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UN agrees on global high seas treaty

During an intergovernmental conference in New York at the beginning of March, the international community agreed on a new treaty to protect the world's oceans. For the first time, binding rules for marine areas beyond national jurisdiction are to be made possible: Marine protected areas, environmental impact assessments and other measures are to better protect threatened species and habitats in the future. During the negotiations, Germany, together with the EU, had pushed for an ambitious treaty.

After a 36-hour marathon of negotiations, delegates from the international community from over 190 nations succeeded in reaching agreement on a joint treaty. Such a marine protection agreement had been under discussion for many years. Among other things, the agreement created the basis for the designation of large protected areas on the high seas. The high seas include two thirds of the oceans. Until now, these areas have largely been outside the law. Only about one percent of the high seas is protected by international agreements. The primary goal of the negotiations, to designate at least 30 percent of the world's oceans as protected areas, has been brought within reach by the agreement. In the future, economic projects, expeditions and other activities in the oceans will also be assessed for their environmental compatibility. A scientific and technical body of the United Nations is to develop standards and guidelines for this purpose. Benefits arising from activities of states, such as the exploration of marine resources and the development of marine technologies outside national territories, are to be shared fairly in the future under the supervision of a committee, so that developing countries in particular benefit from the transfer. Another aim of the agreement is the protection of marine biodiversity. The United Nations High Seas Treaty is to come into force as soon as 60 countries have ratified it.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke of an "important step towards protecting our seas", and German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) of a "historic and overwhelming success for international marine protection.” She said the treaty would protect the sea beyond national jurisdiction. She did, however, call for swift ratification. "Germany will press ahead with the implementation of this important agreement," she announced. "Because the ocean is our powerful ally in the climate and biodiversity crisis. If we protect it, we also protect us humans." Conservation organisations such as WWF and Greenpeace also reacted positively to the outcome, but also urged swift action.

  • (March 5, 2023)
  •,, (March 5, 2023)
  • (March 6, 2023)
  • Photo:, Ant Rozestky

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