|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Meeting of States Parties
to Law of Sea Convention
157th & 158th Meetings (AM & PM)
Law of Sea Convention Promoted Peace, Justice, Progress for All, but ‘Humankind
Has Not Returned the Favour’, Secretary-General Tells States Parties
Meeting Commemorates Treaty’s Thirtieth Anniversary, on World Oceans Day
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea offered a unique, flexible framework for adapting to the Earth’s evolving political and environmental challenges, said experts today as the Meeting of States Parties marked World Oceans Day — commemorated annually on 8 June — and adopted a declaration on the occasion of the Convention’s thirtieth anniversary.
Over the course of its three decades, the landmark Convention had made “an important contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice and progress for all peoples of the world”, said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, addressing the Meeting during its anniversary commemoration. Unfortunately, he said, humankind had not returned the favour. Many companies and countries still used the oceans as a dumping ground for billions of tons of waste, some of it toxic and hazardous; fisheries were depleted, and climate change worsened that “assault”.
Turning to the upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) — a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to shape the world’s future — he said that the Conference could benefit from 30 years of experience with the Convention, which should remain the guide in establishing the “rule of law” on the world’s oceans and seas. Moreover, as Rio+20 rapidly approached, he urged experts in the room to help identify ways to better use the treaty for sustainable development. That would be the best way to commemorate both World Oceans Day and the thirtieth anniversary of the treaty, he stressed.
Often referred to as “the constitution for the oceans”, the Convention was adopted on 10 December 1982 and entered into force on 16 November 1994. Its 320 articles and nine annexes govern all aspects of ocean space and maritime issues, from navigational rights, maritime limits and marine scientific research to resource management, marine environment protection and dispute settlement. The three bodies established by the treaty are the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, each of which had been discussed in detail over the course of the last week.
Recognizing the pre-eminent contribution of the Convention to strengthening peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations among nations, as well as to the sustainable development of the oceans and seas, the declaration adopted today commended progress achieved by the three treaty bodies and called upon States that had not yet done so to become parties to the Convention.
Among its other provisions, the text invited States parties to contribute to the trust funds related to the law of the sea and encouraged continued capacity-building initiatives in support of the Convention’s implementation. States parties welcomed a decision of the General Assembly to devote two days of plenary meetings at its sixty-seventh session to the consideration of the law of the sea and the commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention.
The Meeting also marked this year’s double commemoration with a round-table discussion, which featured the chiefs of the three treaty bodies, as well as the head of Japan’s Nippon Foundation — which, in 2004, founded a Trust Fund programme providing capacity-building to developing States parties and non-parties to the Convention. Discussions during the round table focused on the history of the Convention, its evolution and the changes it had brought to the political and environmental landscape of the world’s oceans and seabeds.
In that vein, Nii Odunton, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, pointed to a groundbreaking 1967 speech before the General Assembly by Maltese delegate Arvid Pardo, in which he gave an account of the political situation of exploration of the ocean floor. At that time, oil exploration had begun to move further away from land, and the vast potential resources of the world’s ocean floors were being discovered. Moreover, said Mr. Odunton, the ambassador had highlighted the novel concept of the principle of the common heritage of mankind, proposing, for the first time, the establishment of a “special agency” for the seabed and ocean floor. Eventually, that vision had become the International Seabed Authority.
Following the round table and an ensuing interactive discussion, delegates made statements to mark the commemoration. “The Convention has travelled an extraordinary journey over the past 30 years”, said the representative of China in that regard. Oceans and the seas were closely related to the survival and development of mankind. It was now critical to achieve the sustainable development of oceans and the seas and to strike a balance between the ocean-related interests of individual States and those of the international community. The delegate hoped that countries would continue to follow the Convention’s spirit as new issues and challenges continue to emerge.
Similarly, the representative of the Philippines said that, on the eve of its thirtieth anniversary, the Convention had never been more important, in particular for developing countries. Prior to the Convention, archipelagic States such as his had literally “floated” in the middle of the sea, without any mechanism to ensure their stability and security. The Convention served to protect their rights over their waters, as well as the unity of their islands. The oceans did not and should not set the international community apart. Indeed, all States parties must renew their commitment to abide by their obligations and responsibilities under the Convention, he said.
