30 May 2000

Press Briefing


An integrated international policy on ocean affairs was the goal of the informal consultative process convening at Headquarter this week, correspondents were told this afternoon at a Headquarters press conference.

Alan Simcock, head of the Marine, Land and Liability Division of the Department of Environment, Transport and Regions (United Kingdom) briefed correspondents on the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Ocean Affairs, which has been set up as a result of a recommendation by the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Mr. Simcock said it had become clear at last year’s Commission session that there was an inadequate method for pulling together all the various strands of work in the international community on ocean affairs. The many United Nations agencies and other international bodies working on the ocean tended to work within their own closed spheres and had no holistic view of the problems of the oceans.

In 1992, when the international community adopted Agenda 21, the action plan of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), it stressed the importance of an integrated approach to ocean policy at the national level. Now, the international community was attempting to do the same by creating an integrated approach at the international level. The Open-ended Consultative Process was the start of a long haul in trying to get that integrated policy, he said.

The Consultative Process would have three tasks in particular, he continued. The first was to discuss how to build upon the Secretary-General’s annual report on oceans, which basically took a synoptic view and left open the question of what should be done. The Group would try to answer that question. The second was to determine how to move from the present situation -- in which there was so much illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing -- to the full implementation of the code of conduct for responsible fisheries developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization. Also, the Process would discuss how to implement the global programme of action on land-based pollution of the sea, which accounted for over 80 per cent of global ocean pollution. The Process would look to see if it was possible to find cleaner ways of production and prevent industrial pollution and better measures against ship disasters. The third task would be to put all the information together into proposals that the General Assembly could adopt.

The whole purpose of the exercise, he said, was to better prepare the Assembly in determining how to move forward on the oceans. In that context, the Consultative Process would examine a proposal by China to tackle piracy, especially in the western Pacific. China had called for measures to promote regional cooperation in combating piracy. The Process would discuss how the United Nations system could help countries afflicted by the plague of piracy and see what support the international community could give. Also on the agenda was a proposal by Norway on better managing illegal fishing. There were boats flying the flag of States that were not able to impose clear regulation of the fisheries. The Norwegian proposal suggested ways to make it more difficult for such ships to be traded and, thus, reduce their capital value. The proposal would be discussed to see if consensus could be found.

Through such practical measures as improving the rules on registration of fishing vessels, the enforcement of national laws on fishing and promoting regional cooperation on issues such as piracy, the international community would see progress in achieving the sustainable management of the world’s oceans, he said.


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Prepared by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, United Nations.

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