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Statement by Ms Minna-Liina Lind, Deputy Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN as Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process


Statement by Ms Minna-Liina Lind, Deputy Permanent Representative of Estonia to the UN as Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process

at the

Thirteenth round of Informal Consultations of States Parties to the Agreement for
the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law
of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of
Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks


22 May 2018

First, let me start with a short general overview about the Regular Process since I am sure many of you are already well aware of it.

So going back to the very beginning – the regular process was established after the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. Overall, the Process aims to regularly review the environmental, economic and social aspects of the state of the world’s oceans – both current and foreseeable.

It is an intergovernmental process guided by international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international instruments. It is accountable to the General Assembly and its purpose is – through its main outputs, such as the first World Ocean Assessment and the future, second world ocean assessment – to contribute to the regular scientific assessment of marine environment in order to enhance the scientific basis for policymaking.  
Just to emphasize that this is actually the main advantage of the Regular Process – science-policy interface by providing a scientific basis for informed decisions on ocean issues by governments and other policy makers. That enables the decision-makers to get an overview of the shortcomings as well as speed up decision-making process in some areas if necessary.

How does the regular process work in practice? Regular process is overseen by an Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole composed of member states under the leadership of two co-chairs. Observers of the United Nations, relevant intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations in consultative status with the ECOSOC can also participate in the meetings. Relevant scientific institutions identified in Agenda 21 may also request an invitation to participate.

There is a 15-member Bureau – composed of three Member States per regional group – which puts into practice the decisions and guidance of the Ad Hoc Working Group during intersessional periods. The Bureau usually has monthly meetings.

Furthermore, there is also the Group of Experts established by the General Assembly as an integral part of the regular process. It is led by two Joint Coordinators and composed of a maximum of 25 experts (so five from each regional group), taking into consideration gender balance and diversity of expertise. The general task of the Group of Experts is to carry out any assessments within the framework of the Regular Process at the request of the General Assembly. Regional workshops held during the first cycle of the Regular Process and currently also underway for the second cycle are a most useful tool for the collection of regional-level information, scoping assessments and evaluating needs and gaps.

The General Assembly recalled in its resolution 71/257 of December 2016 the importance of making Governments, intergovernmental organizations, the scientific community and the general public aware of the Assessment and the Regular Process. The General Assembly also recognized the supporting scientific value of the Assessment for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, General Assembly resolution 69/292: Development of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process.

Let me now turn to the outcomes of the first cycle of the Regular Process, which ran from 2010 to 2014. The outcome of the first cycle was the First Global Integrated Marine Assessment, a nearly 1000-page report prepared by experts detailing the state of the world’s ocean, the extent of human knowledge of the oceans, and the effect of human activities on the oceans.  The Assessment was released at the end of 2015.

The findings of the first cycle are alarming. The experts warn that the ocean is facing major pressures simultaneously with such great impacts that the limits of its carrying capacity are being, or in some cases have been, reached. They indicate that urgent action on a global scale is needed to protect the world’s oceans from the many pressures they face.

As a key outcome, the Assessment established a baseline for measuring the state of the marine environment and thus represents a major milestone both for the Regular Process and for the international community. It also identifies where more information is needed and supports capacity-building efforts to generate, share and act upon that information.

The Assessment states that seafood products, including finfish, invertebrates and seaweeds, are a major component of food security around the world. Fisheries and aquaculture are a major employer and source of livelihoods in coastal States. Significant economic and social benefits result from those activities, including the provision of a key source of subsistence food and much-needed income for many of the world’s poorest people. As a mainstay of many coastal communities, fisheries and aquaculture play an important role in the social fabric of many areas. Small-scale fisheries, particularly those that provide subsistence in many poor communities, are often particularly important.

Globally, capture fisheries, including those of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks are near the ocean’s productive capacity, with catches on the order of 80 million metric tons. Ending overfishing and rebuilding depleted resources could result in an increase of as much as 20 percent in potential yield, provided that the transitional costs of rebuilding depleted stocks can be addressed. Tackling sustainability concerns more effectively – including ending overfishing, eliminating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, rebuilding depleted resources and reducing the broader ecosystem impacts of fisheries and the adverse impacts of pollution – is an important aspect of improving fishery yields and, therefore, food security.

