Seeking universal participation in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the General Assembly this evening called on States that have not done so to become parties to it, and to the Agreement concerning the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.
Concluding its debate on the Ocean and Law of the Sea, the Assembly took that action by adopting the resolution by a vote of 134 in favour to 1 against (Turkey) with six abstentions (see Annex). The Assembly also called on States to harmonize their national legislation with the provisions of the Convention and to ensure that declarations made when signing, ratifying or acceding were in conformity with the Convention.
The Assembly also requested the Secretary-General to ensure that the United Nations adequately responded to the needs of the newly established institutions under the Convention, by providing advice and assistance. The draft urged all States, in particular coastal States in affected regions, to take necessary action to prevent and combat piracy and armed robbery at sea and to investigate such incidents bringing the alleged perpetrators to justice. To that end, it called on States to cooperate fully with the International Maritime Organization.
In other action this afternoon, the Assembly adopted without a vote a draft resolution calling for a global moratorium on large-scale pelagic drift- net fishing, with sanctions imposed for acts contrary to that resolution. The text further called on States to act against unauthorized fishing in zones of national jurisdiction and on the high seas; to reduce fisheries by catch and discards; and to support the efforts of developing coastal States to improve the monitoring, control and enforcement of fishing activities and regulations. States and other entities that have not yet ratified or acceded to the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement were asked to consider doing so at the earliest possible time and to consider applying it provisionally.
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The President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Thomas A. Mensah, said the Tribunal was now firmly established and operational. It was a pivotal part of the institutional framework established by the 1982 Convention. He emphasized the need for continued support from all States to ensure its successful operation in the years ahead. The Tribunal had begun its judicial work in November 1997. Its first case involved the meaning and scope of one of the innovative provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention.
The Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, Satya N. Nandan, said the Authority and the International Tribunal both had cash-flow problems, because not all States had met their obligations under the Convention. It was important that they demonstrate their support for the Convention, and the institutions established by it, by fulfilling their obligations promptly. Otherwise the viability of those institutions would be put into question.
Statements were also made by the representatives of Cyprus, India, China, Marshall Islands, Australia, Philippines, Viet Nam, Ukraine, Russian Federation, Croatia, New Zealand, Uruguay, Mexico, Egypt, Republic of Korea, Trinidad and Tobago and Nigeria.
The representative of the United States also spoke to orally amend a draft. The representative of Turkey also spoke in explanation of vote before the vote. The representatives of Chile, China, Philippines, Malaysia and Bolivia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Assembly meets again tomorrow (Wednesday, 25 November) at 10 a.m. to take up the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic; strengthening the United Nations system and revitalization of the work of the General Assembly; and to continue its discussion of United Nations reform: measures and proposals.
Assembly Work Programme
The General Assembly met this afternoon to continue its deliberation on the Secretary-General's report on the Oceans and the Law of the Sea (document A/53/456) and to take action on a related draft resolution (document A/53/L.35). It is also discussing a report of the Secretary-General on large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing, unauthorized fishing in zones of national jurisdiction and on the high seas, fisheries by-catch and discards, and other developments (document A/53/473), and a related draft resolution (document A/53/L.45). (For background information see Press Release GA/9513 of today's date.)
ANDREAS J. JACOVIDES (Cyprus) said that as an island State, Cyprus was vitally concerned with the legal regulation of the sea and of the oceans, in a just and orderly manner, ensuring fairness and predictability. The Law of the Sea Conference was the most significant multilateral law-making undertaking since the Charter of the United Nations, and the Law of the Sea Convention, despite the imperfections resulting from the need to reach an overall agreement by consensus, was a veritable "constitution of the seas" and a monumental achievement. It deserved the support of the international community.
He noted with appreciation the work carried out by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the Secretariat, which he said was particularly helpful to developing countries with limited technical means and objectives. The work carried out by the Independent World Commission on the Oceans had also been useful, and its report contained much valuable material.
He said Cyprus supported the goal of universal participation in the Convention, recognized the need for all States to harmonize their national legislation with the provisions of the Convention, and urged all States parties to pay their assessed contributions to the Seabed Authority and the International Tribunal, in time and in full. He shared the concern of other delegations over the increasing number of cases of piracy against ships and noted the steps taken to put into place the dispute settlement mechanisms envisaged in the Convention on conciliation, arbitration and special arbitration. Cyprus would also welcome additional steps by States parties to put into full effect those mechanisms.
