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Why are the UN High Seas Treaty Negotiations important to the Caribbean?

Session Replay



After more than a decade of discussions, the General Assembly (UNGA) established in resolution 72/249, in December 2017, a formal negotiating conference to develop a new legally binding Instrument under UNCLOS for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction by the end of 2020. This is the first global negotiation to address the ocean in over 30 years and provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to conserve biodiversity in the vast open ocean that covers nearly half of the Earth’s Surface. Three of the agreed conferences and attendant negotiations have already taken place and a fourth and final session is outstanding. Formal negotiations have not been held since September 2019 and the online informal discussions have been challenging for some members given time zone and technology issues, among other things. In June 2021, the General Assembly formally decided to postpone the fourth session of the conference (IGC4) to the earliest possible available date in 2022, at which time delegates will meet to finalize the text of the new treaty. With only one negotiating session remaining, delegations must agree on key issues in order to achieve a robust and effective treaty. From the outset of the negotiations, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has played a leading role. This session will provide (i) an overview of the negotiations to date (ii) the Caribbean’s role in the negotiations from leading stakeholders in the region; and (iii) viewpoints from key Caribbean negotiators on why this treaty is important to the Caribbean. It will also provide breakout sessions for an opportunity for participants to engage more fully with expert panelists from the region.


Former Ambassador to the United Nations for Trinidad and Tobago

Eden Charles

A former Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Deputy Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations, New York, Mr. Charles has more than twenty years expertise and experience in bilateral and multilateral negotiations, public international law, the law of the sea, international criminal law and multilateral diplomacy. He was elected Chairman of the Sixth Committee (Legal Affairs) of the United Nations General Assembly for its 70th Session, and was appointed by the President of the United Nations General Assembly, as the first Chairman of the Preparatory Committee for the conclusion of an international legally binding agreement under the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Mr. Charles, was the Coordinator of the annual UNGA resolution on Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea for 4 years, and is a former facilitator of the working groups of the Meeting of States Parties to UNCLOS on the allocation of seats to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. He has also been a delegate and advisor at numerous international conferences, seminars and workshops; and has published articles on different areas on international law.

Currently, Mr. Eden Charles is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority for the Enterprise; is an independent consultant in international law and serves as Chairman of the Advisory Board of One Ocean Hub UKRI.

Barbados Minister of Maritime Affairs

Hon. Kirk Humphrey

With two Master’s Degrees, one from the London School of Economics in ‘Social Policy and Planning for Developing Countries’, and the second, a Master’s in Public Administration with a dual concentration in ‘Public Policy and Leadership’ and ‘Leadership and Human Rights’ from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Kirk has put his academic preparation into practice for the past 15-years.

Kirk’s professional experience has spanned both the public and the private sector and has included senior posts with International Development Agencies, the Child Care Board, the Bureau of Social Policy, Research and Planning in the social sector.

Kirk has worked tirelessly on community initiatives and is an active member of a number of organizations that focus on social justice. His main interests lie in poverty alleviation, youth issues, elderly affairs and the environment. He has also recently been focusing on the effect of gender inequalities on development. Kirk is passionate about the arts, having performed with the Pinelands Creative Workshop and has won poetry awards at NIFCA.

Ambassador & Permanent Representative of Antigua & Barbuda to the United Nations & Chair of AOSIS

H.E Dr Walton A. Webson

H.E Dr Walton a Webson, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations.

H.E. Dr. Walton Webson holds a Bachelor of Science degree, a Master of Science in Management of Non-Profit Organizations, a Post Graduate Diploma in Organizational Development from the New School for Social Research, and a DM in Management from Case Western Reserve University. He worked for several international nongovernment organizations including: Sight Savers International of the (UK), The Caribbean Council for the Blind, (Antigua and Barbuda), Hellen Keller International of New York and Perkins International where he worked from 1992 to 2014 and was the organization’s Chief Executive from 2011. Dr. Webson is an Antiguan diplomat. He has served as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York of Antigua and Barbuda since 2014.