The Meeting will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 11 June, to conclude its twenty-second session.
The twenty-second Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea met today to continue its work, for which it had before it the report of the Secretary-General under article 319 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on issues of a general nature, which have arisen with regard to the Convention (documents A/66/70/Add.1 and Add.2). (For details, please see Press Release GA/11185 of 6 December 2011.) Also before the Meeting was the Secretary-General’s report on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (document A/67/79), as well as several reports related to the budget of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, namely the report on budgetary matters for the financial periods2009-2010 and 2011-2012 (document SPLOS/242), which was presented by the Registrar of the Tribunal (Press Release SEA/1969 of 5 June), the D raft budget proposals of the Tribunal for 2013-2014 (document SPLOS/2012/WP.1), and a note on the Appointment of Auditor for financial years 2013-2016 (document SPLOS/243).
The Meeting was also expected to commemorate the Convention’s thirtieth anniversary, including in the context of World Oceans Day.
Statements on Reports
The representative of Venezuela said that information provided by the Commission included a report on a presentation by Guyana to justify the extension of that country’s continental shelf. That presentation had failed to indicate the existence of a territorial dispute in the area between Guyana and his country. Venezuela expressed its opposition to that presentation being evaluated or referred to by the Commission while the area was under dispute. The rights of Venezuela to the continental shelf were independent of Guyana’s fictitious occupation. His country hoped that the communication which it had forwarded to the Commission was sufficient to bring to its attention that there was a dispute to preclude the Commission from assessing or determining the Guyanese presentation.
He said that, given that the language of the Commission’s document did not sufficiently express that it would refrain from such an assessment, Venezuela wanted to reiterate its objection. His country was confident that the Commission would recuse itself from implicitly making any assessment that might make it appear to be a party to a territorial dispute between sovereign States. The country was willing to further explore avenues for the progress of its people and the people of Guyana through mutually agreed instruments for dialogue.
The representative of Angola took note of the members that had been elected to the Commission and expressed support for the salaries they received.
The representative of Argentina said that, as agreed in 2004, States parties might consider matters in the Secretary-General’s report (document A/67/79), but the report that had been submitted to the meeting today referred to a matter that had been dealt with in the United Nations Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS) last week. In that regard, the substantive report had already been considered in its entirety and the meeting could not add vey much more on the matter. Argentina hoped that the meeting would be able to examine the report on other matters pertaining to the law of the sea, but the general report on the law of the sea was not available. His country regretted that fact and reasserted its position on the remit of the Meeting of States Parties to deal with matters pertaining to the interpretation of the Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The representative of Sri Lanka said that his delegation shared what had become a serious concern that the pace of the Commission’s work was being negatively impacted by inadequate resources. Now that the States parties had allocated funds to allow it to work for up to 26 weeks, he looked forward to a substantially expedited review of submissions. He was confident that the members would seek to make progress and to effectively utilize the funds available to them. In addition, he again requested to receive a forecast for the expected time frame for the review of submissions.
The representative of Guyana said that his country had taken deliberate steps to secure its rights and to meet its obligations under the Convention. The country, therefore, had every right to expect that its submission would be examined in a timely manner. Guyana had adequately responded to the objections of Venezuela to the consideration of that submission, but reiterated that there was no land boundary dispute between the two States. In fact, that boundary had been established by an arbitrary award in the nineteenth century.
He said Guyana was concerned that the Commission was being invited to ignore the boundary treaty, thereby acting in violation of international law. The Commission had not done so; instead, it had acted in line with the International Court of Justice ruling, namely that the boundary stood. The Commission’s decision was consistent with the Convention, its own rules of procedure and with international law. Had it acted otherwise, it would have opened the floodgate to “frivolous” complaints by States on boundary issues, he said.
The representative of Morocco said that his delegation had followed with interest the dynamism and activity of the Commission and its subcommissions. The Secretary-General’s report — to be considered today — which gave a “unique view of the niches of the sea”, discussed international navigation, climate change, et cetera. It did not only refer to the 162 States parties, but to maritime activities overall. In that respect, he recalled that Morocco had recently become a member of the Board of the International Maritime Organization. Additionally, maritime delimitation was a timely issue and a running theme throughout the reports; in particular, he drew the attention of the Meeting to the report on renewable marine resources, an extremely important element of development, which had been encouraged by the Moroccan Government.