He said Cyprus was particularly interested in the ongoing work of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on the protection of underwater cultural heritage. In view of recent scientific developments, making feasible more extensive underwater exploration and recovery than ever before, that activity had taken on additional urgency,
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especially in areas such as the Eastern Mediterranean, which were rich in such objects; the Kyrenia ship and the Napried came to mind in that connection.
KAMALESH SHARMA (India) said that the 1995 Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and the Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was a landmark in the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Implementation of the Agreement should guarantee the enforcement of the rights of the coastal States, while taking into account the interests of the distant water fishing nations. Technical and financial support should be extended to the developing countries for development of their fisheries, as envisaged in articles 24 and 25 of the Agreement.
A large number of international rules, regulations and standards in the field of maritime safety and prevention of marine pollution had been adopted and it was necessary that they be effectively enforced, he said. While the primary responsibility for the enforcement of international rules and regulations was that of the flag State, regional cooperation for that purpose was more effective and economical in enforcing compliance.
He said India and 14 other States of the region had, on 5 June, signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for the Indian Ocean Region, under which the maritime authority of each State had to inspect at least 10 per cent of the foreign merchant ships entering its ports during the year. Information would be exchanged so that ships which had been inspected and found to be complying with all rules were not subjected to frequent inspection. At the same time, ships having deficiencies which needed to be rectified could be more frequently inspected to ensure compliance.
GAO FENG (China) said that consideration and formulation of the draft regulations on the prospecting and exploration of polymetallic nodules in the area should be guided by the principle of the Common Heritage of Mankind, and facilitate the protection, development and utilization by mankind of the common heritage. The draft text should maintain the legitimate rights and interests of the developing countries in the transfer and training of technology, including adequate and reasonable provisions for the protection of the marine environment. Also, the pioneer investors' legitimate rights should be guaranteed. As one of the pioneer investors in the development of international seabed resources, China would fulfil its obligations in good faith and make contributions towards the development and utilization of seabed resources and the protection of the marine environment.
Last May, the Chinese Government had issued a white paper on the development of China's maritime cause, he said. The paper gave a comprehensive introduction to China's ocean policies and its achievements in the development and protection of the sea. China was a big developing coastal power and its development in the field of maritime affairs, and the stability of its neighbouring sea area, constituted an important element in the
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development of the world's ocean affairs and the establishment of an order governing ocean space. At the same time, China had drawn up relevant laws pursuant to the provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention. Last June, the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Continental Shelf had been adopted. The Law, based on the Convention, determined China's sovereign rights and its jurisdiction over its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf. The Chinese Government would, in accordance with that provision, and on the basis of international law including the Convention, appropriately settle the question of overlapping claims to maritime jurisdiction with its neighbouring States through friendly negotiations.
JACKEO A. RELANG (Marshall Islands) said sustainable development was not the easiest path for a small country such as his. The resources of the seas represented the most tangible asset for its future development and prosperity. Over the past year, the Marshall Islands had taken a very proactive approach towards sustainable development of its fisheries. New fisheries' policies and legislation had been introduced last year, which had demonstrated a firm commitment to sound management and conservation of its fisheries. It incorporated approaches taken at the international level, particularly with regard to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. His country had nearly completed an In-Zone Fisheries Management Plan. That Plan, combined with its recently completed Marine Resources Act, and the National Fisheries Development Plan, demonstrated further commitment to the meaningful implementation of the provisions of the Convention.
His country was an active member of its regional organization -- the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency, he said. However, sustainable development, conservation and management in developing countries and in their regions, required support by the international community. The Secretary-General had stressed that the level of illegal fishing activities in the Pacific would decrease with the implementation of a vessel monitoring system on distant water nations' fishing vessels. Regional consultations had taken that point very seriously and had included it as a major item to be concluded. His delegation stressed the importance of the financial and technical support of the international community. It strongly supported the inclusion of that idea in the Assembly resolutions, and urged that body to accept those important recommendations. The role of non-governmental organizations was also important -- they should continue to be invited to submit views on such resolutions in the future.
