UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- An intergovernmental conference on protecting marine biodiversity on Tuesday kicked off its first session at UN Headquarters in New York, marking the start of the negotiations towards a legally binding treaty to serve that end.
Rena Lee, president of the conference, said in her opening remarks "this day has been a long time in coming for many who have been working on these issues for many years," expressing her hope that "we can work together as a whole to move the process along to a successful conclusion."
In 2002, a UN informal consultative process discussed the protection of marine environment, setting off a journey toward formal treaty negotiations under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) adopted in 1982.
Last December, the UN General Assembly adopted a modality resolution that set the stage for Tuesday's Intergovernmental Conference on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ).
Miguel de Serpa Soares, the UN under-secretary-general for legal affairs and the secretary-general of the conference, expressed confidence that the first session will be fruitful and lead to the development of an instrument that all delegations can agree to.
"There is ample evidence of increasing pressures on oceans," he said. "If such pressures and their impacts are not addressed, their cumulative effect will lead to a destructive cycle in which the oceans will no longer be able to provide many services that humans and other life on this planet depend on."
According to a policy brief circulated at the session, ABNJ makes up 64 percent of the oceans, nearly half of the planet's surface and over 90 percent of its habitable volume; it plays a critical role in the international community's efforts to achieve objectives prescribed in the Sustainable Development Agenda of the UN.
"Sustainable oceans and seas can contribute to poverty eradication, sustained economic growth, food security and creation of sustainable livelihoods," Soares said, adding that protecting the marine environment will also help build resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Rena Lee also expressed hope that the delegations will move towards to "a fair, balanced and effective outcome," which "reflects our varying concerns and interests."
The Intergovernmental Conference on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction will meet initially for four sessions, with the second and third taking place in 2019 and the fourth in the first half of 2020.
Tuesday's first sessions will last till Sept. 17, during which delegates will have substantive discussions on marine genetic resources including questions on benefit-sharing, environmental impact assessments, management tools as well as capacity building and marine technology transfer.