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Fish in High Seas Subject of Friday Night Fight at UN, Consensus Reached

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, January 24 -- After late Friday night negotiations, consensus was reached to begin negotiating the first UN treaty to conserve marine biological diversity in ocean areas beyond national jurisdiction. The document will be published and voted on in the UN General Assembly.

   But how did it come about, at the end?

   On the morning of Friday, January 23 things did not look good. The larger group took over Conference Room 5 in the UN basement, with a hundred-some seat; the Group of 77 repaired to smaller Conference Room 8. (The Security Council was in a closed meeting in Room 7 about human rights and peacekeeping; some UN-based reporters were lured into a meeting feigning a fight for access, leadership engaged in censorship).

   Inner City Press spoke with different sides of the oceans debate, some expressing frustration not only at big power but also seafaring (and fishing) countries like Iceland and Argentina. It came down to a showdown in Conference Room 5, while upstairs in the Delegates Lounge new contractor Culinart served up drinks.

   Surprising to many of those involved, longtime Sri Lanka ambassador Palitha Kohona was in the mix, even after the defeat of “his” president Mahinda Rajapaksa and investigation of Gotabaya Rajapaksa for media murder. Kohona was head of the UN's Treaty Division, so there's that. Jamaica's Deputy Permanent Representative was in the house, and South Africa now speaking for the Group of 77, having taken over from Bolivia.

   First the rub was Paragraph 7; then it shifted back to Paragraph 6 bis, about not undermining the Law of the Sea and other related instruments. Versions was projected on the wall; the phrase “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” was deployed.  And finally, though less than advocate wanted, this agreement to negotiated was reached. And so it goes at the UN.


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