JOHN CRIGHTON (Australia), said the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which entered into force in 1994, had governed his country's approach to the regulation of maritime space. His delegation, looking forward to universal adherence to the Convention, was pleased that this year's general resolution on the oceans and their legal regime included new provisions on
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safe navigation, in relation to piracy and hydrography. Australia would continue to cooperate with others to ensure the greatest possible success in combating piracy.
He said his country welcomed the efforts of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in protecting underwater cultural heritage. In that context, Australia joined many others in the commitment to work together to develop a broadly acceptable text towards a draft convention. Before the end of 1998 -- the International Year of the Ocean -- his Government would initiate a comprehensive and integrated ocean policy, under which it would develop a "regional marine planning process" for the country's exclusive economic zone. It would also take steps to conserve its marine biodiversity and protect endangered species, among other plans.
He said his Government had serious concerns about the potential impact of drift-net fishing on the parts of the high seas surrounding Australia, given that such practices adversely affected the marine environment and resources. That had compelled a "closed ports policy" initiative to control unlicensed foreign fishing vessels. Additional and related initiatives had been conceived to ensure an effective management of the fishing industry as a whole. His country would continue to play an active and constructive role on the future implementation of the law of the Law of the Sea.
FELIPE MABILANGAN (Philippines) said that as a maritime State, which relied on the sea for its continued development, his country attached great importance to a just, orderly and meaningful regime for the seas and oceans. The meetings of States parties to the Law of the Sea Convention continued to provide a forum for meaningful discussions on sea law issues. The progress of those meetings led him to believe that States' parties were ready to assume a new and perhaps more challenging role in the common interpretation and universal application and implementation of the Convention. Although cooperation was increasing in all regions and in all sectors, from scientific research to rescue-at-sea to combating piracy, problems did exist. Pollution and destructive fishing methods continued to threaten the fragile ocean environment and piracy remained a threat to the safety of navigation.
There was also great potential for conflict over maritime zones and jurisdictions brought about by differences in the interpretation and application of the Law of the Sea Convention, specifically regarding the sovereign rights of a coastal state in its exclusively economic zone. He said that became particularly relevant now in light of the recent developments in the South China Sea; with regard to that issue, the Philippines believed that the concerned parties should resolve their differences or disputes through peaceful means and in accordance with international law, including the sea law Convention.
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PHAM QUANG VINH (Viet Nam) said the fact that the Convention on the Law of the Sea had been ratified by 127 countries from broad regional groups underlined the general trend towards universal participation in, and adherence to, its regime and legal framework.
He said the International Seabed Authority had made considerable progress in drafting a seabed mining code dealing with prospecting and exploration of polymetallic nodules. He also welcomed the Cooperation Agreement between the United Nations and the Tribunal. More efforts would be needed to elaborate the draft financial regulations of the Tribunal, because of the divergence of views. Furthermore, the activities of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, relating to the sovereignty and jurisdiction of coastal States over their continental shelves and maritime areas, must be in full compliance with the Convention's provisions. The Convention constituted a legal framework for national, regional and global activities in maritime areas and continental shelves, and required strict observance by States in its provisions and spirit.
He said Viet Nam had approved a National Programme aimed at enhancing awareness about the oceans and sea law, and the protection of marine resources and environment through media campaigns, scientific conferences and seminars. Included in the programme would be the Fourth Scientific Conference on Sea Technology to be held in Viet Nam.
On sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, he said his delegation reaffirmed its indisputable sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes, but advocated resolution of the issue, though the negotiations must be to ensure regional peace and security. Pending such a solution, the concerned parties must practice self-restraint, refrain from aggravating the situation and strictly respect international law.
VOLODYMYR Y. YEL'CHENKO (Ukraine) said that he shared the report's view that the greatest impact of the Convention had been to raise awareness of the ocean's fundamental importance to the overall well-being of the planet. Given its oversight role in ocean affairs and the Law of the Sea, the Assembly should take a more active role in anticipating areas of concern and devising strategies to address them effectively. Although the Convention had brought stability to relations between States with respect to the oceans, there was a need to address certain issues, namely the smuggling of aliens by sea, illicit traffic in narcotics, piracy and armed robbery and the repatriation of seafarers.
