Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès is delighted that Belgium will become a member of the Council of the International Seabed Authority (ISBA), in 2023. The Council, composed of 36 Member States, is the executive body of the International Authority.
A campaign for this mandate has been lead in recent months by the network of Belgian diplomatic posts, in agreement with the competent Belgian authorities, namely the FPS Economy, SMEs, Self-Employed and Energy (for the continental shelf) and the Marine Environment Department of the FPS Public Health, Safety of the Food Chain and Environment.
The International Seabed Authority is mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of Montego Bay (1982) and by the Agreement relating to its Part XI (1994), to organize and control all activities carried out in the international seabed area, i.e. the seabed and subsoil beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Through this organization, the States Parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea ensure the management and the control of activities carried out in this important area, which covers most of the marine areas.
The ISBA Council is the forum where regulations concerning the seabed are negotiated. Regulations on seabed exploration have been adopted in the past and apply to companies authorized by the Authority to explore a specific area of the seabed.
In the coming years, crucial negotiations are planned to reach a regulation on seabed exploitation, a subject of strategic environmental and economic importance. Exploitation of the seabed represents certain economic opportunities, including for mining. Belgium attaches a great importance to a compliance with the strictest environmental standards for the exploitation of the seabed, given its crucial role for the environment and the biodiversity, and will advocate that the precautionary principle be respected when drawing up the exploitation rules.
“Belgium has already been active for many years in the governance of the organization as an observer,” said Sophie Wilmès. This mandate as member represents an opportunity to play a more active role in the creation of a legal framework for the exploitation of natural resources in the seabed area in non-territorial waters.”