24 November 1999


Press Release
GA/9668



ASSEMBLY SEEKS UNIVERSAL ADHERENCE TO SEA LAW CONVENTION, URGING STEPS AGAINST MARINE POLLUTION, ACTS OF PIRACY

19991124

Other Texts Approved on Fish Stocks Preservation, Sustainable Development, Debate Begins on Building Better, Peaceful World Through Sport and Olympic Ideal

The General Assembly this morning called on all States that had not yet done so to become parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the related agreement on its implementation, in order to achieve universal participation.

The Assembly took that action as it adopted a resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea by a recorded vote of 129 in favour, 1 against (Turkey) and 4 abstentions (Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru For details of vote, see Annex). By the text, States were called upon to harmonize, as a matter of priority, their national legislation with the provisions of the Convention, to ensure the consistent application of those provisions and to also ensure that any declarations or statements made or to be made when signing, ratifying or acceding conformed to the Convention.

The Assembly approved the convening by the Secretary-General of the seventh session of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York next May, with an eighth session later, if necessary. Also by the resolution, States were urged to take all practicable steps to prevent the pollution of the sea by dumping of radioactive materials and industrial wastes. The Assembly also called on States to cooperate fully with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to combat piracy and armed robbery against ships.

Acting without a vote, the Assembly adopted a text on the conservation and management of straddling and migratory fish stocks agreement. It called on all States and other entities referred to in the Agreement that had not yet done so to ratify or accede to it, and to consider applying it provisionally. It further called on States to ensure that their vessels comply with agreed conservation and management measures, and not to permit vessels flying their flags to engage in fishing on the high seas without having effective control over their activities.

The Assembly also urged all States to participate in the efforts of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) to develop an international plan of action to address illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, in particular, the Meeting of Experts and Technical Consultation of the FAO scheduled for 2000.


General Assembly Plenary - 1a - Press Release GA/9668 62nd Meeting (AM) 24 November 1999

In another action this morning, also without a vote, the Assembly adopted a text on the result of the review by the Commission on Sustainable Development. It decided to establish an open-ended informal consultative process in order to facilitate the annual review by the General Assembly of developments in ocean affairs. That consultative process would consider the Secretary-General's report on oceans and the law of the sea, suggest particular issues to be considered by the Assembly and identify areas where coordination and cooperation at the intergovernmental and inter-agency levels should be enhanced.

Also this morning, the representative of Australia introduced a draft resolution on building a peaceful and better world through the sport and the Olympic ideal. He said Australia was one of only two countries, along with Greece, to participate in every summer Olympic games of the modern era, and would be one of five to have hosted two such events. Australia wanted to ensure that the Olympic Games and the Paralympics reflected the ideals and values of the International Olympic Movement, as well as the values and principles of the United Nations Charter, he continued.

Statements were made this morning by the representatives of Canada, Nigeria, Belarus, Australia, Belize, Samoa, Indonesia, Turkey, Japan, Malaysia, Viet Nam, China, Philippines, Greece and Algeria.

The President of the International Tribunal as the Law of the Sea and the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority also spoke.

The Vice-President of the Assembly, Prince Albert, (Monaco) expressed condolences, on behalf of the Assembly, to the family of Amintore Fanfani (Italy), President of the twenty-first General Assembly, on who died last Saturday. A minute of silence was then observed.

The Assembly meets again this afternoon to continue consideration of building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal, and the question of the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic.


Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of oceans and the law of the sea. (For background information see Press Release 9666.) It was expected to take action on three related draft resolutions.

It also had before it a draft resolution on building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal, as well as a report from the Secretary- General and draft resolution on the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic.

By the terms of a draft on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/54/L.31) the Assembly would call upon all States that have not yet done so to become parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the related agreement on its implementation, in order to achieve universal participation. The Assembly would call upon States to harmonize, as a matter of priority, their national legislation with the provisions of the Convention, to ensure the consistent application of those provisions and to ensure also that any declarations or statements that they have made or make when signing, ratifying or acceding are in conformity with the Convention and to withdraw any of their declarations or statements that are not in conformity.

It would also encourage States parties to the Convention to deposit with the Secretary-General charts and lists of geographical coordinates, as provided for in the Convention, and would request the Secretary-General to convene the tenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention in New York from 22 to 26 May 2000.