In that connection, he said, his delegation was still concerned about the fate of four Ukrainian sailors from the Maltese merchant ship M/V Dubai Valour, held hostage in Nigeria for almost a year. His Government had appealed to the Nigerian authorities to intervene and help the hostages,
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which he hoped would put an end to the stalemate and stop the flagrant violation of sailors' rights.
He welcomed the International Seabed Authority's efforts in drafting the seabed mining code and attached great importance to the International Law of the Sea. The Tribunal's first judgement in December 1997, leading to the release of the M/V Saiga from detention in March 1998, was an important precedent which could lead to the elaboration of clear ground rules for the arrest and detention of vessels. Such rules should eliminate numerous abuses in that area, including cases of unfounded arrests of vessels for debts. Such arrest, for the most part, did not lead to the satisfaction of creditors' claims, but rather resulted in huge financial and moral losses.
Calling attention to international cooperation in maritime affairs, he noted the innovative use of ocean space demonstrated by the world's first floating platform for launching spacecrafts. The project, called Odyssey, had been unveiled in May and was designed to launch space rockets or satellites from a platform near the equator at significantly lower costs, and it allowed more useful cargo to be put into orbit. The commercial project, called Sea Launch, had been implemented by four international corporations from both the private and public sectors of the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Norway and the United States.
ALEXANDRE V. ZMEEVSKI (Russian Federation) said that necessary prerequisites had been created for successful implementation of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which had established a unified body of international law and ensured cooperation of States. The Russian Federation, which consistently advocated enhancement of the role of the Convention, believed that there was increasing importance in making national jurisdiction consistent with the Convention. His delegation was concerned over existing inconsistencies between national norms and the provisions of the Convention, including those pertaining to the right of peaceful passage and scientific research.
He said his country was also aware of a discussion in some international organizations of a number of proposals which would lead to revision of some provisions of the Convention, in particular those pertaining to the regime of exclusive economic zones. Such proposals had been put forward, for example, in the context of consideration of transporting radioactive materials by the IAEA; during consideration of measures concerning protection of underwater heritage by UNESCO; and transporting of migrants by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). His delegation believed that attempts to solve the problems pertaining to the Law of the Sea outside of the scope of the 1982 Convention would harm the unified body of the Law on that issue.
He said the regime of the Convention was to promote the use of the sea for peaceful purposes and increase world stability, and, in that context, the
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Russian Federation supported the efforts to combat organized crime on the sea, including illegal trafficking of drugs and arms, illegal migration, piracy and robbery. His country also attached great importance to efforts aimed at resolution of disputes between States, and the Tribunal of the Law of the Sea had reaffirmed the Law with its first decisions. However, the Convention also included provisions on arbitration and conciliation, and those means of conflict settlement had not received due recognition. For that reason, the Russian Federation considered timely the provisions of draft resolution L.35, which drew attention to the possibility of dispute settlement through arbitration and conciliation procedures.
Turning to the issue of large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing, he pointed out that existing instruments on fish-stocks and international fisheries were important management measures for preservation and management of sea resources. The Russian Federation did not conduct commercial drift-net fishing and called on the international community to increase its efforts to preserve live sea resources.
JELENA GRCIC POLIC (Croatia) said issues related to the Law of the Sea were still to be resolved among the successor States of the former Yugoslavia, particularly pertaining to the sea boundary delimitation. Those issues had to be settled in accordance with the provisions of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, if necessary utilizing the Convention's dispute settlement procedure. After the dissolution of the former federation, the previously-held and legally defined land borders became international borders, but no maritime borders had ever been established among the former federal units. The only existing maritime border at that time had been the international border of the former Yugoslavia with Italy and Albania.
Currently, she went on, there were no defined sea borders between Croatia and Slovenia nor between Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Negotiations with Slovenia had begun almost immediately following the dissolution. However, those with the former Yugoslavia had started only recently, and had already been hampered by an unfounded territorial claim on the Croatian peninsula of Prevlaka. Negotiations on the delimitation of the territorial sea and continental shelf could produce results only when the former Yugoslavia did the following: renounced its territorial claim; demonstrated its respect for international law; began to honour the existing, internationally recognized borders of Croatia.
