Workshop "Towards a package: Marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction"

Workshop "Towards a package: Marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction"

A workshop "Towards a package: Marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction" was held on 22nd and 23rd January at the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE). This was jointly organised by Professor Abbe Brown from the School of Law, well known internationally for her legal work on intellectual property, and Professor Marcel Jaspars, a world-leading authority on marine biodiscovery

The ocean matters to all of us. 2020 sees the last stages of negotiation of a new United Nations agreement relating to our use of the high sea and deep ocean. The agreement’s objective is to deliver a fair and balanced approach to conservation and sustainability, taking into account the perspective of countries at different levels of development, science and the health benefits arising from use of marine genetic resources.  

Building on past work, Professor Brown and Professor Jaspars are working to inform and assist country delegates and wider stakeholders - from private individuals to activists to industry -  to stimulate debate and progress this important issue. Supported by the RSE, the University of Aberdeen, EU-Atlas and iAtlantic projects led by the University of Edinburgh and funded by the EU, and the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative, this invitation-only workshop was attended by diplomats, policy makers, academics, activists, intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations and industry. 

The workshop, held on a Chatham House basis, explored and challenged possibilities around how the benefits of the ocean should be shared and how to move forward towards a consensus. One significant theme was the benefits which can be obtained from the oceans in developing new medicines and other products, how this can be brought about in a sustainable way, and how key medicines, information and technology can be shared widely whilst taking intellectual property law obligations into account. A series of videos exploring the relationship between intellectual property and marine biodiscovery in the context of ongoing UN negotiations are available on the event website. Other key themes were approaches to digital sequence information and marine genetic resources, wider forms of benefit sharing, capacity building and technology transfer, Environmental Impact Assessments and assessing deep-sea ecosystems, principles and pragmatism, balancing conservation and sustainable use and multi-stakeholder engagement/the role of science and renewing momentum and motivation.    

This two-day workshop was accompanied by a fully booked public event with members of the public hearing about the UN negotiations from a panel of experts (from the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative, EU-Atlas and iAtlantic, France and Greenpeace). There was an active question and answer session and a discussion of how members of the public could get involved in campaigning on this important issue.  The event closed with the launch of ‘Song of the Oceans’, specially composed by ‘the nation’s favourite living composer’ Professor Paul Mealor and internationally acclaimed poet, Dr Grahame Davies to raise public awareness of these significant negotiations.  To listen to the song and for more information, please visit the event website.

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