The Assembly would appeal to all States parties to the Convention to pay their assessed contributions to the Authority and to the Tribunal, respectively, in full and on time in order to ensure that they are able to carry out their functions as provided for in the Convention, and would also appeal to the States which are former provisional members of the Authority to pay any outstanding contributions.

The Assembly would also approve the convening by the Secretary-General of the seventh session on the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York from 1 to 5 May 2000 and, if necessary, an eighth session from 28 August to 1 September 2000.

Further, the Assembly would urge States to take all practicable steps to prevent the pollution of the sea by dumping of radioactive materials and industrial wastes, and would encourage States to continue to support the regional seas programme, which has achieved success in a number of geographic areas, and to work within the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to enhance cooperation in the protection of the marine environment. It would also call upon States to cooperate fully with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to combat privacy and armed robbery against ships, including by submitting reports on incidents to that organization.

The Assembly would urge all States, in particular coastal states in affected regions, to take all necessary steps and appropriate measures to prevent and combat incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea, including through regional cooperation, and to investigate or cooperate in the investigation of such incidents wherever they occur and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice, in accordance with international law. The Assembly would also reaffirm the importance of ensuring the uniform and consistent application of the Convention and a coordinated approach to its overall implementation, and of strengthening technical cooperation and financial assistance for that purpose, and would reiterate its invitation to the competent international organizations and other international bodies to support those objectives.

The text is co-sponsored by Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Samoa, Senegal, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

The draft resolution on the Fish Stocks Agreement (document A/54/L.28) would have the Assembly call on upon all States and other entities referred to in Article 1 paragraph 2 (b) of the Agreement that have not done so to ratify or accede to it and consider applying it provisionally.

It would further call upon all States to ensure that their vessels comply with the conservation and management measures in accordance with the Agreement that have been adopted by subregional and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements, and not to permit vessels flying their flag to engage in fishing on the high seas without having effective control over their activities and to take specific measures to control fishing operations by vessels flying their flag.

It would urge all States to participate in the efforts of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to develop an international plan of action to address illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, in particular the Meeting of Experts and Technical Consultation of FAO scheduled for 2000, and in all efforts to coordinate all the work of the FAO with other international organizations, including the IMO.

It would encourage all States to provide assistance to developing States as outlined in the Agreement, and would note the importance of participation by representatives of developing States in forums in which fisheries issues are discussed.

It would also encourage States and other entities to integrate in an appropriate manner the requirements of the protection of the environment, notably those resulting from multilateral environmental agreements, in the management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.

The text is sponsored by Canada, Norway, Papua New Guinea and United States.

By the terms of a draft resolution on the result of the review by the Commission on Sustainable Development (document A/54/L.32) the Assembly would decide, consistent with the legal framework provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to establish an open-ended informal consultative process. This would be in order to facilitate the annual review by the General Assembly, in an effective and constructive manner, of developments in ocean affairs by considering the Secretary-General's report on oceans and the law of the sea and by suggesting particular issues to be considered by it. The emphasis would be on identifying areas where coordination and cooperation at the intergovernmental and inter-agency levels should be enhanced.

The Assembly would also decide that meetings within the framework of the consultative process would be open to all States Members of the United Nations, States members of the specialized agencies, all parties to the Convention, entities that had received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the work of the General Assembly pursuant to its relevant resolutions, and intergovernmental organizations with competence in ocean affairs. Further, the meetings would take place for one week each year, and in 2000 would be held from 30 May to 2 June and would deliberate on the Secretary-General's report on oceans and the law of the sea, with due account given to any particular resolution or decision of the General Assembly, any relevant special reports of the Secretary-General and any relevant recommendations of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General, working in cooperation with the heads of relevant organizations of the United Nations, to include, in his annual comprehensive report to the General Assembly on oceans and the law of the sea, suggestions on initiatives that could be undertaken to improve coordination and cooperation and achieve better integration on ocean affairs.

It would also request the Secretary-General to undertake measures to improve the effectiveness, transparency and responsiveness of the Subcommittee on Oceans and Coastal Areas of the Administrative Committee on Coordination and to include information on progress in that regard in his report on oceans and law of the sea.