MICHAEL POWLES (New Zealand) said work had been under way over the last two years in his region on the negotiation of a fisheries management regime for tuna in the Western and Central Pacific. Those efforts recognized the importance of the stocks for the development of the region. The negotiating parties had a unique opportunity before the stocks came under serious pressure to give effect to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and to incorporate the principles on which it was based, such as the precautionary principle, the
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principle of cooperation, and promotion of the long-term and sustainable use of stocks.
He said it was clear that the international community was still a long way from achieving its goals for the oceans, particularly in the areas of protection of the environment and the conservation of marine living resources. The problems were of immense proportions and the consequences, both environmental and economic; if the international community failed to grapple effectively with them, would impact not only on the current generation but also those who came after.
He said the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) had reported that worldwide between 60 and 70 per cent of all fish stocks required urgent intervention, to control or reduce fishing, in order to avoid further decline of fully exploited or overfished species, and also to rebuild depleted stocks. Fishing activities continued to take place in contravention of the applicable regional conservation regimes and States were not meeting their obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to control the activities of their flag vessels and nationals.
He said the oceans were being ravaged by an ever-increasing amount of pollutants. Land-based sources of pollution were responsible for over three quarters of all pollution. Regarding the responsibility of the international community and the United Nations, his delegation was of the view that the need for a more active and coordinated approach at the global level was becoming manifest. What was required was an integrated approach which coordinated those efforts and ensured that, in doing so, different perspectives -- legal, environmental, developmental and economic -- were all brought into play.
JULIO BENITEZ SAENZ (Uruguay), said that in the International Year of the Ocean it was necessary to become more aware of the universal importance of oceans and the need to preserve them. The Secretary-General's reports were comprehensive, but there was one item which Uruguay found of special interest and that concerned the loss of provisional membership by various States which were members of the International Seabed Authority. The sea law Convention granted a broad-based machinery to allow participation in the organs created by the Convention. The Secretary-General's report said that 11 States were about to lose their provisional membership; that would harm the work of the Authority which was about to lose members and suffer further deterioration of its finances. The Authority should be strengthened rather than weakened.
He hoped the trend towards universal adherence to the Convention would continue and said he welcomed the European Community which had become part of the Convention on 1 May. The International Tribunal, he continued, was all- important in the continuous progress and consolidation of the law of the sea.
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He expressed concern over the transport of radioactive material and the carriage of nuclear waste cargos; such cargos "near our coast" threatened the fishing wealth and the marine stream currents. He stressed the importance of Assembly resolutions 52/29 and 51/36 in relation to world-scale pelagic drift- net fishing and said there was a need to continue to work on the establishment of worldwide principles.
MANUEL TELLO (Mexico) noted with satisfaction the increase of the number of States Parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea and said that it was necessary to focus on the uniform application of the Convention. Mexico had adopted a number of domestic measures to comply with its obligations as a State Party, and it was working to disseminate information pertaining to the matter. His country had also begun action to submit to the Senate the agreement on implementation of Part XI of the Convention and was cooperating with the bodies established within the framework of the Convention.
Turning to the issue of fishing, he said that Mexico was committed to developing responsible fishing to support sustainable use of sea resources. It had devised an effective programme to reduce incidental catch and had achieved a 98 per cent reduction in the catch of dolphins and tuna by introducing new technology. Sea turtles and shrimps were also excluded, by use of special devices. Mexico had also signed an international agreement for conservation of dolphins. Integration of plans of action in the FAO should be directed at producing recommendations to strengthen international cooperation on reducing the size of fishing fleets to make them appropriate for sustainable fishing; and guidelines should be elaborated to be implemented in national plans.
LAMIA A. MEKHEMAR (Egypt) said that the Law of the Sea Convention was one of the most important international conventions in the world today and called on all States which had not acceded to it to do so. Egypt had taken an active part in the efforts to establish the institutions established under the authority of the Convention during the year, including the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. There was a growing trend to adopt national strategies for effective decision-making mechanisms. She hailed the International Seabed Authority for its efforts last year in preparing the Mining Code and hoped that the experts meeting at Kingston next year would finalize that Code, whose importance for the exploitation of the seabed was clear. Crimes on the seas had increased, she noted, adding that trafficking in goods and persons required vigilance on the part of the international community.