Since at the United Nations, Ambassador Webson served as President of UNICEF, 2017 and was Vice President of its Board in 2016. Ambassador Webson chaired the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples also known as the Special Committee on decolonization or C-24 in 2018. He was appointed by the President 72nd session of the UN General Assembly to co-facilitate with the Ambassador of Japan the high-level meeting on tuberculosis which took place in September 2018 and was appointed by the President of the UN General Assembly in 2019 to be a co-facilitator on the Steering Committee on Accessibility and continues to chair that committee on the reappointment from the president of the 74th session of the General Assembly.

Ambassador Webson is an innovator and a leader. He founded the Friends of Vision at the United Nations; a group responsible for advocating for eye health to be included in universal health care. He was successful in getting eye health for the first time included in a UN resolution on UHC.
Ambassador Webson with the Ambassadors of Denmark and the UAE formed the informal group of the Presidents of the UN agencies to coordinate the work of the Funds and Programmes of the United Nation agencies.
He was the lead sponsor on two resolutions affecting the lives of persons with disabilities around the world and is considered as a champion on disabilities issues and a leading voice on issues of Small States.

Ambassador Webson served in 2020 as the President of the board of the United Nations Development Programmed (UNDP, UNOPS AND UNFPA). He is the current co-chair of the UN Steering Committee on the Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) and has had the honor to lead the CARICOM Caucus at two General Assemblies over his first four years at the UN.
In 2017, Ambassador Webson was the lead voice of the initiative for raising pledges in support of global response to the needs of the Caribbean to Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The UN sponsored activity attracted more than 2.1 billion dollars in pledges.
He continues to sit on several UN committees including committees responding to the challenges of COVID19.
Ambassador Webson led Antigua and Barbuda’s team on the negotiations on the resolutions of the SDGs 2015. He also led the Antigua and Barbuda’s team at the 2016 meeting on climate change and he has led several climate change meetings for Antigua and Barbuda since his appointment at the United Nations.
Ambassador Webson has spearheaded several initiatives on Antigua and Barbuda including: a para-transit programmed for persons with disability, the Antigua Barbuda Science Park, driving solar energy in support of the Department of Environment, the diaspora response to Hurricane Irma and Maria and support to areas of sports, education, gender issues and youth development.
Ambassador Webson is a published author and has recently contributed in The Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health: vision beyond 2020 and in the ICEVI journal 2021.

Ambassador Webson is married with three children.

Deputy Permanent Representative of Barbados, United Nations

Juliette Babb-Riley

Juliette Babb-Riley joined the Barbados Foreign Service in 1991 and was assigned to the International Relations Division until December 1995. Between 1996 and 1997, she was assigned to the Consular and Protocol Divisions of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ms. Babb-Riley was posted to the Barbados High Commission in Ottawa, Canada, as First Secretary, from 1997-2003. On her return to Headquarters, she served as Head of the Public Affairs Section from 2003 to 2006, Head of the Europe, Asia & Africa Section from 2009 to 2010, Head of the International Law, Human Rights and Maritime Delimitation Section from 2010 to 2012, and Head of the Human Rights and Multilateral Relations Section from 2012 to 2013. She also acted as Head of the Hemispheric Relations Section.

In 2013, Ms. Babb-Riley was transferred to the Permanent Mission of Barbados to the United Nations as Deputy Permanent Representative. In 2016, she was appointed Co-Chair of the Regular Process and serves as CARICOM Co-coordinator on BBNJ matters.

Ms. Babb-Riley is the holder of a Bachelor of Arts degree (Hons) in History and Political Science, a Bachelor of Laws degree (Hons) and a Master of Science degree in International Studies. She is married and has two children.

Programme Manager for Sustainable Development, CARICOM

Amrikha Singh

Professor of Marine Biology, University of the West Indies

Dr. Judith Gobin

Judith Gobin, is a Professor of Marine Biology and an internationally recognised marine scientist with a career spanning more than 38 years.

