Complicated UN negotiations to protect the high seas | panorama

A few days before the end of a conference in New York, there are still no signs of a breakthrough in the UN negotiations on an agreement to protect the high seas. But diplomats and observers played down hopes that an agreement on a universally binding treaty could be reached by the end of the meeting on Friday evening, New York time.

The countries of the world have been dealing with an agreement to protect the high seas for about 15 years, and there have been several rounds of negotiations since 2018. Last August, a conference was postponed without result. The Convention aims to place the biodiversity of the high seas under binding international protection.

Almost two-thirds of the legal void

Above all, the European Union aims to provide at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans with protected areas in the future. In addition, environmental impact assessments of human activities must be specified. Two-thirds of the world’s oceans belong to the high seas, and therefore are largely illegal.

Complex negotiations between member states at the United Nations in New York are currently addressing the question of how to decide which parts of the high seas should become protected areas in the future. According to diplomats, China and Russia especially urge that this be done unanimously – then each country can block any decision to create a corresponding zone.

This is considered impractical by Western countries, among others, which insist on majority decisions. “A number of countries are also trying to maintain the status quo here in order to continue to make big profits from fishing or mineral resource extraction in the future,” said Ralph Sontag of the NGO World Future Council. “It is therefore essential that potential decisions are not obstructed by one or two countries.”

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Huge profits are possible

Another major theme revolves around profits and profits that no one knows will ever become a reality: scientists hope that deep-sea life forms, which have hardly been researched, and that their DNA will lead to future breakthroughs, for example in medicine. Depending on whether this happens and how significant these developments are, huge gains could be made.

And since these yields are likely to be achieved above all in the so-called scientifically strong Global North, a mechanism of compensatory payments must be established for the South. In this way, all nations of the world can benefit from the common good of the high seas. How exactly this mechanism should look is still a matter of debate

So far, negotiators from the West have found Russia too disruptive in the talks. Moscow’s position, which is also not part of similar international treaties, could amount to Russia not joining the treaty. Meanwhile, China’s role is described as somewhat more positive.

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