The text is sponsored by Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Guatemala, Israel, Lesotho, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Samoa, Solomon Islands, South Africa, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

Building a Better World through the Olympic Ideal

By the terms of a 170-Power draft resolution (document A/54/L.26) on building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal, the General Assembly would urge Member States to observe the Olympic Truce during the games of the twenty-seventh Olympiad to be held in Sydney, Australia, from 15 September to 1 October 2000, "the vision of which, at the dawn of a new millennium, aims to be a highly harmonious, athlete-oriented and environmentally committed Olympic Games". The text also urges Member States to take the initiative to abide by the Olympic Truce and to pursue, in conformity with the principles of the United Nations Charter, the peaceful settlement of all international conflicts through diplomatic solutions.

The Assembly would call upon Member States to cooperate with the International Olympic Committee in its efforts to use the Truce as an instrument to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation in areas of conflict beyond the period of the Games. By other terms, it would reaffirm the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of peace (adopted in Assembly resolution 53/243) and in this context welcome the decision of the international committee to mobilize all international sports organizations and national Olympic committees to undertake concrete action at the local, national, regional and world levels to promote and strengthen a culture of peace based on the spirit of the Truce.

Further, it would also welcome the setting up by the International Olympic Committee of an international Olympic forum for development as a platform between inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations on issues related to developing physical education and sport for all, and an International Centre for the Olympic Truce to promote peace and human values through sports and the Olympic ideal.

Zone of Peace in South Atlantic

The Secretary-General’s report on the Zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic (A/54/447) summarizes responses by Member States to a note verbale requesting their views on implementation of the declaration of the zone.

The report said Argentina expressed the belief that the zone provided an unparalleled opportunity for discussion and an excellent framework for expanding development strategies and trade between the two continents, and reaffirmed its conviction that the objectives of peace and cooperation that inspired the establishment of the zone could be achieved only if countries of the region respected the institutions of representative democracy and human rights and fundamental freedoms.

With regard to fishing, Argentina noted that Member States had urged the ratification of or accession to the New York Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the Convention on the Law of the Sea relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks. On security issues, Argentina said it had begun to circulate various international instruments among countries within the zone to give impetus to the international conviction that the zone must be a region untouched by the arms race and free of nuclear weapons.

On the question of the colonial status of the Malvinas, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Argentina had expressed satisfaction over a degree of reconciliation and understanding with the United Kingdom, but said the issue still affected its territorial integrity.

According to the Secretary-General's report, Brazil believed there were three priority areas in which the zone’s potential could be most fruitful -- denuclearization of the region; protection of marine environment, and cooperation against drug trafficking. A nuclear-free South Atlantic region was achievable since all States in the area were now parties to the Treaty on the Non- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. On the marine environment, Brazil hoped new mechanisms created within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea would be helpful. The fight against drug trafficking could be actively pursued through coordination of efforts within the zone.

Turning to responses from within the United Nations system, the Secretary- General's report notes that the Department of Disarmament Affairs had supported and encouraged the efforts of the States of the South Atlantic region. It had held two seminars on the illicit flow of arms under the auspices of its revitalized regional centres for peace and disarmament in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. After the Liberian Government decided to destroy some 31,000 decommissioned weapons collected at the end of its seven-year civil war, the Department participated in consultations leading to the actual destruction of those weapons.

The United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) had given extensive coverage on radio, in press releases and through television programmes to activities in the region, notably the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Angola. For its part, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had acted in support of the zone of peace and cooperation by coordinating humanitarian operations in countries affected by conflict, such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone.

The report states that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had promoted international cooperation in all parts of the world's oceans, and within the South Atlantic. The United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention -- in the context of its drug control projects, both in South America and in southern Africa -- had created links and operational synergies to promote cooperation in two areas: “Interdiction of drugs from Brazil to Africa” and “Drug abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention targeting injecting drug users”.

By the terms of the draft resolution on the subject (document A/54/L.35) the General Assembly would reaffirm the importance of the purposes and objectives of the zone of peace and cooperation of the South Atlantic as a basis for the promotion of peace and cooperation among countries in the region.

