water areas, and of marine and coastal areas by 2030, as agreed in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, the UN said.

“The finalization of this agreement is no small feat,” UN General Assembly President Csaba Korosi said in his remarks to the intergovernmental conference.

The agreement complements the pivotal decisions aiming at global transformation including the 2030 Agenda, he said.

It lays the foundation for a better stewardship of the seas, ensuring their survival for generations to come, and “testifies to the power of multilateralism,” said Korosi.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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