Cross-sectoral Project

Building and Enhancing Sectoral and Cross-sectoral Capacity to Support Sustainable Resource Use and Biodiversity Conservation in Marine Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

Project Background

The Common Oceans ABNJ Program, Phase 1 of the Common Oceans Program, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) from 2014 to 2019 and led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), included two projects that formed the foundation of the Common Oceans Cross-sectoral ProjectThe Deep Sea Project and The Capacity Project. The Deep Sea Project aimed to ensure efficient and sustainable use of deep-sea living resources and biodiversity conservation in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). The Capacity Project promoted global and regional coordination on key ABNJ issues related to fisheries and biodiversity conservation to improve capacity and understanding by building and improving cross-sectoral dialogue, engaging high-level decision-makers, and fostering public outreach.

The Global Ocean Forum (GOF) is now collaborating with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), and GRID-Arendal to carry out the Common Oceans Cross-sectoral Project in the period of 2023-2028. Implemented by FAO and funded by GEF, this project seeks to build and strengthen regional and national capacity for sectoral and cross-sectoral cooperation, knowledge management, and public awareness of the ABNJ.

ABNJ harbor unique and vulnerable marine ecosystems, many yet to be discovered. They provide crucial goods and services, but challenges as climate change, pollution and overuse put increasing pressure on biodiversity and ecosystems. A new implementation agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction – the ‘BBNJ Agreement’ – which will be open for signature by all States and regional economic integration organizations from 20 September 2023 to 20 September 2025, will address a wide range of challenges in ABNJ governance. The project aims to raise awareness of the BBNJ Agreement and improve cooperation on ABNJ governance in two pilot regions: the Southeast Pacific region and the Pacific Islands Region, working with the Comisión Permanente del Pacífico Sur (CPPS), the Pacific Islands Forum Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC), Universidad Católica del Norte (UCN), and the University of the South Pacific (USP).

GOF, UNEP-WCMC, GRID-Arendal, CPPS, OPOC, UCN, and USP will co-execute the project together with 23 co-financing partners, including global, regional, and national organizations, donor agencies, and academic institutions. The project, following a co-design and co-implementation approach, will seek input of various stakeholders, including indigenous peoples with traditional knowledge and customary practices and local communities, during each phase in the development of the capacity building program. Through knowledge exchange, this project will aim to improve cross-sectoral collaboration on key issues such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, seabed disturbance, marine and land-based pollution, and climate change.

Key Activities

1) Strengthen capacity for cooperation and coordination

The project will enhance functional capacity of national, regional and global organizations in sectoral and cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination initiatives in ABNJ management. In particular, the project would like to improve capacity for enhanced application of area-based management tools (ABMTs), environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and marine spatial planning in the pilot regions.

2) Improve understanding of ABNJ issues and governance

The project will demonstrate effective knowledge exchange and improved access to the best available information for well-informed decision-making in cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination among key ABNJ management organizations (national, regional, and global). The project will aim to put in place a cross-organizational knowledge exchange process tested in each pilot region.

Intended Impact

As part of the overarching Common Oceans Program, this project will capitalize on opportunities for wider impact across different sectors and scales in ABNJ – a key part of which is ensuring replicability and upscaling. Ideally, the capacity development process designed under the project can be easily tailored and replicated in other regions and can be adapted to different scales as necessary (e.g., other ocean basins, regions in ABNJ or between national governments).

Project Collaborators

Implementing Agency:

            United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

            Isabelle Vanderbeck, UNEP GEF International Waters Task Manager

Executing Agency:  

            Global Ocean Forum

            Miriam Balgos, Project Manager – Capacity Development Specialist

            Catie Mitchell, Administrative and Financial Professional – Research Assistant

Co-executing Partners:

            UNEP – World Conservation Monitoring Center
            Irene Llabres Pohl
            Ruth Fletcher

            Louise Lieberknecht
            Dylan Marrs
            Mario Caña

            Comisión Permanente del Pacífico Sur
            Edwin Pinto Uscocovich
            Miriam Lucero

            Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner
            Peni Suveinakama

            Universidad Católica del Norte
            Marcelo Olivares
            Carlos Gaymer

            University of the South Pacific
            Cherie Morris

Find more information about the project on the Cross-sectoral Project Factsheet.

The Common Oceans Program is a global partnership funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), promoting sustainable fisheries and biodiversity conservation in areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ) with a particular focus on tuna and deep-sea fisheries, the Sargasso Sea and cross-sectoral cooperation. Led by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Program brings together the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), regional fisheries management organizations, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, civil society and academia.

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