It would call on all States to cooperate in the promotion of the objectives established in the declaration of the zone and to refrain from any action inconsistent with those objectives and with the Charter of the United Nations and relevant resolutions of the Organization, in particular actions that may create or aggravate situations of tension and potential conflict in the region.

The Assembly would welcome the decision on the illicit proliferation, circulation and trafficking of small arms and light weapons taken by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity (OAU); the signing of the peace agreement between the Sierra Leone Government and the Revolutionary United Front; the restoration of democracy in Nigeria; the disarmament decision of the Government of Liberia; and the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement on the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Assembly would reaffirm the importance for Member States to contribute by all means at their disposal to effective and lasting peace in Angola, reiterating that the primary cause of the present situation is the failure of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola under the leadership of Jonas Savimbi to comply with its obligations.

It would view with concern the increase in drug trafficking and related crimes, including drug abuse, and call on the international community and the States members of the zone to promote regional and international cooperation to combat all aspects of the problem of drug related offences.

The resolution is co-sponsored by Angola, Argentina, Brazil, Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo and Uruguay. At the onset of today’s meeting, condolences were expressed on the death of Amintone Fanfani of Italy, who was President of the twenty-first session of the General Assembly.

PIER BENEDETTO FRANCESE (Italy) said he wished to express the deepest feelings of sympathy for the family of Mr. Fanfani, who died last Saturday. He said Mr. Fanfani was a lifelong believer in peace and reconciliation. During his tenure at the United Nations, he promoted the cause of good relations between East and West. He served as Prime Minister of Italy six times, and during his long political career he earned the respect of his people and never made enemies. The best way to mourn his loss was to recall his many accomplishments.

Statements

JOHN HOLMES (Canada) said the conservation of highly migratory fish stocks would probably be one of the most important international issues facing the world in the twenty-first century. Within 20 or 30 years more than half the world's surface would cease to be a source of protein for humankind. Half of the world's surface would also become a desert from the point of view of feeding humankind. That being the case, it was important to work on the conservation of fish stocks. While the 1995 United Nations Agreement on Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stock provided guiding principles in that area, States must ensure compatibility between measures applied inside and outside their waters to ensure that those adopted by a coastal State in its waters for fish stock were not undermined by those applicable to the high seas.

He said Canada had brought its domestic and foreign fishing policies in line with the principles of the 1995 Agreement. Internationally, his country was working to implement the 1995 Agreement's principles and rules with the regional fisheries organizations to which it belonged, as well as through its participation in negotiations to create new regional fisheries organizations, particularly in the western and central Pacific. The general adoption and implementation of those guiding principles and rules by which regional fisheries organizations operated would improve the way the world's fisheries were managed.

With the 1995 Agreement, as well as with other tools and the cooperation of all States concerned, the destructive and wasteful fishing practices of the past could be ended, he said. This year an important step to enhance international coordination on oceans and the law of the sea had been taken. Building on an initiative launched during the Commission on Sustainable Development, the Assembly would shortly approve the establishment of a consultative process to facilitate the annual review of ocean issues. The intent of the co-sponsors was not to create a new cumbersome mechanism but rather to develop a process which would promote greater dialogue nationally and internationally among the oceans and the law of the sea experts, and thereby give greater focus to the consideration of the issue at the Assembly.

OLUSEGUN APATA (Nigeria) said developing countries were disadvantaged in terms of the acquisition of technology and expertise relating to all aspects of activities in the seabed. They were also handicapped in the area of an appropriate and comprehensive legal regime governing the effective management of the ecosystem.

In order to overcome these handicaps, he added, developing countries needed help through cooperation, partnership and assistance, and the Convention on the Law of the Sea had made provisions for this. The time had come therefore for the international community through the United Nations to put together a comprehensive package of assistance in the area of ocean affairs for the benefit of developing countries. This was essential if these marginalized States were to get a fair share of the resources of the oceans.

He said that as a coastal State, his country attached great importance to the issue of fish stocks. Fishing played an increasingly important role in ensuring food security and an avenue for generating income in Nigeria. His country therefore welcomed the provisions of the convention relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.

The agreement represented a bold attempt by the international community to protect the commercially important species which had been the victim of heavy and weakly-regulated fishing efforts.