States had to respect special fishing agreements, especially the 1995 Fish Stocks Agreement, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the special rules on trade, she said. Regarding the degradation of the marine environment, despite the work of the joint group on the matter -- which drew attention to local and national achievements -- a continuing pollution of the
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marine environment was being witnessed. Egypt had adopted important measures in its national legislation to protect and maintain the marine environment. It attached special importance to marine cultural heritage and supported UNESCO's proposal on that issue.
LEE SEE-YOUNG (Republic of Korea), said his Government was taking steps to sign the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Seabed Authority. As a member of the Authority's Council, his country had participated in all aspects of its work. A training programme proposed by his Government was approved and four candidates were selected at the second part of the fourth session of the Authority held in Kingston, Jamaica, in August.
He said the Republic of Korea was pleased to note progress made in the drafting of regulations on prospecting and exploration for polymetallic nodules in the area. Such an approach would help encourage countries to invest in deep seabed mining. Moreover, the mining code should be drafted in strict conformity with the letter and spirit of the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention. His delegation hoped that the mining code would be finalized by the next session of the Authority's Assembly in Kingston next year.
He said he hoped the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea would continue to strengthen its role as an effective international judicial organ, dedicated to resolving maritime disputes. In an effort to secure the domestic application of maritime rights and the interests of coastal States, as provided in the Convention, his Government had continuously enacted and implemented its own domestic laws with regard to ocean space. More recently, the Governments of the Republic of Korea and Japan successfully negotiated and initialled a fisheries agreement in October. Another fisheries agreement was also agreed upon between his country and China a week ago. With a view to concluding delimitation agreements on the exclusive economic zones in the overlapping sea areas, the Republic of Korea was also conducting negotiations with China and Japan respectively.
GAILE A. RAMOUTAR (Trinidad and Tobago) said it was hoped the trust fund to facilitate the participation of developing country members in the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf would be established. The participation of all members, representing different backgrounds and geographical regions, could lend a wealth of experience and an added dimension to the work of the Commission. She said that while Trinidad and Tobago recognized the adoption of International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines regarding the shipment of hazardous waste, it urged increased consultations with coastal and island States in advance of such shipments through nearby waters. Serious consideration should be given to the use of alternative routes for such shipments. The international community should take steps to avoid the grave consequences which would arise from any incidents in connection with those shipments.
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In September, Trinidad and Tobago had hosted an IMO Regional Seminar on Legislation for the Adoption and Implementation of IMO Conventions. It addressed such issues as the International Maritime Framework for Safety and Pollution Prevention, Liability and Compensation, the Irradiated Nuclear Fuel Code and the transport of radioactive waste. It was her belief that the regional approach to questions concerning maritime policy and ocean affairs would contribute to building a solid framework to guide States in their conduct in those areas.
I. A. ALUKO-OLOKUN (Nigeria) said only the resolute discharge of obligations under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, through the timely payment of assessed contribution by Member States, would ensure a resource base for the International Seabed Authority to continue its activities. Assistance to coastal developing States, which were at a technological disadvantage in preparing their own data, should be encouraged.
He said that heeding the call to harmonize national legislations with the Convention, Nigeria had adopted the Territorial Waters (Amendment) Decree 1998. That had rolled back Nigeria's outer limit of its territorial waters from 30 to 12 nautical miles, as stipulated in the Convention. According to the annual review of developments relating to the Law of the Sea, he said, there had been a deterioration of the global environment. More worrisome was the report that a third of the world's coastal regions were at high risk of degradation, particularly from landbased activities, such as unplanned urbanization. That had put major stress on adjacent ecosystems. He warned that such an unsustainable manner of economic development could lead to food insecurity and conflict situations in the future.
THOMAS A. MENSAH, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, said that in the two years since its inauguration, the Tribunal had received consistent support and encouragement from all the States Parties, the United Nations and the international community in general. That support was further reflected in the draft resolution before the Assembly today. He said the Tribunal had almost completed the organizational arrangements, with the adoption of the rules and regulations necessary for the performance of its judicial tasks and related administrative functions.
He noted that the Tribunal had initiated its judicial work with the first application submitted to it in November 1997. The case involved the meaning and scope of one of the innovative provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention. The judgement on that case was delivered in December 1997, and had been received with widespread interest. The Tribunal was now seized of the first dispute on merits to be submitted to it. It involved many complex and interesting questions relating to the rights and obligations of States under the Convention, and the Tribunal planned to deliver its judgement on the case by the end of June 1999.
