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Marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction: a ‘common heritage of mankind’

Today the artificial division of the ocean into maritime zones laid out by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is obsolete. The evolution of international law demonstrates that ocean waters in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) constitute a single ecosystem. That single ecosystem cannot be divided into many discrete jurisdictional zones. Drawing from other treaties and taking a human rights perspective to regulating biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), the new international legally binding instrument (ILBI) countries are negotiating must incorporate the ‘common heritage of mankind’ (CHM) principle. Without this, states will be left to exploit marine genetic resources (MGR) on a first-come, first-served basis, leading to global inequities. It is high time that nations rejected the existing silos of ocean governance and opted for the comprehensive protection of ocean species and habitats.

Revised version, March 2019

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IIED is helping the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to participate effectively in talks about a new international treaty on the high seas.

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Helping the LDCs negotiate the high seas

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