In conclusion, he warned in order to confront the reality of environmental degradation and the danger it posed to human and marine life, nations would have to re-examine their approach to development and the impact of activities in the Oceans and Seas.

NIKOLAI CHERGINETS (Belarus) said the discussion on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was taking place at a time when interdependence was important and the need to strengthen international law was being recognized. This was indicated in the recent resolution on the Decade of International Law, which confirmed the primacy of international law in international relations. The Convention on the Law of the Sea had become significant because it codified marine law, and all aspects relating to the seas and oceans. Its implementation was therefore of interest to the whole of the world community.

In this context, he went on, landlocked states should have the same rights and access to the seas and oceans and the common marine heritage of mankind as coastal states. The deterioration of the marine environment should be of concern to all states and even though Belarus was landlocked, it too was concerned with the preservation of the world environment.

He said he wished to draw the attention of the international community to the substantial global danger posed by the storage in the seabed by a number of States after the Second World War of ammunition which contained toxic substances. The problem should be addressed now. It was easier to prevent the possibility of an explosion of these toxic substances than to deal with the consequences of an explosion. Belarus had learnt this from its experience of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

DAVID STUART (Australia) said the entry into force of the Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks would be fundamental to the cause of sustainable and responsible management of international fisheries. On the question of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, he said his country had provided the services of an expert to assist in producing a draft International Plan of Action for endorsement at the Committee on Fisheries meeting in 2001. In that effort, cooperation among flag states, port states, and market States was essential. Those groups of states at different parts of the production and distribution chain, could exert different but complementary kinds of leverage, aimed at bringing about sustainable management of international fisheries.

He said that required a greater need for transparency of ownership and control of vessels, so as to enable the nationality of the companies and individuals directing their activities to be traced and those responsible for illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing identified, particularly where they originated from States that were parties to relevant international agreements but had registered their vessels elsewhere to avoid national policies and legislation.

Australia’s policy on oceans had been released in December 1998. Key aspects of that policy included the implementation of ecosystem-based planning for oceans on a regional basis, the conduct of a national marine resources survey, the use of sustainability indicators and monitoring, and the creation of a national representative system of marine protected areas, two of which -– Macquarie Island and the Tasmanian Seamounts -– had been declared.

STUART W. LESLIE (Belize) said the Commission on Sustainable Development had reviewed many issues of importance concerning oceans and seas. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea had demonstrated its ability to resolve disputes. Moreover, the International Seabed Authority was to be congratulated as well. He said cooperation in the development of technology for exploration for polymetallic nodules was essential, and as member of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), he urged the international community to support the Community’s initiatives.

Turning to navigation and shipping, he said Belize shared the problems of small developing states. Freedom of investments in the sector of oceans and seas was necessary. Shipping was a particular factor of growth and economic production. Moreover, Belize was also seeking to improve its structure for the improvement of safe of navigation.

On the development and management of marine resources and protection and preservation of the marine environment, he expressed his concern over illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. That had a severe impact on fish stocks, he said. Fishing should be sustained and responsibly managed. He also urged all international organizations to fight for the preservation of the marine environment.

TUILOMA NERONI SLADE (Samoa), on behalf of Alliance of Small Island States, said those States believed that coordination and cooperation on matters relevant to the ocean should be improved at the intergovernmental level. Only then could there be realistic hope for achieving a holistic approach for global action on the oceans. The creation of an informal consultative process was a positive step on the issue of better governance of the oceans and seas, and the inclusive nature of the process promoted transparency. It was vital that small island States received support to ensure their participation in the consultations.

He called on States to ratify or accede to the Fish Stocks Agreement and other relevant international agreements, noting that the small island States had already established laws and institutional adjustments, and were developing national policies on sustainable management of tuna resources indicating the seriousness with which they treated the issue of sustainable harvesting of their maritime resources. Also, they fully supported the proposals of the resolution aimed at correcting and resolving unauthorized fishing. MAKMUR WIDODO (Indonesia) said harmonizing national legislation with the Convention was a prerequisite to ensuring its unified character. As an archipelagic State, Indonesia had committed itself to regularly reviewing its national legislation to that end. It was also concerned about the degradation of its marine environment, and Indonesia’s Bureau of Marine Affairs had been charged with promoting integrated planning and development of marine and coastal areas.

