In a historic moment for Bangladesh's oceanic diplomacy, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently signed the United Nations' "Biological Diversity Beyond National Jurisdiction" (BBNJ) treaty. This dedication, set against the strategic Bay of Bengal, is ripe with enormous promise but fraught with numerous challenges.Bangladesh's commitment to the conservation and sustainable use of deep-sea marine resources was reaffirmed when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ratified the BBNJ treaty at the United Nations headquarters in New York.
At a time when the world is struggling to deal with the effects of climate change and widespread overfishing, this treaty shows Bangladesh's commitment to international environmental conservation efforts. Countries that have signed the treaty have agreed to a number of conditions, including a moratorium on resource acquisition in marine protected areas, the promotion of technology transfer and capacity-building for developing countries, a prohibition on overfishing, the implementation of stringent environmental impact assessments, the reduction of marine pollution, and the allocation of funds for research and development.
The Bay of Bengal's strategic location has a major bearing on the internal and external policies of the countries that border it. Bangladesh, a country with a sizable coastline along the Bay of Bengal, cannot afford to overlook the geopolitical significance of this area. The biodiversity of the Bay of Bengal is protected by international treaties like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), but the region's geopolitical, economic, and strategic importance calls for more comprehensive and tailored instruments.
While the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and related treaties do provide a universal legal framework, the geopolitical landscape calls for pragmatic, rational-legal instruments that set normative obligations and preventive and remedial frameworks. Concerns about the binding effect of these agreements have been raised because no single organisation has been assigned responsibility for putting them into practise within the current international legal order. The unequal power and resources of different countries cast doubt on the "Polluter Must Pay" principle, and on the feasibility of implementing it.
Opportunities and threats exist for the coastal states of the Bay of Bengal when it comes to exploring and exploiting marine resources in international waters. Use of resources should be equitable and sustainable in accordance with the principles of humanity's common heritage and equitable sharing. However, when states have vastly different levels of military and economic might, the more powerful states are able to exploit these resources at the expense of the weaker ones. The marine ecosystem and the economies of coastal communities depend on the protection of marine resources.
The preservation of the Bay of Bengal's open waters faces significant challenges from marine pollution, resource overexploitation, and the absence of a comprehensive legal framework. The ecosystem and biodiversity are in danger due to human activities like plastic pollution, toxic waste dumping, and oil spills. Coastal states need to collaborate to create regional fisheries management organisations and conservation measures to protect marine life in the open ocean. Traditional international legal order must be revitalised with a focus on conservation and cooperation to achieve just and long-term utilisation of high sea resources in the Bay of Bengal. For effective high sea conservation in the Bay of Bengal, international cooperation, responsible governance, equitable resource sharing, sustainable development, and robust conservation measures are required.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's involvement in the BBNJ agreement is a big deal for the cause of ocean conservation and the reduction of human impacts like overfishing. This pledge has enormous potential for marine conservation and climate advocacy, but it will only be fulfilled if substantial diplomatic, financial, and logistical hurdles can be cleared. A turning point in Bangladesh's ocean diplomacy has occurred with the country's acceptance of the Biological Diversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) agreement.
This pledge demonstrates Bangladesh's dedication to protecting the world's marine ecosystems in the face of growing threats like climate change and overfishing, and it holds the promise of significant environmental conservation. However, getting there will require negotiating tricky socio-geopolitical currents, putting in place robust enforcement mechanisms, fixing resource allocation problems, and pushing for more widespread global involvement in ocean conservation.
There is a rich tapestry of resources waiting to be discovered in the ocean, and gas and oil are at the top of every state's wish list. However, without a global compact or international statutory obligations, powerful nations have been free to pursue their self-interests unchecked, frequently casting shadows over equitable economic growth and endangering marine ecosystems.
There is, however, rising optimism that this sort of behaviour on the part of powerful states will become a thing of the past as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visionary agreement sets sail on the high seas of oceanic diplomacy. Hope for a more equitable and sustainable maritime future has been sparked by this agreement, which could signal the end of resource dominance. Opportunities for environmental sustainability, diplomatic influence, and international collaboration are intertwined with Bangladesh's future aspirations as a result of its commitment to this agreement. The success of the treaty depends on the parties' ability to plan ahead, work together, and keep it functioning as intended.
This write-up serves as a call to action, emphasising the importance of safeguarding our oceans, promoting global cooperation, and maintaining principles of equity and ecological conservation. It is imperative to take immediate action in order to guarantee the preservation of our oceans for future generations. This requires collaborative efforts to replace resource dominance with cooperative approaches, thus ensuring the well-being and prosperity of our marine ecosystems. The writer is Lecturer of Law, Rajshahi Science & Technology University
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