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Status and options for Malaysia on biodiversity conservation beyond national jurisdiction

Roundtable Discussion on Ocean Governance II: Malaysia’s interests and role in the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ)

Wisma Putra, Putrajaya
13 March 201

This forum was organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Malaysia in collaboration with University Malaysia Terengganu and the National Professorial Council. It was officiated by the Secretary General of MOFA, Dato’ Seri Ramlan Ibrahim.

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Secretary General of MOFA, Dato’ Seri Ramlan Ibrahim officiating the event

The keynote speech at the forum was delivered by the Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and Chairman of the National Professorial Council, Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid. This is the second forum on the topic following the one held in May 2016.

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Science Advisor to the Prime Minister and National Professorial Council Chairman, Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid, delivering the keynote speech 

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provides that areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction (ABNJ) include the water column beyond the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), or beyond the Territorial Sea where no EEZ has been declared, called the High Seas. This would also include the seabed which lies beyond the limits of the Continental Shelf established in conformity with Article 76 of the Convention, designated as The Area.  

The high seas cover almost half of the world’s oceans but are largely left unregulated. While UNCLOS is known to be the constitution of the oceans, gaps need to be addressed for the protection, preservation and conservation of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Accordingly, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) UNGA agreed to develop an international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS 1982 through Resolution 69/292 of 19 June 2015 for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in such areas. The main thrusts of the negotiations focus on marine genetic resources, area based management tools including marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, capacity building, as well as transfer of technology.

The United Nations Preparatory Committee met four times from 2016-17. The recommendations adopted at UNGA in December 2017 include the convening of an Inter-Governmental Conference to consider its recommendations on the elements and to elaborate the text for a legally binding international instrument.

This forum convened all relevant stakeholders from government and non-governmental organisations to discuss options and the way forward for Malaysia to be better prepared for the Inter-Governmental Conference which would begin deliberations in September 2018 most likely up to 2020.

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During the forum

MIMA was represented by Cheryl Rita Kaur, Head of the Centre for Coastal and Marine Environment. Speakers at the forum were mainly representatives from national and international academe.

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The forum was attended by government and non-governmental organisations

A major output of the forum was the call for a specific law to be enacted by Malaysia to allow for the exploration of marine biodiversity resources besides managing marine resources beyond her national jurisdiction. The forum also agreed for a team of marine science and legal experts to meet at the national level to provide inputs to the government in formulating an effective ocean governance and management policy framework.   

MIMA conducted an analysis of the subject in 2016/17 and looks forward to continuing its assessment in cooperation with relevant stakeholders to provide feasible options to the government in this area.

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