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General statement of BBNJ at the first intergovernmental conference by Sesselja Sigurdardottir, Counsellor/Legal Adviser

Madam President

At the outset let me thank you and your able team and the staff at DOALOS for your excellent work in advance of this intergovernmental conference. In particular, we thank you for providing us with the useful President´s Aid to Discussion to guide our important work.

The opening of this intergovernmental conference is a historic moment. After almost 15 years of BBNJ discussions at the UN, the General Assembly has now mandated us to develop a BBNJ Instrument under UNCLOS. We need to heed the call of the General Assembly and do our utmost to elaborate a good, balanced and useful instrument. We owe it to the people who have worked on this for all these years, we owe it to marine biodiversity and we owe it to future generations.

Madam President

This milestone is an important opportunity to rethink our method of work. We must avoid moving in circles and rather start bridging gaps. In order to really move forward we need to tackle, early in the process, some principal issues that will affect the way we proceed with the negotiations.

One such key issue is the approach to be taken with regards to decision-making and institutional structure. There will be a myriad of issues to address, no matter which approach we take, but we will never be able to truly focus our discussion if we continue to keep all possible approaches on the table.

One of the mantras of the Preparatory Committee in this regard was “form follows function“. In our view, this mantra may easily be turned around, to say “function follows form.“ We need to know where we´re heading in order to know which steps need to be taken. A solid start is therefore to decide whether the instrument will be based on a global, regional or hybrid approach. By answering this fundamental question, we would narrow the scope of the negotiations considerably and shorten the time needed for our work.

In the process leading up to this conference, Iceland has clearly stated preference for a regional approach rather than a global one. We want the BBNJ Instrument to be a pragmatic, efficient and economical tool. We therefore strongly favor building on existing structures and bodies, rather than designing a new system. We will work towards this goal in cooperation with other delegations during the course of the negotiations.

Madam President

The General Assembly has instructed us to produce the BBNJ Instrument as soon as possible. In order to get to that point, a wide range of issues need to be tackled. We all know that the subject matter of this conference entails complex and contentious issues. There are, in other words, wide gaps to be bridged before we can conclude our work. Such bridge-building takes time but is essential in order to reach consensus. Universal application is the key to the value and effectiveness of the BBNJ Instrument. Consensus must therefore be our ultimate goal in the negotiations.

The Icelandic delegation is confident that under your able stewardship this intergovernmental conference will be a successful process and we assure you of our full and dedicated cooperation.

Thank you.

 

 

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