He noted that the Small Island Developing States were unique, since they gave sanctuary to innumerable ecological and bio-diverse resources in large areas of the world’s oceans and faced formidable challenges in overcoming adverse effects of climate change. As a country comprising more than 17,000 islands, Indonesia supported the system-wide implementation of the Programme of Action for Sustainable Development of Small Island States, the major outcome of the global conference held in Barbados earlier this year.

He said that to strengthen regional cooperation, Indonesia had sponsored a series of workshops on managing potential conflict in the South China Sea, to turn potential conflict in the area into actual and mutually beneficial cooperation. He also believed that regional cooperation was an effective tool to combat incidents of crime at sea. His country had recently concluded bilateral agreements with neighbouring States to enhance that cooperation, including the establishment of joint surveillance arrangements.

CHANDRASEKHARA RAO, President, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, said that over the last 12 months the Tribunal had made important progress in consolidating its special position in dealing with disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. It was part of the system for the peaceful settlement of disputes as envisaged in the Charter of the United Nations. Indeed, it found its origins in the efforts sponsored by the United Nations, which had culminated in the adoption of the Convention.

In that regard, he went on, the Convention did not provide a single body for adjudicating law of the sea disputes, but provided for a number of alternative means for their settlement. Nevertheless, the Convention had accorded the Tribunal a pre-eminent position in the matter of settlement of disputes; that position was confirmed by, among other things, the prescription of compulsory jurisdiction of the Tribunal in respect of certain matters, and the extension of the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to entities other than States. The Tribunal was a world court designated by the Convention to play a central role in the resolution of the law of the sea disputes. It was of significance, moreover, that the establishment of the Tribunal took place during the United Nations Decade of International Law.

He expressed his concern about the financial situation of the Tribunal. Draft resolution A/54/L.31 underlined the importance of prompt payments of contributions by States Parties to the effective functioning of the Tribunal. He therefore urged all States Parties to the Convention to pay their assessed contributions in full and on time to ensure that the tribunal was able to carry out its functions as provided for in the Convention.

He said the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the Tribunal had to date been signed by 21 State Parties. Just two of those had ratified it. The Agreement had been closed for signature on 30 June 1999 and it was open for ratification or, as the case might be, for accession. For the Agreement to enter into force, at least ten instruments of ratification or accession must be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The early entry into force of the Agreement would greatly facilitate the work of the Tribunal.

SATYA NANDAN, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, said he believed the oceans would become an area of intense activity as the new millennium progressed because the demand for food resources would increase, there would be more rapid communications and transportation, as well as increased demand for mineral resources from the sea. It was inevitable that major developments in technology and advances in scientific research on marine environment would accelerate those activities.

He said that the international community had always taken the oceans for granted. While it was prepared to spend billions of dollars on research in outer space, it had allocated less than one tenth of that to research on the more immediate environment of the oceans. This had to change, as pressure on the ocean environment grew and the need to discover new uses for the oceans and develop their potential became urgent. This underscored the need for better coordination and cooperation of oceans policies at the national, regional and global levels, as well as the development and implementation of policies that are coherent and cost- effective.

Turning to the draft resolution, he said the establishment of the consultative committee, referred to in the operative paragraph 2, represented the beginning of a new process. He hoped that it would work to re-establish focus on the oceans, which was justly deserved, and that it would succeed in drawing together economic, social, environmental, legal and political aspects of ocean governance for the benefit of the global community.

He also hoped that the implementation of the process would inspire States to undertake better coordination of oceans affairs at the national level. The end result of the process should be to inspire all sectors in governments and international organizations to work coherently together towards a common purpose within the broad framework provided by the 1982 Convention.

Action on Drafts

TEOMAN MUSTAFA UYKUR (Turkey), said his delegation would vote against the draft resolution (document A/54/L.31) since some of the elements of the Convention, which his country had not approved, were still being retained in the draft. Turkey supported international efforts to establish a regime of the sea which could be acceptable to all States, but the Convention did not make adequate provisions for special geographical situations. Consequently, it could not establish an acceptable balance between conflicting interests. Furthermore, it did not provide for registering reservations on specific clauses.