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With regard to administrative and financial matters, he said the Tribunal had developed its financial and staff regulations. He noted other positive developments during the year and said the premises for the Tribunal were being erected in Hamburg. It was expected the Tribunal would move there either at the end of 1999, or at the beginning of 2000.
The Tribunal on the Law of the Sea was thus now firmly established and fully operational, he continued. It was a pivotal part of the elaborate and comprehensive scheme of law and institutional framework established by the 1982 Convention. In addition to its role as one of the procedures which States Parties may choose for the settlement of disputes concerning the interpretation and application of the Convention, the Tribunal also acted as a compulsory forum for dealing with various cases which must be resolved peacefully and expeditiously, as deemed by the international community.
He said those ranged from disputes between States and other appropriate entities in connection with activities for the exploration and exploitation of the resources of the international seabed area, to the release of arrested and detained vessels and their crews and prescription of provisional measures to preserve the rights of parties in dispute or to prevent irreversible harm to the marine environment.
He emphasized the need for continued support and assistance from all States to enable the Tribunal to ensure its successful operation in the coming years and urged States Parties to make the necessary declarations concerning the choice of procedures under Article 287 of the Convention. It was important that the maximum possible number of States Parties made those declarations. The Tribunal stood ready to assist States in the peaceful settlement of disputes. The Tribunal also requested that it be given adequate resources to ensure the full and effective discharge of its important mandate. The Tribunal would be grateful if all States parties took the necessary steps to discharge their financial commitments to the Tribunal without delay.
The Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, SATYA N. NANDAN, told the Assembly he was pleased that the draft resolution urged States that had not yet done so to pay their contributions to the administrative budget of the Authority, and to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, in full and on time. Both institutions had cash-flow problems because not all States had met their obligations under the Convention. It was important that States demonstrated their support for the Convention and the institutions established by it by fulfilling their obligations promptly. Otherwise the viability of those institutions would be put into question. In the case of the Authority, that support had to be also shown through participation in the work of the organs of the Authority.
It was more apparent than ever that the problems of ocean space were closely interrelated and needed to be considered as a whole, he said. It was
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therefore logical that such an integrated approach to the different uses of the oceans and the development of their resources was adopted in the implementation of the Convention. It was only through such an approach that the delicate balance between the conflicting interests and activities in the oceans achieved in the Convention could be maintained.
At the present stage in the evolution of the law of the sea, he said, it was appropriate that the international community pause to take stock and ask how, as a practical matter, it could discuss developments relating to the oceans in a forum which promoted an integrated approach to the oceans in the spirit of the unified and comprehensive nature of the Convention.
The annual debate in the Assembly continued to be useful and had to be maintained to enable the Assembly to take decisions on administrative matters and other specific issues brought to it. However, it had to be recognized that the time available for a comprehensive review of the item in all its aspects was necessarily limited and the rules of procedure of the Assembly, particularly the Plenary, did not allow for broad participation by the totality of the ocean community. Therefore, the need for an additional forum was self-evident.
He said that as the international community moved into the next century, it had to be recognized that the issues were no longer exclusively of a legal nature. The emphasis today was on the extent and nature of developmental activities in relation to the oceans and their resources, and the impact of such activities on the marine environment. The challenge facing the international community was how to respond to the evolving situation in a manner which dealt with all oceans-related matters as a whole. The challenge for the Assembly was how to respond to the various initiatives to devise a global forum which reflected that integrated approach. The Assembly, in addition to its present annual review of the item, could devise a mechanism for a periodic meeting under its auspices, perhaps every alternate year, dedicated to ocean affairs with adequate time and an agenda that provided for discussion of a variety of topical issues.
Action on Drafts
ROBERT W. McCARTHY III (United States) said there were two oral revisions to the draft resolution L.45. They were included in the original draft text, but were left out at printing. The first change pertained to preambular paragraph 1: at the end of that paragraph the following words should be added "relating to large-scale pelagic drift-net fishing, unauthorized fishing in zones of natural jurisdiction and on the high seas, fisheries bycatch and discards, and other developments". The second revision concerned the last full line of preambular paragraph 6: after the word "address" and before "the issue", add "in this context, the issue of fishing overcapacity."