The representative of Mexico, recalling that the first ever Seafarer’s Day had recently been celebrated, noted the importance of seafarers’ work. Capacity-building was needed on the issue of rescuing those in danger at sea, with an aim of building a strong search-and-rescue service. Mexico had frequently stated that UN OCEANS (Oceans and Coastal Areas Network) should work only on matters that enjoyed the broad consensus of United Nations Member States. However, he was concerned that the body’s task forces still addressed issues that were under dispute.
The representative of Indiaaligned the delegation with the views expressed by the representative of Argentina.
The representative of Brazilexpressed support for all the bodies established by the Convention. It continued to believe that the codification and progressive development of the law of the sea contributed to friendly relations among States and promoted the social advancement of all peoples of the world. As such, Brazil continued to give all issues related to peace and to the law of the sea that same interest.
The representative of Argentina said that his country endorsed the position outlined by the representative of Mexico.
The representative of Iceland said that the Meeting of States Parties had not been given any substantive roles. The General Assembly was the global forum for the annual review of the implementation of the Convention. That review was greatly facilitated by the report of the Secretary-General. The present report was prepared in response to a General Assembly request and constituted the first part of the report of the Secretary-General to the Assembly. Insofar as it contained issues of a general nature, it had also been presented to the States parties. The report was for the information of States parties and was limited to issues that had arisen with regard to the Convention. States parties did not have a substantive role.
The representative of Norway said that, according to the Convention, the Secretary-General should report to States parties, the General Assembly and to competent international organizations on issues with respect to the Convention. Meetings of States parties were limited to administrative and financial matters. No substantive comments were to be made on the report of the Secretary-General. Instead, such comments should be made in competent international organizations, notably the General Assembly.
The representative of the United States stressed that the role of the Meeting was not to act as a conference of parties with plenary authority, as there was no supporting text to that effect in the Convention. Rather, its role was to conduct elections of members to the Tribunal and the Commission and to determine the Tribunal’s budget. In addition, the Meeting was charged with receiving the report of the Secretary-General on oceans and the law of the sea, and related reports. Members had the opportunity to comment on those reports, which were then to be simply noted. Article 319 did not empower it to take general or broad reviews or to interpret provisions of the Convention. He hoped the Commission’s heavy workload would be addressed.
The representative of Venezuela said that her delegation did not intend in any way to encourage a debate on any issues other than those in the Meeting’s programme of work. It merely wished to reassert its compliance with international law, and to say that it was committed to dialogue as a problem-solving mechanism.
Taking the floor, the Director of the United Nations Division of Ocean Affairs said that work had been ongoing on the development of an oceans compact, and would continue; however, that compact would not be launched at the upcoming Rio+20 sustainable development summit. With regard to the scope of work of UN OCEANS, he would share the comments made today with that body’s leadership. He also clarified that the Secretary-General’s report on oceans and the law of the sea for the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly was still being compiled, but that the present Meeting had before it two reports issued last year. The report for the sixty-seventh session would be submitted in August and would be released before the first round of informal consultations on the omnibus resolution on oceans and law of the sea in the fall.
The Meeting then took note of the report of the Secretary-General (document A/67/79).
Tribunal of the International Convention on the Law of the Sea
The representative of the United Kingdom, circulating a non-paper on the budget of the Tribunal, said that it wished to see an improved process for the examination of the Tribunal’s budget proposals. The delegation believed in the general principles of scrutiny and transparency. It felt that meeting in a large format in a conference room was not conducive to the preparation of a budget. Rather, there should be an alternative mechanism set up for that purpose. In addition, there should be no extra costs in the budget, and that was an “achievable” goal. “This is an evolutionary process,” she said, referring to the budgeting process and noting that it was widely agreed that the workload of the Tribunal was increasing.
Delegations then took the floor to react to the non-paper circulated by the United Kingdom. Expressing support for the proposals laid out by that document were the representatives of Guatemala, Mexico, Canada, Japan and United Republic of Tanzania, while other delegations — namely the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Argentina and Brazil — expressed reservations or raised questions.