On draft resolution A/54/L.32, the review of the Commission on sustainable development, he said Turkey welcomed the initiatives aimed at promoting international coordination and cooperation. It supported the main intent of the text, to establish an informal consultative process open to all Member States. It had reservations, however, on references to the Convention, particularly that the legal framework that it provided could only address Parties to the Convention. International cooperation and coordination should be sought among all States, whether or not a State was party to a certain instrument. Efficient cooperation could only be achieved through participation by all States, without expecting their adoption of a particular framework which could have further connotations beyond their will.

DIEGO COLAS (France), on a point of order, noted that the text of the French resolution differed in content from the English original. He requested a revised copy. The Vice-President, ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said that the observation had been duly noted by the Secretariat.

SHINGO MIYAMOTO (Japan) said his country attached great importance to the legal framework of the Convention, so his delegation would vote in favour of the draft resolution. That would not, however, prejudice his country’s position on the Southern Blue-fin tuna.

The Assembly then adopted draft resolution A/54/L.31 by a recorded vote of 129 in favour, to 1 against (Turkey) with 4 abstentions (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela). (For details of vote see Annex.)

Before the vote on draft resolution A/54/L.28, on the fish stocks agreement, the Vice-President announced that Argentina, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Iceland, Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Philippines, Samoa and Solomon Islands had joined as co-sponsors.

The Assembly then adopted the draft without a vote.

VADIM PERFILIEV, Department of General Assembly Affairs and Conference Services, spoke of the servicing implications of the draft resolution on the review by the Commission on Sustainable Development of the sectoral theme of “Oceans and Seas: international cooperation and coordination”.

Noting that it was anticipated that two open-ended consultative meetings on Oceans and the Law of the Sea would be held in New York, one from 30 May to 2 June 2000 and one in May 2001, he said there were no additional requirements for documentation.

He said that provided the number and distribution of meeting were consistent with the pattern of meetings of past years, should the General Assembly adopt the draft resolution, no additional appropriation would be required for the biennium 2000-2001.

The Assembly then adopted draft resolution A/54/L.32 without a vote.

Rights of reply

Speaking on right of reply, HASMY AGAM (Malaysia) said that as one of the claimant States, it wished to emphasized its opposition to the use of force to settle any dispute with regard to the South China Sea. Any action taken in the area should not violate the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) declaration and should be in accordance with international law and the Convention of the Law of the Sea. His country was encouraged that claimant States had accepted negotiations and dialogue. He called on them adhere to those principles and to refrain from actions which could affect peace and stability.

In resolving disputes, States that were not a party to a dispute should not interfere. Negotiations should be based on the ASEAN original code of conduct on the South China Sea. He assured the international community that Malaysia had increased surveillance in the South China Sea area, in order to combat piracy and smuggling. He stressed, however, that national efforts could only be effective if supplemented by neighbouring countries and the international community.

PHAM TRUONG GIANG (Viet Nam) said with regard to the Chinese Government fishing ban in Spratly Islands and the Paracelsius area of South China, he wished to reconfirm that his country had sufficient historical and legal grounds and that, as a coastal State, his country had full sovereign rights to continental shelves. Any counter action would be a violation of its sovereign rights to those areas. He called for the status quo to be maintained and for interested parties to refrain from acts that would aggravate the situation.

GAO FENG (China) said his Government had made its position clear with regard to the Spratly Islands and Paracelsius on many occasions and its sovereign rights was based on historical facts. Those facts were recognized by neighbouring countries in their official positions. China advocated the peaceful settlement of the dispute over the islands through peaceful means. He further stated that parties which were not involved in the dispute should refrain from actions that would complicate the issue. China was also opposed to intervention in the dispute by nations outside the region, as this would complicate matters.

CARLOS D. SORRETA (Philippines) said his country did not recognize other claims regarding the South China Sea. The Heads of States of the countries of ASEAN would be meeting shortly to arrive at a code of conduct for claims in the Sea, and he hoped that the issue would be settled amicably and peacefully.

