The development of an Internationally Binding Legal Instrument (ILBI) for the conservation and sustainable management of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) has profound implications for the future regulatory activities of a host of regional governance structures exercising competence over these waters. In the rather stilted vernacular of the BBNJ Process, the ILBI aspires to “not undermine” the work of preexisting institutions and initiatives. Inevitably, given the emphasis upon future institutional symbiosis, a key challenge facing the ILBI is to promote its four thematic priorities—marine genetic resources, area-based management tools, environmental assessment, and capacity building and technology transfer—in a manner that can be effectively harnessed by current regional and sectoral frameworks. One region in which the intriguing set of challenges and opportunities presented by the ILBI are strikingly manifested is the Arctic. Some have argued for a regional treaty or clearer recognition of the “special” nature of Arctic conditions. However, we view the ILBI as a potential milestone in Arctic governance that can provide a firm platform to build on current cooperative arrangements for these vulnerable and rapidly changing marine ecosystems. Moreover, we argue that the present legal and institutional framework for the Arctic need not be revisited at this juncture, as it provides a strong regime through which to implement the core objectives of the ILBI. Its ability to do so, however, will depend on whether the ILBI (1) is effectively designed to work with preexisting machinery and (2) succeeds in clarifying and advancing universally-agreed methodological requirements for its four priority areas.
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