Created: Wednesday, 21 August 2013
Ambassador Dr. Palitha Kohona
Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Capacity Development Regarding Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction
Needs, Initial Efforts, Possible Future Directions
Global Ocean Forum
Monday, 19 August 2013
Thank you for inviting me to this roundtable to share some of my thoughts on capacity building in the context of Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ). I will outline some of the key issues that emerged from recent sessions of the Committee, which I co-chair, and the workshops that were held in New York. I will raise some of my thoughts which may challenge some of our traditional views on capacity building.
First the ability to engage in research and development activities in the ABNJs depend on the capacity of countries to deploy vessels in the vast oceans to collect data and specimens, the availability of scientists and technicians and the onshore analytical capabilities. 70% of the globe is covered by the oceans and 64% of that is high seas. Only a handful of countries have the vessels capable of conducting such detailed and complex research especially those involving genetic material. Advanced scientific and technical analytical capabilities are similarly limited to a few. Most developing countries, for obvious reasons, lack the capacity to deploy such research vessels. Nor do they possess the personnel or the technical analytical capabilities. While this would be an acute problem for them when it comes to advanced data collection and research on marine organisms, it could even be a problem in simple fisheries research. They may not even possess the ability to identify the sources of genetic material used in research facilities of advanced countries, whether from areas under national jurisdiction or beyond it. This disability places many developing countries at a serious disadvantage.
Much of the advanced research appears to be conducted in government funded research facilities in advanced countries. But it is uncoordinated and fragmented, with little sharing, even with other developed countries. Approaches are mostly competitive, and data sharing among research establishments and intergovernmental organizations limited. The reasons for choosing certain areas for research are unclear, resulting in limited cross-sectoral co-operation. In these unclear circumstances developing countries find themselves at a serious disadvantage. Sometimes major commercial interests may pick up an idea with profit making potential and develop it further. The potential here could be vast but there is no guarantee of profits in every case.
Capacity building involving developing countries will need to take account of such challenges. Capacity building will require the identification of needs across a broad range of expertise to address challenges involving the complex to the basic. These needs must be identified by the countries themselves and could range from fisheries to more complex areas and cover the academia, industry, law, law enforcement and civil administration. Linkages involving areas of Information & Communication Technologies, satellite technologies and scientific interchange also come to mind. Legal capacity, especially in patent laws, based on experiences and the best practices, with a special focus on internationally agreed frameworks, need to be developed. Capacity in marine biological research, in particular research in fisheries, monitoring, fisheries, observation of vulnerable marine ecosystems and the development of area-based management tools is critical in the area of conservation.
Capacity building also requires addressing national jurisdictional linkages, including biological unity, food security and cross impact resource exploitation. An established duty to cooperate would greatly benefit economically significant zones. For example, Pacific Island countries under the Coral Triangle and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries (WCPF) Commission come to mind. The Law of the Sea Convention, (Arts. 118 and 197), the Convention on Biological Diversity (Art. 5), the UN Fish Stocks Agreement - UNNFSA (Art.8) and the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPF) Convention (Art. 8.4) can also be mentioned.
Fellowships such as the UN - Nippon fellowship and the Hamilton Shirley Amarasinghe Fellowship must be adequately publicized and funded to attract young lawyers and enthusiastic researchers who can contribute to the development of developing country capacities. We need more with greater coordination.
Before we move into more costly approaches, we must optimally use available free and low cost resources for capacity building. For example, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) is a strategic alliance of hundreds of scientists and organizations that encompass the world’s largest open access (free) online repository of spatially referenced marine data. It disseminates ecological and biological data from open oceans and deep seas, and has the potential to explore the vast mid-waters, the earth’s largest ecological habitat by volume. The work done under the auspices of DOALOS and the FAO are also available in the public domain.
The historical emphasis on North-South Cooperation usually subsumes South-South cooperation. It is true not only in this particular subject area, but also all other areas of international development cooperation. There is room for more south-led initiatives. A global mechanism that transfers open access biological data, with high resolution, contiguous coverage in space and time might resolve this disconnect. Once an international and independent framework of data sharing tools is established many countries will benefit, especially developing countries which don’t necessarily have access to financing or data sharing.
Developing countries have demanded capacity building for over forty years in many areas. They continue to do so. Some capacity has been built with the assistance of UN agencies, international organizations, educational institutions, and by bilateral partners. But the real success stories are of those which developed their own capacities after identifying their priorities.
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