Not ‘undermining’ who? Unpacking the emerging BBNJ regime complex

Langlet A, Vadrot ABM (2023) Not ‘undermining’ who? Unpacking the emerging BBNJ regime complex. Marine Policy 147:105372.

The ongoing negotiations for a legally binding UNCLOS (United Nations Law of the Sea Convention) Implementing Agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) take place within the framework of a complex landscape of existing International Organizations (IOs) addressing different aspects of ocean governance relevant to the principles and provisions of the new BBNJ Agreement. Addressing the relationship to other instruments, Art. 4 of the current BBNJ draft text indicates that the instrument should not ‘undermine relevant legal instruments and frameworks and relevant global, regional, subregional and sectoral bodies’. This article seeks to clarify which existing ‘legal instruments and frameworks’ have such a contingent relation to the BBNJ Agreement, in which provision of the draft text they may play a role, and to formulate policy recommendations based on the observed complexity. Using ethnographic data collected during three intergovernmental conferences (IGC), we give an overview about involved IOs and their relation to the BBNJ negotiations. Acknowledging the complex interrelations and overlaps between a myriad of IOs and different provisions of the Treaty, we identify the emergence of a BBNJ regime complex. We identify a total of 52 involved IOs of which 10 are mentioned in the latest version of the draft text. We argue that IOs which policymakers perceive as relevant to BBNJ need to be considered in the implementation of the BBNJ agreement and urge negotiators to carefully define relationships with IOs to strengthen cooperation in the implementation of the BBNJ agreement.