17 June 2008
Meetings Coverage

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Meeting of States Parties

to Law of Sea Convention

119th & 120th Meetings (AM & PM)



States parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea today agreed that flexibility was needed to find solutions for the difficulties that developing countries were experiencing in meeting the May 2009 deadline for submissions delimiting their continental shelves beyond 200 miles, as the parties continued their annual meeting that started on 13 June and runs through 20 June.

The complex seismic data required to map out the extended continental shelf meant the use of expensive data-collecting vessels; and bad weather, lack of resources and other contingencies further threatened delays in getting the submissions in on time, according to the representative of the Republic of Tanzania.  He said his country had already compiled much of the data needed, but still had much work to do to complete its submission.

Such difficulties had been encountered, to a greater or lesser extent, by Cape Verde, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Palau, Senegal, Kenya, Uruguay, Argentina, Oman, Sierra Leone and Benin, according to the representatives of those countries, though some of them thought they might meet the deadline.

Some developing countries proposed extending the deadline, including India, Costa Rica, Panama and Chile.   Cuba’s representative said that all possible assistance should be given to developing countries to allow them to properly gather their documentation.  Many stressed that developing countries, though they had received assistance, were not yet on equal footing when it came to the capability to complete their submissions and establish the rights set out in the Convention.

Speakers from developed countries and high-growth developing countries offered assistance to countries that were experiencing difficulties and expressed openness to suggestions in dealing with the deadline problem.  Brazil’s representative said that his country had been the first developing country to make a submission and it stood ready to assist others in the developing world, in a valuable example of South-South cooperation.  It had already held workshops to benefit several African countries.

Many countries, including South Africa, Norway, Kenya, India, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Slovenia (speaking on behalf of the European Union), Iceland, Russian Federation and the United States supported flexibility, as long as the integrity of the Convention was maintained.  In that light, suggestions included submission of preliminary data in time for the deadline, with many emphasizing that countries retained their rights to extended shelves, whether or not the submissions were documented in full by the deadline.

The representative of China, however, stressed the importance of delimiting the national claims as early and as accurately as possible, because of their implications for the rights and interests of all States, even those that had no coasts.  The demarcations would also outline the areas that were the common heritage of mankind, Singapore’s representative said.

Following that discussion, the President of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Alexandre Tagore Madeiros de Albuquerque, said that the Commission welcomed any request for scientific and technical advice, as provided for in the annex to the Convention.

Yuriy Sergeyev, President of the Meeting of States Parties, said he was pleased to hear the desire for a flexible approach and consensus voiced by many speakers.  “I found in this hall the desire to solve this problem,” he said, noting that it was very, very complicated.  He was also encouraged to note that States parties recognized that an extension was useless unless States found ways to assist developing countries in meeting whatever new timeline was set, if at all.

Also this morning, the States parties decided to take note of the budgetary reports of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and to select an auditing firm, BDO Deutsche Warentreuhand, for a four-year period, 2009 to 2012.

This afternoon, the parties discussed a joint proposal by the African and Asian Groups of States parties to change the seat allocation for each geographical group for the International Tribunal and the Continental Shelf Commission, in order to create a more equitable balance following additional accessions to the Convention.

The speaker from Spain, representing the Western European and other States Group, questioned whether the proposal would, indeed, be more equitable, or whether it would create its own imbalance.  Egypt’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that those questions had already been addressed and called for consensus in finding a solution during the current session.  The representative of the Philippines, on behalf of the Asian Group, lent his support to the African position.

The representatives of the Bahamas, on behalf of the Group of Latin and American and Caribbean States, and Armenia, on behalf of the Eastern European States, also stressed the need for consensus and equity in regard to the issue.

The States parties will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 18 June, to continue their eighteenth session.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record