Sierra Leone joins ECOWAS Member States for the ratification of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Treaty in Abuja

Sierra Leone delegation joins other ECOWAS Member States in a coordination meeting on the ratification of the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) Treaty in Abuja, Nigeria from 20-22 November 2023.
The BBNJ is a global treaty that seeks to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of the marine biodiversity of the areas beyond national jurisdiction (high seas) for the present and in the long term, through the effective implementation of the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The high seas, which cover nearly half of the planet, are defined as the ocean area starting from countries’ exclusive economic zones or 200 nautical miles (370km) of coastlines. The treaty has four elements: Marine Genetic Resources (MGR), Area-Based Management Tools (ABMT) including marine protected areas, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), and capacity and the transfer of marine technology.

Sierra Leone through its Permanent Representative Office (Legal Affairs) in New York coordinated the negotiators of the African Group on BBNJ negotiations in New York for the full protection of areas covering 30% of the global ocean from environmentally damaging activities. The treaty was adopted on the 19th of June, 2023, and was opened for signatures on the 3rd of September, 2023 at the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Currently, 83 countries have signed up to the treaty. His Excellency the President, Rtd Brigadier Julius Maada Bio demonstrated Sierra Leone’s commitment to implement the treaty by signing up to it at the 78th United Nations General Assembly in New York, putting Sierra Leone among the first four (4) countries in the ECOWAS Region to have signed it- Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Cape Verde and Ghana. The treaty provides a legal basis through which Sierra Leone can make meaningful contributions to the protection of the ocean and sustainably conserve and use its resources for the benefit of all.

To promote swift ratification of the treaty by ECOWAS member states, Nigeria as chair of the ECOWAS and the Environment and Natural Resources Directorate of the ECOWAS Commission, with funding support from Bloomberg Philanthropies Ocean Initiative held a coordinating meeting for ECOWAS member states from the 20-22 November 2023 at the Johnwood Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria.

Key outcomes of the meeting include:
• Nomination of Sierra Leone as a member of the ECOWAS BBNJ Coordination Committee, a group of seven countries that will coordinate the ratification and implementation of the treaty within the ECOWAS Region.
• Adoption of the regional commitment for the ratification of the treaty;
• Identification of prioritized activities to support ECOWAS member States with BBNJ ratification over 18 months.
• Appointment of Sierra Leone as a member of the Expert Mentor Panel, a small group of four BBNJ experts from ECOWAS providing targeted technical support focused on the ratification and implementation of the treaty within the ECOWAS Region.
• Identification of timeframes and roadmap for next steps, and
• Drafting of a regional press release to create public awareness of the BBNJ Treaty.
Sierra Leone was represented in the meeting by Hawanatu Kebe, Legal Officer of the Permanent Mission of Sierra Leone to the United Nations in New York, Joseph Sapunka Turay, and Gibrilla Kamara, both officials from the Environment Protection Agency Sierra Leone (EPA-SL).