Nereus research fellow Harriet Harden-Davies (ANCORS/University of Wollongong) co-authored a new analysis of the draft text for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). Negotiations among States at the UN for the international legally binding instrument (ILBI) are still in-progress, with the next round set to cover two weeks during March 23rd to April 3rd, 2020. Harriet and co-authors performed an initial analysis of the draft text that was released on November 27th, 2019, highlighting “key areas of progress and contention, [and] identifying options that could strengthen the text.” The authors’ selected key messages are shown below, and the full study can be accessed here.

Authors’ Key Messages

  • It remains unclear whether the current draft treaty is sufficiently ambitious and developed to deliver an effective governance framework. Many of the key provisions are still in brackets and the level of ambition will depend on the choices made in the final stages of the negotiations.
  • The current draft gives the COP the mandate to establish arrangements that will be of crucial importance for the functioning of the future regime, including the establishment of bodies and funding mechanisms and the adoption of procedures to promote compliance. Such procedures, commonly provided for in international agreements, can slow down the operationalization of the treaty, so it is crucial that any voting rules established will allow States Parties to go beyond the consensus.
  • Enhancing international cooperation and encouraging the adoption of complementary measures within existing frameworks is crucial to the success of the treaty. This is reflected in the current draft treaty, though some provisions could be strengthened.
  • Time will tell if the 2 weeks of negotiations in March will be sufficient to finalize the treaty. The priority should be on drafting an ambitious and robust agreement, even if additional sessions are needed.


Cremers, K., Rochette, J., Wright, G., Gjerde, K., Harden-Davies, H. (2020). A preliminary analysis of the draft high seas biodiversity treaty. IDDRI, Study N°01/20



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