Issue 05 2018-2019

Marine Genetic Resources in Areas beyond National Jurisdiction: Do We Need to Regulate Them in a New Agreement?

by David LEARY

This paper seeks to question the prevailing orthodoxy on the need for the ‘package deal’ on the proposed international legally-binding instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction to address marine genetic resources, including questions relating to access and benefit sharing. Through an examination of key documents and reports prepared over the past two decades, the first part of this paper will show that there has been little hard commercial evidence brought forward during debates at the United Nations to justify the inclusion of the marine genetic resources issue within the ‘package deal’. In light of that analysis, the second part of the paper will then go on to offer some initial thoughts on the various options for regulating access and benefit sharing in relation to marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction that have been floated during the initial phase of negotiations. In particular, the second part of this paper examines the possible elements of a draft text of an international legally binding instrument set out in the chairs non-paper considered at the 3rd session of the Preparatory Committee established by General Assembly Resolution 69/292. The paper does not seek to trace the extent to which aspects of the chairs non-paper ultimately were contained in the Prep Comm’s final report to the United Nations General Assembly in late 2017. These negotiations are still ongoing and nothing definitive can be read into what was present or absent from that report. Instead, this analysis highlights which proposed elements of the international legally binding instrument would be the preferable outcome from these negotiations in light of the lack of evidence of commercial interest in marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

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