Statement on Olympic Ideal

PRINCE ALBERT (Monaco) said that the multiplication of conflicts and the resulting number of innocent victims were against the tenets of the Charter. Therefore, in pursuit of a goal for the development of harmonization, global peace and security, Member States had striven to strengthen ties between the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee to eliminate poverty, to provide health care and education, to protect the environment and to fight against drug use and trafficking. He noted that in undertaking their joint ventures, the two organizations sought, through the Olympic Games, to have young people observe the principles of fellowship, friendship and competition while respecting others’ differences.

DANIEL KOWALSKI (Australia), introducing the draft resolution on the Olympic ideal (document A/54/L.26), said his country’s commitment to the Olympic movement was long-standing. It was one of only two countries, along with Greece, to participate in every summer Olympic games of the modern era, and would be one of five to have hosted two such events. The first was the fourteenth Olympiad in Melbourne in 1956. His country’s commitment to the movement was further reflected in its approach to the 2000 games and its organizers aimed to deliver the most harmonious, athlete-oriented and culturally enhancing games until now. Australia was also widely known as a sporting nation. The values of universality, inclusiveness and respect for diversity that were at the heart of the Olympic movement were also integral to the Australian lifestyle. He said the organization of the 2000 Games also demonstrated his country’s commitment to environmental protection. It had pledged to make the event the “greenest” Games ever. The organizers had integrated a range of ecologically- sustainable and environmental initiatives, including the use of energy-efficient and recycling technologies throughout the Village, which would also be the world’s largest solar-powered housing development.

He said Australia was keen to ensure that the Olympic Games and the Paralympics reflected the ideals and values of the International Olympic Movement, as well as the values and principles of the United Nations Charter. Australia, therefore, supported and encouraged the growing number of cooperative programmes between the two organizations that focused on promoting education, peace and human well being, through sport and physical activity

ELIAS GOUNARIS (Greece) said the term “ekecheiria”, dating back to the ninth century B.C., indicated a suspension of hostilities or armistice, for a prescribed period of time, during the Olympic Games. This was to allow the athletes participating in the Games, as well as their relatives and thousands of ordinary pilgrims, to travel without fear to attend the legendary Games in peace, and then return to their hometowns in safety and security. The first such Assembly resolution calling for the revival of the “Olympic Truce”, adopted in 1993, was a landmark in the history of the Olympic ideal.

He recalled that before the opening of the Nagano Winter Games in February last year, the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, George A. Papandreou, had presented to the International Olympic Committee a proposed set of organizational structures and a range of activities, including the establishment of an “International Olympic Truce Center”. The aim was to infuse new life and impetus to the ancient tradition of the Olympic Truce, strengthen the role of the Olympic movement and promote peace and international reconciliation.

He said Greece would have the honour to host the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, and endeavours would be inspired by the authentic tradition of the Olympic Games and the original values embodied in the Olympic ideal. The “Olympic Truce” would serve to promote dialogue, reconciliation and the search for durable solutions of conflicts around the world.

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said the fabric of solidarity and confidence must be rebuilt, and the Games were relevant to that rebuilding. His country had undertaken cooperation initiatives with many agencies of the United Nations and welcomed the initiatives of the International Olympic Committee to display the flag at the Games. The Games had opened the gates to harmonization and must be protected from bad influences. He was confident that the Olympics would strengthen the ties of solidarity and fair play among the various cultures of the world.

His country had always defended the Olympic ideal, both within the region and globally, and he hoped the modern Olympics could become a symbol of unity among the nations. He said the interest of Africa in the Olympic ideal, went back to the beginning of the century, when it had been excluded from the Games. Because of that exclusion, in 1928 the continent had hosted its first regional event in Tangier, and that had been repeated some fifty years later. History had done justice to the African countries whose sporting exploits had received worldwide acclaim. ANNEX

Vote on oceans and the Law of the Sea.

The General Assembly adopted the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the Sea (document A/54/L.31) by a recorded vote of 129 in favour to 1 against, with 4 abstentions as follows:

In favour: Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chad, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, and Zambia.

Against: Turkey.

Abstain: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

Absent: Afghanistan, Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Burundi, Cambodia, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Gambia, Georgia, Guinea, Honduras, Iraq, Israel, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Nauru, Nicaragua, Niger, Palau, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, Suriname, Swaziland, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Vanuatu, Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

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