The Next Phase for Arctic Governance?: Implications of a new treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction

Prof. Jacqueline Espenilla1

1University Of The Philippines Institute For Maritime Affairs And Law Of The Sea, Quezon City, Philippines

In November 2017, the UN General assembly issued Resolution 72/249 and agreed to convene an intergovernmental conference to deliberate the text of an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) under the UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). A BBNJ ILBI will potentially have significant implications on the governance regime of the Artic Ocean, in view of the fact that approximately 2.8 million sq km of the Arctic Ocean lie beyond the national jurisdiction of any coastal State. This development presents a number of complex legal questions relating to how the ILBI will interface with the already fragmented legal framework that applies to the Arctic. This paper attempts to examine the question: should the Arctic even be covered by the new instrument? The argument against its inclusion centers around the area’s unique and fragile ecosystem and climate, and the corresponding need to refer to a sui generis regime. On the other hand, the proposed ILBI may be able to fill in existing gaps in Arctic governance. In particular, it could address important questions concerning the conduct of environmental impact assessments and the use of area-based management tools.


Jacqueline is a Senior Researcher at the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea. She is also a Professorial Lecturer of Public International Law at the University of the Philippines College of Law. She has completed legal research fellowships focusing on Law of the Sea and marine environment at the UN Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea, Columbia Law School, and the University of Tokyo Faculty of Law. She received her LL.M. from Harvard Law School at her J.D. and B.A. from the University of the Philippines.

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