Chile takes the lead in the "race for ratification" of the High Seas Treaty


Chile today becomes the first Latin American country to officially ratify the historic High Seas Treaty at UN headquarters, joining Palau at the head of the ratification race. (1). On March 4, 2023, by adopting a new international treaty to protect marine life in areas beyond national jurisdiction, the countries gathered at the United Nations took an important step forward for the ocean and efforts to halt the decline in global biodiversity.

The High Seas - that is, the part of the ocean beyond the maritime borders of individual states - cover almost two-thirds (64 %) of the world's ocean, or almost half the planet's total surface area. It is home to the world's richest biodiversity, and plays an essential role in regulating our climate by absorbing around 30 % of the CO2 produced by mankind every year. This vast area of ocean supports ecosystems that are both among the most important and most seriously threatened on Earth. Yet its poor governance has made it increasingly vulnerable to overexploitation. At present, only 1.5 % of the Haute Mer is protected.

After two decades of discussions, including five years of negotiations, the Agreement for the Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) - or Treaty on the High Seas - is the world's first coherent, legally binding international framework specifically designed to protect biodiversity in the High Seas.

Often referred to as a lawless wilderness, the High Seas have not been sufficiently managed by various regulatory bodies with varying mandates and limited effectiveness. The lack of coordination, fragmented coverage and absence of clear rules on how to effectively protect this global commons has left it vulnerable to overexploitation and pollution, compounded by the effects of climate change. While UNCLOS imposed a general obligation on nations to protect the marine environment, its provisions and their implementation were seriously flawed. This is no longer the case.
The High Seas Treaty seeks to fill these gaps by providing a more coherent and comprehensive framework for the protection of the ocean and the equitable sharing of benefits arising from marine genetic resources.

Visit text of the Treaty was officially adopted on June 19, 2023 by the states taking part in the negotiations at the United Nations. Countries will now have to sign and then ratify it - in most cases after taking the necessary steps under their respective legal procedures.

The sixtieth country to ratify the Treaty will trigger a 120-day countdown, at the end of which the Global Agreement will enter into force and the Treaty will become international law.
When it comes into force, it will become the world's first international instrument to require the conservation and management of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). This will establish marine protected areas in the High Seas and regulate potentially destructive activities through comprehensive environmental impact assessments. Chile and Belgium have both applied to host the BBNJ Secretariat as soon as the treaty enters into force.

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Since the UN General Assembly opened the High Seas Treaty for signature in September 2023, 87 UN member states have signed it, indicating their intention to ratify it. (2). The High Seas Alliance and its members are working with states to secure the 60 ratifications needed for the treaty to enter into force before the UN Ocean Conference in Nice in 2025.

It is crucial that the High Seas Treaty bears fruit in the water if we are to meet international targets for tackling the climate and biodiversity crises, including the protection of 30 % of our planet's land and seas by 2030 as set by the UN World Biodiversity Summit in December 2022.

For Rebecca Hubbard, Director of the High Seas Alliance, " Chile and Palau are setting the pace in the race to ratify this major international agreement. Their example is essential to transforming ocean conservation, and we thank them for leading the way. But time is not on our side. It is imperative that 58 other countries ratify the treaty as soon as possible, to bring it into international law and enable it to halt the sharp decline in the health of the ocean. Then we can finally ensure adequate protection for the High Seas, currently the least protected region on our planet. By working together, we will ensure the health of our shared global ocean and its ability to sustain future generations. ".

According to Mariamalia Rodríguez, High Seas Alliance coordinator for Latin America, " Chile played a leading role throughout the UN negotiations on the High Seas Treaty. Today, it is affirming its ambitions for the ocean and its commitment to protecting the High Seas by becoming the first Latin American country to ratify the treaty. Many of our region's economic activities, such as fishing and tourism, depend on healthy High Seas habitats, and Latin America benefits from many other ecosystem services. Because of this dependence, we expect other countries in the region and around the world to quickly follow Chile's example and ratify the High Seas Treaty. ".

(1) Monitor countries' progress on the High Seas Treaty and the race for ratification #RaceForRatification by visiting The United Nations has 193 member states.
(2) Signature does not establish the consent of a signatory State to be bound by the treaty, but marks its willingness to support the procedure for concluding the treaty and to ensure its ratification. Signature also creates an obligation to refrain, in good faith, from acting contrary to the object and purpose of the treaty. After signing the treaty, countries may ratify it at any time. The treaty text specifies that the agreement is open for signature by all states from September 20, 2023 to September 20, 2025 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. At the end of this period, states may accede to the agreement. Accession refers to the act by which a State expresses its consent to be bound by an agreement. It can occur after a treaty has entered into force.
Ratification implies a country's formal consent to the new international legal instrument. This often involves ensuring that national law is compatible with the instrument. The ratification procedure, and the speed with which it is carried out, varies from country to country. In some countries, the act of ratification consists of a simple decree by the Head of State. In others, parliamentary approval is required.

Header photo Humpback whale fishing for krill: ©Credit NOAA

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Pour préparer conférences et Colloques et Sommets : «  La mer, c’est grand comme ça. Les enfants nagent tranquilles dans le silence. Les bébés sont endormis, ils font des rêves. J’ai rêvé des baleines , elles chantaient. J’ai rêvé de la Planète bleue. » de la part d’élèves de3 ans, en chemin vers une Terre- Mèr(e) . Depuis, page Récits et école du cerisier, youtube, «  les apprenti.e.s » et «  les enfants de Gaïa »

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