This document outlines the areas of apparent convergence and divergence of states in the November 2019 draft treaty. On 27 November 2019, the President of the Intergovernmental Conference on the Conservation of Marine Biodiversity in Areas Outside national jurisdiction (BBNJ) published a revision of the draft convention of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity in areas outside national jurisdiction. The revised draft text will form the basis for the next round of negotiations to be held in March/April 2020. As the Chair indicates in the attached note, the emphasis is, as the Chair indicates in the attached note, on “streamlining the text” (p. 2), including removing some options that had not received support during the Intergovernmental Conference 3, reformulating other languages and adding a new language elsewhere. However, the structure of the revised text remains “broadly unchanged” (p. 2), including the length of the document. Finally, the President invites delegations to present another proposal between 2 January and 3 February, which will then be put together in a single document before the Intergovernmental Conference 4. It is important to note that IGC 4 is the last scheduled negotiating meeting and the initial objective was to reach an agreement by then.

However, given the progress of the negotiations at the end of intergovernmental conference 3, it seems highly unlikely, if not impossible, that this objective can be achieved. This impression is supported by a prompt review of the revised draft. Length should not be a factor, but even a quick reading of the text shows how little progress has been made, reflecting the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference 3. In addition, the President has very carefully “streamlined” the options, constantly reminding that this is a state-led process, a reminder that inevitably raises significant restrictions on the president. However, a process as complex as these negotiations, with many entrenched positions on all key issues, requires strong and active supervision by the Chair and working group facilitators, which may have been largely lacking. On 27 November 2019, the President of the Intergovernmental Conference on a Legally Binding International Instrument of the United Nations Convention on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity in Areas outside the National Jurisdiction published an advanced version of the revised text entitled “The Revised Draft Convention on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity” on 27 November 2019. This was requested at the end of the third session and aims to “enable delegations to take stock and facilitate further progress in the negotiations at the fourth session of the Conference”. The fourth session will take place in 2020. The oceans are facing a catastrophic decline in biodiversity. States are now in the final stages of negotiations for an implementation agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to fill governance gaps for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity outside national jurisdiction. This document outlines the obvious areas of convergence and divergence between states in the draft 2019 treaty.

It describes the contributions of the articles in this special issue “Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Treaty: The Last Stage of Negotiations,” which propose breaking negotiations and practical ideas for a change in transformative governance. As States prepare for the fourth and final (planned) postponed negotiating meeting, we hope that this special issue will provide a useful tool for policy makers and other stakeholders by proposing creative ideas for the governance of the BBNJ and to reach a timely agreement on the text of the bbnj contract.