For example, the representative of Brazil stressed that a “very democratic process” for analysing the budget was currently in place in the Meeting of States Parties, which already had a budgetary committee, as well as an auditor. Moreover, a second financial committee might mean more financial burden to States parties, he said, calling for clarification as to whether the United Kingdom’s proposal would have budgetary implications. He also raised concerns about one stipulation of the proposal, which called for the membership of the budgetary body to take into account “a recognition of financial contributions”. That restriction would result in a less democratic and participatory budgeting process than the one currently in place, he said.
Opening the afternoon discussion to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the opening for signature of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said that the Convention, known as the “constitution of the oceans”, had proved the truth of its preamble, which states that the Convention has historic significance as “an important contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice and progress for all peoples of the world”.
Unfortunately, said the Secretary-General, humankind has not returned the favour. Many companies and countries still used the oceans as a dumping ground for billions of tons of waste, some of it toxic and hazardous; fisheries were depleted, and climate change worsened that “assault”. The upcoming United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20) was a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future we want”, he said. The Conference could benefit from three decades of experience with the Convention, which should remain the guide in establishing the “rule of law” on the world’s oceans and seas.
In that vein, he said the experts in the room should help identify ways to better use the treaty for sustainable development. That would be the best way to commemorate both World Oceans Day and the thirtieth anniversary of the treaty.
PATRICIA O’BRIEN, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, said that oceans played a key role in human lives. They offered opportunities, but they also presented a number of difficult challenges, ranging from the impacts of climate change to the deterioration of the marine environment. The Convention provided a flexible framework for adapting to new challenges — for the maintenance and development of the law of the sea, as well as for the strengthening of international peace and security. Indeed, World Oceans Day was a chance to mark those successes, as well as current challenges, in sustainable ocean development.
YOHEI SASAKAWA, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, said that the international community must take stock of the accomplishments of the Convention during the last 30 years, so as to effectively address the lacuna at all levels and identify the next steps. Ocean affairs and law of the sea was a multidisciplinary and ever-expanding field, requiring deliberate attention from all. The international community was challenged by the unique nature and fundamental importance of the oceans. With the world’s population exceeding 7 billion, the world was becoming increasingly dependent on the oceans and taxing them to their limits.
He said that the Nippon Foundation’s vision was one of shared responsibility, aimed at effectively addressing those challenges on the basis of today’s interconnected world. The Foundation sought to learn from the past and to assume responsibility today for the future so as to pass on sustainable oceans to coming generations. It believed that there was a need for an international coalition to protect the oceans. In order to facilitate its creation, it was essential to develop professionals with multidisciplinary visions to take the world forward.
The Foundation offered a portfolio of programmes that aimed to produce a new generation of ocean professionals, and it was constructing a network for ocean professionals to enable them to collaborate beyond their respective boundaries, he said. It had also fostered a network of individuals, thereby enhancing their ability to address the problems of the oceans. For the last eight years, it had contributed to development of oceanographic diplomats and professionals and it remained strongly committed to supporting that kind of initiative. The Foundation planned to significantly expand its contribution to human capacity-building to support efforts to address maritime issues, and it hoped that initiative would boost international commitment to ocean issues, including at Rio+20.
Ms. O’BRIEN announced that the Empire State Building in New York would be lighted today to commemorate World Oceans Day.
SHUNJI YANAI, President of the International Tribunal, gave a brief historical account of the law of the sea, beginning with the 1958 Convention on the Continental Shelf. That treaty had left room for interpretation on continental shelf boundaries and on the exploitability of natural resources on the seabed. In 1982, however, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — known as the “constitution of the sea” — had put an end to that disorder. Among other accomplishments, it redefined the continental shelf within and beyond 200 nautical miles, and set up a new regime for maritime navigation. The activities of the three bodies it created were complementary, and intended to ensure the Convention’s coherent and efficient implementation. In addition, the treaty allowed for the flexible resolution of disputes related to oceans and maritime boundaries. He also reviewed recent accomplishments of the Tribunal itself, including the 14 March decision in the Bay of Bengal case, and the first ever advisory opinion by its Seabed Chamber.
