17 September 2019

Withers advising High Seas Alliance on landmark UN treaty negotiations to protect high seas biodiversity


International law firm Withers is advising pro bono client the High Seas Alliance (HSA), an organization aimed at strengthening conservation of the high seas, in its advocacy for the development of a new treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, otherwise known as Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ).

On December 24, 2017, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution 72/249 that launched the development of the new BBNJ treaty. Once concluded, the BBNJ treaty would be the first global instrument to establish governance of nearly 50% of our planet since the conclusion of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982. This effort comes at a critical time when marine biological diversity is assailed by the growing and exacerbated effects of climate change, global trade, deep-seabed mining, and other human activities.

Since September 2018, an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) of States has been meeting to negotiate the BBNJ treaty with a goal of finalizing its work by 2020. Draft text of the treaty was issued in June 2019.

Withers is advising the HSA on issues of public international law and domestic legal frameworks related to the ongoing negotiations of the BBNJ treaty.

Most recently, Withers accompanied and counseled the HSA during the third IGC session at the United Nations in August 2019 at which the BBNJ treaty text was first negotiated by States. The fourth IGC session will be held in late March and early April 2020.

“We are honored to be assisting the High Seas Alliance in its efforts to establish a binding international instrument to protect biodiversity of the high seas,” said Emma Lindsay, a partner who leads the firm’s international arbitration team in the United States. “The Withers team feels fortunate that our legal expertise can benefit this organization’s important mission.”

The Withers pro bono team is led by Emma Lindsay and includes New York associates Jovana Crncevic and Lauren Bursey, who provided day-to-day support to the HSA in its advocacy with States and other stakeholders at the United Nations in New York during the recent IGC session held August 19 – August 30, 2019.

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