Document Type


Date of Original Version



Marine Affairs


The third of four scheduled Inter-Governmental Conferences on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction met in New York in August 2019. This article tracks the progress made in the negotiations, focusing on the four key themes the draft treaty is addressing: (1) marine genetic resources, (2) area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, (3) environmental impact assessments, and (4) capacity building and transfer of marine technology. Drawing on process tracing (i.e. observations, interviews, and literature analysis), we have observed several critical issues in the emerging institutional design of a future agreement for ‘Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction’ (BBNJ). These include the continued ideological polarization between existing ocean governance principles (‘freedom of the seas’ and ‘common heritage of mankind’), disagreements about the delegation of authority to existing or created institutions, uneven participation of scientific and industry stakeholders, and the challenge of formulating a legal instrument that relies on inchoate or inconsistently used concepts. The conclusion looks ahead to the fourth Inter-Governmental Conference, and assesses the potential of reaching an effective agreement before the negotiations are scheduled to conclude in April 2020.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.