NII ODUNTON, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, recalled that, in the late 1960s, oil exploration had begun to move further and further away from land. In 1967, the General Assembly had heard a landmark statement by Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta, who gave an account of the political situation of exploration of the ocean floor. He had emphasized the large potential resources of the seabed, as well as the novel concept of the principle of the common heritage of mankind. Additionally, he had proposed the establishment of a “special agency” for the seabed and ocean floor. His statement served as the basic source of articles 136 and 137 of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea, and set in motion a process that spanned 15 years, and included, among other things, the signing of a treaty on the banning the emplacement of nuclear weapons on the ocean floor, and the Stockholm Convention on the human environment.
Eventually, he continued, the special agency that he envisaged had been created: the International Seabed Authority, headquartered in Kingston, Jamaica. Since its establishment, the Authority had evolved into a substantive organization that had adopted two sets of rules and procedures on specific types of mining. That work was now ongoing on a third set of rules. At the body’s forthcoming eighteenth session, five applications for activities in the Area (the seabed and ocean floor, and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction) would be considered. If approved, it would mean that three developing States would join 11 others in directly engaging in exploration in the Area. In that vein, he recalled that Ambassador Pardo, in his 1967 speech, had requested that poor countries be given priority in enjoying the benefits of ocean floor exploration. It was expected that further attention would be given to that principle at the Authority’s upcoming session, he said.
GALO CARERRA HURTADO, Chairman of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, said that the Commission had been created as a result of one of the most influential suggestions, which had been a footnote in the initial draft of the Law of the Sea Convention. He provided a summary of the main developments since the establishment of the Commission. A total of 61 submissions had been made to the Commission and it had prepared 18 recommendations. Future submissions were expected to raise the number of submissions to 120, but 30 submissions had been considered the normal workload of the Commission.
He acknowledged that the work to be conducted by the Commission had been underestimated, adding that the mandate of the Commission was not legal in nature, even though it related to that of the other bodies under the Convention. Because territorial disputes were a reality, it was likely that questions could arise with regard to the implementation of the Commission’s mandate, for instance, concerning extension of States’ continental shelves. That meant that caution might be needed in such things as the award of exploration licences.
During the ensuing discussion, delegates made comments and raised questions relating to various bodies’ contribution to the implementation of the Convention. For example, one delegate requested more information on possible cooperation between the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and its sister bodies, prompting Mr. HURTADO to respond that there were, indeed, opportunities for such cooperation. The exact modes of collaboration would require further discussion, he said, adding that it was essential in any such cooperation to respect the separate mandates of each body.
Other speakers highlighted the fact that there were three distinct generations of law of the sea experts. In that vein, the representative of Argentina asked panellists about what she called the “burden of carrying the dream”. How did the panellists see the three mechanisms, compared to the dream that they had represented three decades ago? Asking questions were the representatives of Trinidad and Tobago, Argentina, Uruguay, Fiji, and Morocco.
Responding, Mr. YANAI stressed that all three generations were working towards the same end. The most important thing now was to enhance capacity-building and to train younger generations, he added. As a judicial body, the Tribunal had two ways to pronounce on any issue — deliver a judgement or give an advisory opinion.
In his own response, Mr. ODUNTON said that he had been asked to come up with a strategic plan. He also had had to make a budgetary request. The plan had been prepared and the required studies had been included in the budgetary request. It was now left to see what elements of the plan and budget would be adopted and supported with the resources needed to enable the International Seabed Authority to do its work.
Further responding, Mr. HURTADO said that in 1975 the proposal for the Continental Shelf Commission had anticipated a hybrid entity with the capacity to resolve legal issues. The final incarnation did not, however, contain any such provision. Instead, the capacity of the Commission was very restrained only to issuing recommendations that were not final or binding.
In a closing statement, ISABELLE PICCO of Monaco, the Meeting President, said that the presentations had shown how much the Convention had promoted social progress and the use of the seas and the oceans. She then paid tribute to those that had striven to ensure that the law of the sea was better known.
Commemoration of Convention’s Thirtieth Anniversary
The representative of Brazil said that the most important contribution of the Convention was to strengthening peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations among nations in conformity with the principles of justice and equal rights and to the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The codification and progressive development of the law of the sea and international rule of law of the oceans and seas contained in the Convention should remain the basis for addressing existing and emerging issues. Addressing the remaining gaps in implementation would foster advancement and provide legal certainty in the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
The representative of Australia said that her country had used the recommendations of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf as the basis of domestic legislation. It was determined that other States in its region should also benefit from the Commission’s work. As such, it was sharing its expertise with the other coastal States. Australia reaffirmed its commitment to work to strengthen and enhance the framework provided by the Convention.
