The High Seas lie over the horizon, beyond the reach of States. While these international waters cover half of our planet, they are less familiar to us than the surface of the moon. Yet we could not survive without them. They feed us, provide half of our oxygen, regulate our climate, capture most of our greenhouse gas emissions, and enable almost all trade in goods. They inspire poets and nourish children’s dreams. If such a treasure were to belong to a single nation, it would be its most cherished possession.
But the High Seas belong to none; they must be managed in the interest of the public good, as a shared “common heritage for all humanity”. This status was partially acquired in 1982 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, through a framework that defines rules and authorities for the exploitation of the seabed’s resources and for deep seabed mining, but not for the water column. With the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the United Nations took a crucial, necessary step towards the peaceful governance of the sea. Crucial but insufficient, as we have come to realize 30 years later, since the protection it offers is insufficient to safeguard a gem that continues to surprise us each day with new riches.
Today parts of the High Seas have become lawless places, their intimate depth plundered, their resources exposed to pillaging and trafficking, with generalized pollution reaching the farthest seas. The immensity is dying, its life is wilting, emergency is at our door and the price of indifference is looming.
There is hope yet : civil society is mobilizing everywhere, and moving nations. There are solutions. An appointment has been set for the United Nations General Assembly to initiate negotiations towards an international instrument for the protection of biodiversity in the High Seas within the framework of the Convention on the Law of the Sea as early as 2013, and no later than the fall of 2014. But some are reluctant, and resistance can mobilize.
Recognizing that this unique global commons’ natural resources can only be safeguarded and managed sustainably through shared, transparent, democratic, international governance, We, the signatories of the Paris Appeal for the High Seas :
– Declare our commitment to mobilize all active forces in civil society, to call on our governments, economic partners and networks to obtain an ambitious agreement during the United Nations General Assembly in 2014 ;
– Request that a clear mandate be given to the United Nations General Assembly, so that the negotiations cover the following: the preservation of High Seas’ ecosystems, access to and sharing of benefits related to the exploitation of marine genetic resources, marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments, research support and marine technology transfer ;
– Propose that the International Seabed Authority participate in managing High Seas resources, especially marine genetic resources (and to provide means for the operational execution of these missions) ;
– Recall the importance of meeting the objective to cover, by 2020, 10 per cent of the ocean with marine protected areas as established in Nagoya in 2010 in the framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity ;
– Consider that civil society should be fully involved in international processes relating to the use and governance of the High Seas.
Through these resolutions, we declare that the High Seas are not solely the business of specialists and professionals, but that they are at the very heart of the survival of humanity and, as such, concern us all. We believe in all seriousness, with confidence and determination that they provide a space for peaceful and exemplary co-construction of States, which lust propose an innovative “blue economy” for future generations, based on the respect of ecosystems and human rights. Rebuilding humanity’s relationship with the High Seas is essential for human development, for the resilience of the planet and the climate. It is a pressing and urgent ambition.
All life comes from the ocean, and a living ocean is what we wish to pa ss on to our children.