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Marine Technology Transfer under a BBNJ Treaty: A Case for Transnational Network Cooperation

  • Stephen Minas (a1)
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Our ability to protect and sustainably use the high seas is ultimately subject to our ability to understand this vast and remote environment. The success of an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) will depend, in part, on utilizing technology to access ocean life, to analyze it, and to implement measures for its conservation and sustainable use. Indeed, technology, broadly defined, is integral to meeting the ILBI's objectives: not just the mandate to address “capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology,” but also the sustainable use and conservation of marine genetic resources, the implementation of environmental impact assessments, and biodiversity conservation measures such as area-based management tools. To maximize marine technology deployment to protect marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, transferring technology to developing countries will be critical. Provisions for the transfer of technology, generally from developed to developing countries, are included in many international environmental agreements and declarations, but these provisions have often proven difficult to implement. Part of the difficulty is that the relevant technology is dispersed among states; universities, research institutes and other nonstate actors; and private industry. The particular challenge in crafting an ILBI is, as the European Union has identified, to avoid repeating existing provisions and instead to “focus on added value.” One opportunity for an ILBI to add value on technology transfer is to further develop a network model to facilitate marine technology transfer.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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1 See Written Submission of the EU and Its Member States: Capacity-Building and Transfer of Marine Technology 2 (January 31, 2017) [hereinafter Written Submission of the EU].

3 E.g., Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer art. 10A, Sept. 14-16, 1987, 1522 UNTS 3 (entered into force Jan. 26, 1989); UN Framework Convention on Climate Change art. 4(5), June 4, 1992, 1771 UNTS 107 (entered into force Mar. 21, 1994).

4 Written Submission of the EU, supra note 1, at 2.

5 The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission is recognized as a competent international organization for Part XIV of UNCLOS. Div. Ocean Affairs & Law of the Sea, 31 Law of the Sea Bulletin 93–95 (1996).

6 Ronán Long, Marine Science Capacity Building and Technology Transfer: Rights and Duties Go Hand in Hand Under the 1982 UNCLOS, in Law, Science & Ocean Management 299, 308 (Myron H. Nordquist et al. eds., 2007).

7 Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, IOC Criteria and Guidelines on Transfer of Marine Technology 9 (2003).

8 Id.

9 Id. at 10.

10 Id. 10–11.

11 Id. at 11–12.

12 The IOC has noted, as examples of technology transfer activity, initiatives such as the the OceanTeacher training system and the Ocean Biogeographic Information System data repository. IOC Group of Experts on Capacity Development, IOC/GE-CD-1/3, at 63–66 (Mar. 2018).

13 Ad Hoc Report of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO: IOC Strategy on Activities in Relation to Capacity Development and Transfer of Marine Technology, IOC/INF-1347, at 15 (June 17, 2017). In this connection, it is noteworthy that the experience under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has been that developing country requests were submitted after the establishment of the Climate Technology Centre and Network, with the number of requests increasing with each passing year.

14 Intergovernmental Oceanographic Comm'n Assembly, Decision IOC-XXIX/10.1 para. (v) (2017). The Group must submit its work to the IOC Assembly in 2019. IOC Group of Experts on Capacity Development, supra note 12, at 7.

15 Report of the Preparatory Committee Established by General Assembly Resolution 69/292, UN Doc. A/AC.287/2017/PC.4/2, at 14 (July 31, 2017).

16 Id. at 15.

18 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Technology Executive Committee, South–South Cooperation and Triangular Cooperation on Technologies for Adaptatation in the Water and Agriculture Sectors (June 2017).

19 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Report of the Conference of the Parties, UN Doc. FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1 (Mar. 15, 2011) (Decision 1/CP.16, para. 117).

21 Id. at para. 94.

22 Id. at para. 93.

23 About the Bio-Bridge Initiative, Convention on Biological Diversity.

24 Secretary-General, Oceans and the Law of the Sea, UN Doc. A/66/70, at para. 199 (Mar. 22, 2011).

25 Technology Facilitation Mechanism, UN Sustainable Dev. Knowledge Platform.

26 Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries, UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

27 Technical Co-operation (TC), Int'l Maritime Org.

I am grateful to Professors Maggie Gardner and Cymie R. Payne for their very helpful comments and suggestions.

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