If you would like to know more about the first cycle, then the assessment is available on the website of the Division for Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea and hard copy was published in 2017 in collaboration with Cambridge University Press. 

Let me now talk about what is happening at the moment in the second cycle of the Regular Process which was launched by the General Assembly in December 2015 and runs from 2016 to 2020.

While the first cycle focused on establishing a baseline for measuring the state of the marine environment, the second cycle will extend to evaluating trends and identifying gaps. The programme of work for the period 2017-2020 of the second cycle envisages two main outputs.

The first output is the preparation of the second world ocean assessment, which will play a decisive supporting role for other UN processes and should support policy development and decision-making at the national, regional and global levels. This is closely related to the second output, namely Regular Process support for other ocean-related intergovernmental processes. Under this output, key activities will be identified to support and interact with ongoing ocean-related intergovernmental processes mentioned earlier in my presentation.

One such activity was completed in June 2017, when three process-specific Technical Abstracts of the first World Ocean Assessment were launched.

The outline of the second world ocean assessment was approved by the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole in the beginning of March. The outline takes into consideration the feedback from the first round of regional workshops held in 2017 in support of the Regular Process, which helped raise awareness about, and receive feedback on, the first World Ocean Assessment, inform the scoping and preparation phases of the second world ocean assessment, and generate interest from the scientific community.

A second round of regional workshops, scheduled to begin in the second half of 2018, is meant to inform the preparation of the second world ocean assessment and to the collection of regional-level information and data. The first workshop in the second cycle will be held in Malta from 2 to 3 July. Information regarding this workshop as well as other upcoming workshops can be found on the DOALOS website.

Regarding fisheries issues – as most pertinent to this meeting – the second world ocean assessment will dedicate a complete chapter to changes in capture fisheries including straddling and highly migratory fish stocks and harvesting of wild marine invertebrates. It will address catches of fish, including the effects of management measures and fisheries subsidies both within and beyond national jurisdiction, by-catch and other impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems and benthic ecosystems, post-harvest loss, fish-stock propagation, the use of marine protein in agriculture and aquaculture, as well as estimated illegal, unregulated and unreported fisheries.

A separate chapter will be solely dedicated to aquaculture.

The programme of work also outlines activities in support of making the second cycle operational, including outreach and awareness-raising initiatives and capacity-building activities. In this regard, a Multi-stakeholder Dialogue/capacity-building event is planned to be held in New York early 2019.

Coming to the end of my presentation, I would like to draw your attention to two areas where all Member States can concretely contribute to the success of the Regular Process.

First let me point out the importance of the Pool of Experts in facilitating the effective and efficient preparation of the second world ocean assessment. The General Assembly has encouraged the appointment of additional experts to the current approximately 360-plus member Pool. It is crucial for more experts, especially those from the socioeconomic field, to be appointed, given that the drafting of the second assessment is scheduled to start in August 2018. A list of expertise desired for the Pool of Experts has been prepared by the Group of Experts to facilitate this process. Therefore, I would like to echo the call for nominating wider range of representatives to the Pool of Experts. 

Another important aspect of the identification and nomination of experts to the Pool of Experts, is the designation of National Focal Points. Following an invitation by the General Assembly, many States have designated their focal points. States that have not yet done so are encouraged to designate theirs as soon as possible. From Estonia´s experience, we can assure that the designation of a focal point has also in general terms facilitated our access to useful information.

In concluding, I would like to point out that as we move forward in implementing the second cycle of the Regular Process, it is important that the foundation laid by the first World Ocean Assessment remains a fundamental building block for future assessments and a point of reference for other assessments and processes in promoting the science-policy interface.

Finally, let me note that, the work undertaken under the Regular Process provides a unique and important opportunity for the reinforcement of the science-policy interface within ocean affairs, as well as a pathway for experts to directly engage in this important work.



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