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YESIM BAYKAL (Turkey) said her delegation would vote against L.35 because it contained elements which had originally prevented Turkey from approving the Convention, and which were still in the draft. She said the Convention did not adequately provide for specific geographic situations and it was also not possible to make reservations on it. Turkey did not see why certain States should harmonize legislation in favour of the draft.
The Acting President, MARTIN BELINGA EBOUTOU (Cameroon) informed the Assembly that Cameroon, Greece, Marshall Islands and the Philippines had become co-sponsors of draft resolution L.35 on Oceans and Law of the Sea.
The Assembly adopted draft resolution A/53/L.35 by a recorded vote of 134 in favour, 1 against (Turkey), with 6 abstentions (Colombia, Iceland, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru and Venezuela). (For details of vote, see Annex.)
The Acting President informed delegations that Canada, Philippines and Vanuatu had become co-sponsors of draft resolution L.45, which the Assembly then adopted without a vote.
Rights of Reply
JUAN LARRAIN (Chile) said Bolivia had once again referred to its maritime aspirations in the General Assembly, which lacked the competency to deal with such matters. Bolivia had insisted on a matter which had been resolved 94 years before, by a treaty between the two countries. That agreement was later approved by the Congress of Bolivia. The statement that Bolivia was deprived of its rights under the Law of the Sea was incorrect, for that country enjoyed the facilities granted to it by Chile. Chile reiterated its readiness to work with Bolivia and to embark on the road of peace and reconciliation. He said Bolivia should look to the future.
GAO FENG (China) said that he wanted to set the record straight in response to the referral by Viet Nam to the islands of Xisha and Nansha. Those islands had been part of the Chinese territory since ancient times; later that had been confirmed by international instruments since World War II. China maintained that peaceful settlement of the matter should be achieved through negotiations, in accordance with the principles of the Convention on the Law of the Sea; China was opposed to the internationalization of the issue. The two sides should decide the question themselves, in accordance with international law.
CARLOS D. SORRETA (Philippines) referred to the South China Sea issue, and said an already difficult position had been made a little more difficult. The issue related to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of his country. The South China Sea held the potential for conflict but also the promise for peace and progress. He thanked those who showed concern for developments in
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the Sea and hoped the international community would remain concerned and interested, as the problem was worked out.
ABDULLAH SHAMSUDIN (Malaysia) said he was referring to statements made by the representatives of China, the Philippines and Viet Nam earlier today. As one of the claimant States in the South China Sea issue, Malaysia emphasized the need to resolve the dispute through peaceful means. Malaysia subscribed to the principles of the 1992 Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Declaration on the South China Sea, which called on all parties to resolve the issue through peaceful means. His country was encouraged that all claimant States had accepted dialogue as the means of resolving the issue and asked them to refrain from straining the situation; it was of the view that other States not party to the problem should not interfere in the negotiations. Peaceful negotiations had to be conducted on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
ROBERTO JORDAN PANDO (Bolivia) said he was grateful that Chile had made it clear that it was involved in the "landlocked issue". His country accepted Chile's invitation to look to the future and to work towards integration and development, but that should mean taking Bolivia out of its situation of lacking access to the sea. A working group should be established under United Nations auspices to examine the question. It should determine whether Chile lost or gained anything by Bolivia's removal from its landlocked status.
MR. LARRAIN (Chile) said it was incomprehensible that Bolivia was so persistent in its desire to distort history. The Treaty of 1904 was signed 20 years after the cessation of hostilities between the two countries. It could not be said that the Treaty was imposed by force.
MR. JORDAN PANDO (Bolivia) said that the border differences were caused by the Treaty. Chile by its military occupation had obliged his country to sign it. That was not consent. The Treaty of 1904 placed the seal on Bolivia's landlocked status. He asked whether a country had the right to make another country landlocked, and whether that could be imposed by one country over another. The United Nations and the international community could not approve such rights of conquest.
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General Assembly Plenary Press Release GA/9514 69th Meeting (PM) 24 November 1998
Vote on Oceans and Law of Sea
The draft resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (document A/53/L.35) was adopted by the Assembly by a recorded vote of 134 in favour to 1 against, with 6 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Abstain: Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Iceland, Peru, Venezuela
Absent: Afghanistan, Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belize, Bhutan, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Mali, Nicaragua, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan.
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