She has made significant contributions to the knowledge of marine biodiversity in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean; with numerous publications on a number of “new marine scientific records” and “new marine species” (approx. 298). Her research began with her work in soft coastal marine sediments followed by rocky shores and more recently deep-sea areas.

As a Caribbean Marine Scientist, Professor Gobin has achieved a number of firsts:
Foremost is her appointment as the first female Professor in Life Sciences, in the history (62 years) of the St. Augustine Campus, UWI.
In 2018, she launched a book and 5-part DVD series, Deep Sea Wonders featuring footage (the first reveal of TT deep sea communities) from an expedition by the exploration vesses (EV) Nautilus; on which she was the first TT marine scientist onboard.

Professor Gobin has been making marine scientific interventions and continues to contribute globally- to the negotiations for an international legally binding instrument, under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

As a UWI Lecturer for the past 21 years, she is especially proud of the positive impact she continues to have on young scientists – both women and men!

Director, International Ocean Policy, Global Policy and Government Relations, Conservation International

Tamara Thomas

PhD Candidate, Maritime Affairs, World Maritime University-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute

Kahlil Hassanali

Kahlil Hassanali is a PhD candidate in Maritime Affairs at the World Maritime University-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute (WMU-GOI). His PhD research is examining the inter-relationship between a legally binding instrument being negotiated under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ agreement) and the the blue economy of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). He also serves as a negotiator for the CARICOM in the process to develop the BBNJ agreement.

Prior to embarking on his PhD studies Kahlil garnered over eight years experience as a research officer in marine policy and governance at the Institute of Marine Affairs, a multidisciplinary marine and environmental research organization in Trinidad and Tobago.

Kahlil holds an MSc in Environment and Development from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. He was also a 2013/2014 United Nations-Nippon Foundation of Japan Fellow, receiving advanced education in ocean affairs and the Law of the Sea.

Research Fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute

Janine Coye-Felson

Janine Felson is an Ambassador of Belize and a senior advisor to the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on climate and ocean matters. For more than two decades, she has been a leading voice for small island developing states (SIDS) in key negotiations including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the intergovernmental conference for a new high seas treaty on marine biological diversity, with the aim of tailoring global policy to the specific needs and circumstances of SIDS. She has served as an expert on and facilitator for several UN bodies and was a member of the Board of the Green Climate Fund. From 2019-2020, she was the chief strategist and deputy chair of the AOSIS. Janine is concurrently completing a fellowship with the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI) where she is focused on integrated approaches to global policy making on climate, oceans and sustainable development.

Leads Oceans Negotiator, AOSIS

Asha Challenger

Asha Challenger is the Lead Oceans Negotiator for the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS). Ms. Challenger is responsible for the Ocean portfolio, including Plastic Pollution, sea-level rise, the Blue Economy, and BBNJ, among other cross-cutting issues. She remains the lead on BBNJ and Ocean matters at the Permanent Mission of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations and has actively participated in the BBNJ process since 2016.

Ms. Challenger’s prior work includes diplomatic experience in disarmament and international security and gender and development and several years working with international NGOs in Canada and the US.

Ms. Challenger received her first degree from York University in Toronto and holds a Masters of Public Administration from Baruch College in New York.

Ocean Governance & Fisheries, OECS

David Robin

Sponsored by:

High Seas Alliance

The High Seas Alliance is a partnership of more than 45 organizations and groups working to improve protection for nearly 50 percent of the planet that is the high seas. Our aim is to ensure that the intergovernmental conference taking place at the United Nations for the development of a new legally binding treaty under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, results in robust protection for marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including a framework for establishing marine protected areas and reserves in the high seas. The High Seas Alliance is committed to working with States towards the quick adoption, ratification and implementation of a new and robust treaty to protect the world’s ocean beyond national jurisdiction.

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