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Foley Hoag United Nations Lecture Series Part IV: The Treaty of the High Seas: What is it and what does it mean for States and Private Actors?

June 15, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 9:30 pm

On 4 March 2023, after almost 20 years of negotiations, United Nations Member States announced the finalized text of a historic agreement: a legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, known as the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction Agreement (“BBNJ” or “Agreement”), also referred to as the Treaty of the High Seas.

The high seas cover about 50 percent of the Earth’s surface; their health is key to the biodiversity and wellbeing of our planet. Until now, a weak patchwork of international and regional legal regimes has governed activities including fishing, deep-sea mining, and shipping, leaving these crucial ecosystems vulnerable to overfishing and the damaging effects of climate change.

The adoption and implementation of the BBNJ Agreement marks a critical step towards filling these gaps in international environmental governance by creating a framework that preserves the oceans’ status as part of the “common heritage of humankind.” The Agreement seeks to responsibly balance competing interests in the high seas by protecting marine biodiversity while

advancing opportunities for scientific discovery and promoting sustainable development. While the text of the Agreement is considered final, it will come into force only once sixty States have ratified it.

States and private companies alike now wonder: How will this new framework under international law impact their interests, rights, and obligations? How will the BBNJ Agreement be enforced, and how will it work in tandem with existing international laws and regional and international governing bodies?

This roundtable discussion will explore these issues, considering the following questions:

  • What is in the BBNJ Agreement and how does it differ from existing regimes governing activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction?
  • What obligations and rights will States party to the Convention have under the BBNJ Agreement?
  • How will the Agreement impact private companies and commercial activities?
  • How will the BBNJ Agreement be implemented and enforced?


  • Introduction: Christina Hioureas, Partner and Co-chair of the International Litigation and Arbitration Department and Chair of the United Nations Practice Group at Foley Hoag
  • Introduction: Les Schiefelbein, Founding Member and Vice-Chair of Board of Directors, Silicon Valley Arbitration and Mediation Center
  • Moderators: Nick Renzler, Counsel and Erica Harrington, Associate, Foley Hoag
  • Thembile Joyini, Acting Chief State Law Adviser (International Law), South African Foreign Ministry
  • Ambassador Eden Charles, Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies; former Chairman of the BBNJ Preparatory Committee
  • Tim Scott, Senior Policy Advisor, Environment, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UN Development Programme
  • Neil Popović, Frank C. Newman Lecturer, University of California, Berkeley Law School
  • Kilaparti Ramakrishna, Director of Marine Policy Center and Senior Advisor to the President on Ocean and Climate Policy

Date & Location

June 15

6-6.30 Welcome reception

6.30-8:30 Discussion

8:30-9:30 Reception

Foley Hoag LLP 1301 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY

Co-Sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations, the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations, United Nations Development Programme, Berkeley Law School, and Silicon Valley Arbitration & Mediation Center

RSVP (in person)

RSVP (Zoom)


June 15, 2023
6:00 pm - 9:30 pm