UNITED NATIONS, June 22 (Xinhua) -- UN member states have agreed to develop a legally binding instrument to conserve and sustainably use marine biological resources, UN officials said Monday.
The 193-member UN General Assembly agreed to establish a preparatory committee, open to all countries, to negotiate the new instrument over 2016-2017, said the officials.
The committee would report back to the General Assembly on its progress at the end of 2017.
The negotiations will cover, among other issues, the sharing of benefits related to the use of marine genetic resources, marine protected areas and environmental impact assessments, as well as the transfer of marine technology.
Countries also agreed to establish a voluntary trust fund to assist developing countries, in particular the least developed one, land-locked developing countries and small island developing states, so they can actively take part in the process of establishing the instrument.
The instrument will fall under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The convention, which came into force in November 1994, governs all aspects of ocean space, including the delimitation of maritime boundaries, exploitation of non-living resources, conservation and management of living resources, protection and preservation of the marine environment, marine scientific research and the settlement of relevant international disputes.
The convention also provides the basis for the equitable utilization and conservation of resources in the oceans and seas.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly stressed the crucial role of oceans in achieving sustainable development and combatting climate change.
"Given how critical oceans are to the health of our planet and the prosperity of people, they are an essential element in our emerging vision for sustainable development, including the new set of sustainable development goals now being prepared to guide the global fight against poverty for the next 15 years," Ban said in his message to commemorate this year's World Oceans Day, which falls on June 8.
"The oceans are vast -- but their capacity to withstand human damage is limited," he said. "In this potentially pivotal year, we must commit to using the gifts of the oceans peacefully, equitably and sustainably for generations to come."