UN Ocean Treaty: Chile is the first country to sign

The Government of Santiago inaugurated the ratification of the United Nations international convention for the protection of the great seas

Chile has ratified the UN Ocean Treaty: it is the first country in the world
Chile is not only the first signatory to the UN Ocean Treaty, but has also offered the port city of Valparaiso as a location for the Agreement's Secretariat (Photo: Envato)

The Chilean Senate, after the Chamber of Deputies, unanimously approved the UN Treaty for the Protection of the Ocean: the Chile thus becomes the first country in the world to ratify the important international agreement adopted by the United Nations in the summer of last year.

In order for the UN Ocean Treaty to enter into force, 60 other states need to decide to ratify it, which should happen before the United Nations Ocean Conference scheduled for June 2025.

If by that date 59 other countries follow the path opened by the Chilean people, it will become concretely possible to pursue the“30 by 30” goal, the global initiative that plans to designate at least 30 percent of the world's oceans and land areas as protected areas by 2030.

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UN Ocean Treaty: a fundamental tool to achieve the "30x30" objectives
The UN Ocean Treaty is a fundamental tool for achieving the "30x30" objectives, which aim to protect at least 30 percent of the oceans by 2030 (Photo: Envato)

The South American country is the record holder in membership

Il Chile it's officially the first country to sign the UN Treaty for the Protection of the Oceans: last January 16, unanimously, the Congreso Nacional de Chile approved the international resolution, which bears the official name of "Agreement on marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction” (BBNJ).

"The approval of this treaty confirms the oceanic vocation of our country“, said the Chilean Foreign Minister on the sidelines of the vote Alberto van Klaveren: the ratification of the treaty was highly anticipated in the South American country, which stretches for over six thousand kilometers on the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

The United Nations assembly adopted the UN Treaty for the Protection of the Oceans last June, almost after twenty years of negotiations: it all started in 2004, when it was decided to set up an ad hoc working group to analyze the gaps in global ocean governance.

In 2011 the key elements of the Treaty were agreed and in 2018, after several preparatory committees, the first Intergovernmental Conference, which was followed by years of further negotiations.

The Treaty, which is the most important multilateral environmental agreement after the Paris climate accords, was finally adopted in June 2023.

84 countries have already signed the agreement without making direct commitments: now, to give effectiveness to the Treaty, all that remains is ratifications by the states. You need 60.

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Chile is the first country to sign the Oceans Treaty
A lonely ship off the coast of Punta Arenas: Chile played a leading role in the negotiations for the adoption of the UN Ocean Treaty (Photo: Envato)

What does the UN Ocean Treaty provide?

Building on the legacy of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Agreement on Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction decisively strengthens the legal framework for storage of marine biodiversity beyond the borders of individual countries, extending its effects to over two-thirds of the ocean.

The Secretary General António Guterres had welcomed the adoption of the treaty by praising the common action of the signatory countries: "You have given new life and hope to the Ocean, which today has a fighting chance,” the top UN official had said, “demonstrating that global threats deserve global action".

The Treaty just ratified by Chile intends to respond to some fundamental questions, ranging fromuse of marine resources beyond national borders to the establishment of an international regulatory framework for assessing the impact of human activities and effects of climate change.

Among the most ambitious objectives of the UN Ocean Treaty is the “30×30” program, or “30 by 30,” which plans to protect 30 percent of the oceans by 2030, as agreed in the 2022 “Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.”

Within the next 6 years, as established by the Montreal Agreement in Canada, 30 percent of marine areas and 30 percent of land areas will become protected areas or subject to other types of protection in agreement with the native populations.

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A crucial step for the protection of the seas

"Chile's ratification is a crucial step towards protecting our oceans”, explains the doctor Laura Meller, responsible for Greenpeace's “Protect the Oceans” campaign.

"We hope that other countries will be inspired by Chile's rapid ratification and follow its example", continues the manager of the environmentalist association, "This will allow the Treaty to become reality, and we can really start working to protect our oceans".

If we could create ecological sanctuaries in 30 percent of the oceans, Greenpeace further underlines, marine life would have room to recover, and we would be sure to protect delicate habitats such as coral reefs and marine forests with the most destructive effects of industrial fishing. To keep alive the hope of reaching the 30x30 goal, however, 59 other countries need to ratify the agreement.

International waters constitute two thirds of the ocean: among the areas proposed for transformation into an ocean sanctuary are unique habitats like the expanses of golden algae of the Sargasso Sea, between the Portuguese Azores, the Greater Antilles and Bermuda, the only sea without land borders, and the Saya de Malha Bank, the largest submerged reef in the world, located in an area between Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius.

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5 years for the UN Ocean Treaty to become legally effective
If 59 more countries ratify the UN Ocean Treaty, we will have 5 years for marine life to have space and time to recover from the disastrous effects of human activity on the oceans (Photo: Envato)

A headquarters in the South of the world for legality

In Chile, meanwhile, it's time for celebrations: the country played a leading role during the negotiations of the UN Treaty for the Protection of the Oceans.

"After more than 15 years we have managed to conclude a negotiation which has produced a text which, in our opinion, contains great progress in the field of marine conservation”, the Foreign Minister stated after the adoption of the text by the UN.

At that time, the Chilean government also offered to host the Secretariat of this agreement: “We offer Chile, and in particular the city of Valparaiso, a historic port overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the largest in the world”, van Klaveren had stated, “a place where all States and delegations, including observers and civil society, can feel comfortable pursuing the objectives we have set for ourselves with this new instrument".

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UN Ocean Treaty: the first ratification was that of Santiago
Chile is the first country in the world to ratify membership of the International Treaty for the Protection of the Oceans (Photo: Envato)