Direction, not detail: Progress towards consensus at the fourth intergovernmental conference on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction. Academic Article uri icon


  • After a two year delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the fourth intergovernmental conference (IGC-4) in the negotiations for a new UN treaty to address the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) took place in March 2022. This meeting differed substantially from previous IGCs in terms of process, with much of the discussions occurring in 'informal informals,' or off-the-record meetings open only to delegates and registered observers. Additionally, in-person participation was extremely limited and observers only had access to web broadcasts, i.e., no in-person interactions with delegates. A draft text of the treaty was circulated in advance and provided the basis for discussion and negotiation at the meeting. This paper examines IGC-4 in line with previous analyses of the first three IGCs, tracing the process and outcomes to date, aiming to understand the factors and players that are building a new BBNJ agreement. Key themes explored include marine genetic resources (MGRs), area-based management tools, including marine protected areas (ABMTs/MPAs), environmental impact assessment (EIA), and capacity building and transfer of marine technology (CB/TMT). Some progress toward consensus has been made, buoyed by intersessional discussions, but several sticking points remain with regard to definitions, content, and processes enshrined in the draft treaty, and a fifth IGC is scheduled to take place from 15 to 26 August 2022.

published proceedings

  • Mar Policy

altmetric score

  • 9.05

author list (cited authors)

  • Mendenhall, E., De Santo, E., Jankila, M., Nyman, E., & Tiller, R.

citation count

  • 5

complete list of authors

  • Mendenhall, Elizabeth||De Santo, Elizabeth||Jankila, Mathias||Nyman, Elizabeth||Tiller, Rachel

publication date

  • January 2022