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Protecting and managing biodiversity in the high seas: What role for IOC?

Date: 8 October 2020

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) has recently released a non-paper on its potential role in support of the negotiation process of a new international legally binding instrument (ILBI) for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

The non-paper recognises that the success of the new regulatory framework for biodiversity in the high seas will be strongly dependent on the availability of ocean scientific knowledge and services, including data and information, capacity building and transfer of marine technology.

The IOC is already providing important ocean science services relevant to the future agreement, including services related to ocean observations, access to data and information, area-based management and capacity building and transfer of marine technology.

IOC is also developing a Clearing House Mechanism that could house both existing and future expanded services from IOC and services partners directly related to the four principal issues of the BBNJ process – marine genetic resources; area-based management, including marine protected areas; environmental impact assessments; and capacity building and transfer of marine technology.

The Clearing House Mechanism could also enhance collaboration between partners inside and outside the United Nations system.

As significant investments have been made to develop existing services within IOC and partners, the non-paper argues that it would be more cost effective to build on the foundation that already exists than to redevelop new services from scratch.

UNESCO’s IOC also recognizes the opportunity provided by the upcoming UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030) to support the BBNJ process, by providing a framework for significant investment in knowledge generation, capacity building and transfer of marine technology, and data and knowledge management initiatives that align with the priorities of the BBNJ process.


Link to the Non-paper:


For more information, please contact:

Alison Clausen, Programme Specialist (