International Seabed Authority

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The International Seabed Authority (ISA) (French: Autorité internationale des fonds marins, Spanish: Autoridad Internacional de los Fondos Marinos) is an intergovernmental body based in Kingston, Jamaica, that was established to organize and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, an area underlying most of the world’s oceans. It is an independent treaty organization originally established by the Law of the Sea Convention,[1] a widely accepted multilateral treaty.

Contents

Origin

Following at least ten preparatory meetings over the years,[2] the Authority held its first inaugural meeting in its host country, Jamaica, on 16 November 1994,[3] the day the Convention came into force. The articles governing the Authority have been made "noting the political and economic changes, including market-oriented approaches, affecting the implementation" of the Convention.[4] The Authority obtained its observer status to the United Nations in October 1996.[5]

Currently, the Authority has 159 members and the European Community, composed of all parties to the Law of the Sea Convention.[1]

Two principal organs establish the policies and govern the work of the Authority: the Assembly, in which all members are represented, and a 36-member Council elected by the Assembly. Council members are chosen according to a formula designed to ensure equitable representation of countries from various groups, including those engaged in seabed mineral exploration and the land-based producers of minerals found on the seabed. The Authority holds one annual session, usually of two weeks' duration. Its fifteenth session was held in Kingston 25 May - 5 June 2009 and its sixteenth session is scheduled for 26 April to 7 May 2010.

The Authority operates by contracting with private and public corporations and other entities authorizing them to explore, and eventually exploit, specified areas on the deep seabed for mineral resources. The Convention also established a body called the Enterprise which is to serve as the Authority’s own mining operator, but no concrete steps have been taken to bring this into being.

Current activities

The Authority has a budget of $5.8 million a year (rising to an authorized $6.3 million for each of the years 2009-2010) and a staff of some 35 people. In June 2008, the Assembly of the Authority elected by acclamation Nii Allotey Odunton of Ghana, Deputy to the Secretary-General since 1996, for a four-year term as Secretary-General beginning 1 January 2009.[6] He succeeded Satya Nandan of Fiji, the first Secretary-General of the Authority, who left after three consecutive four-year terms since 1996.

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