The representative of Malta said that the event being celebrated owed its genesis to Ambassador Pardo, whose speech to the General assembly on 1 November 1967 had revolutionized the thinking of politicians, jurists, scientists and diplomats and inspired the international community up to today. The concept of common heritage of mankind still illuminated discussions with optimism and extended to the fields of the environment, climate change, outer space, human rights and the rights of future generations.
The representative of Monaco said that the adoption of the Convention had established a unique record in the history of law as never before seen, as it was signed on the day it opened for signature by 119 countries around the world. That showed the scale of the hope and ambitions it inspired, as a crucial step in protecting the seas and the oceans. It was one of the most important legal instruments of the last decade. The international community must not imagine the Convention as the final point on the law of the sea or as fixed legal rules that could not be changed. The resources of the seas were the heritage of humanity and whatever took place in the seas needed to be looked at as a whole. No nation should be able to undo the historic work done by the international community.
The representative of Japan said that his country had actively contributed to the work of the Convention’s three organization, such as by providing judges for the International Tribunal and members for the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. It had recently decided to contribute $352,000 to the Trust Fund to defray the cost of participation in meetings of the Commission for developing country members. Japan hoped that all the three treaty bodies would continue to discharge their mandates in accordance with the Convention.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said that the international community currently faced a number of serious challenges to the international marine order. His country was supporting sustainable use of marine resources and believed that it was important to address those challenges. He called for close cooperation among the international community in maintaining a global marine regime, and he pledged his country’s participation in that effort. The country had decided to host a conference in August to mark the opening of the Convention for signature and welcomed the participation of States parties in the event.
The representative of Senegal noted the massive accession to the instrument and said that the codification of the law of the sea contained in the treaty was an innovation that had continued to fuel the hope for the future of mankind. The Convention played crucial role in establishing a safe environment for the oceans and seas, which contributed to prosperity and global food security. By regulating the activities of mankind, the treaty contributed to conserving that important heritage. The fair sharing of ocean resources was particularly justified because they were not unlimited and needed to be conserved for future generations. Senegal believed that sustainable management must remain a top priority and that a revision of the Convention should be considered in order to ensure its relevance. It was also necessary to ensure that all the bodies created under the Convention had the resources to deliver on their mandates.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania said that his country had played an important role in negotiating the Convention. All humankind had entrusted the international community to value the dream reflected in the treaty’s preamble to promote the spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation on all issues relating to the law of the sea. There was an obligation to go further with that agenda and realize all the goals enshrined in the Convention, thus contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security and promoting the legitimate uses of the sea. A lot had been achieved, but there were still challenges to be addressed jointly in order to realize the Convention’s objectives. In that regard, States parties should accept the obligation to protect the interests of landlocked, geographically disadvantaged and small island States.
The representative of Thailand said that the International Ocean Institute of Thailand would organize an activity to raise awareness among Thai youths on ocean issues. The country put great emphasis on the law of the sea even before it had become a signatory to the Convention. It had taken careful steps against exploitation of the seas. Additionally, in the past decade, it had realized that safety at sea must take into account natural disasters at sea. The international community must think and act together as one to mitigate environmental challenges. Maritime security was another challenge, and Thailand stood ready to support the capacity-building effort for operations against piracy in the Gulf of Aden area.
The representative of Costa Rica said that the Convention was one of the most ambitious treaties that had ever emerged from the United Nations. It was a key instrument for the protection of the oceans’ wealth, she stressed, adding that the work of its bodies over the last three decades deserved commemoration. Costa Rica had approved the extension of the meetings of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. At the same time, it felt that the speed with which the cases were resolved should not endanger their outcomes. She stressed the need to ensure that all 21 members of the Commission be able to participate.
The representative of Viet Nam said that her delegation was proud to be a party to the Convention, which provided a comprehensive framework for the promotion of peace and stability in the oceans. It did not allow for any reservations to be made to any parts of the treaty, which meant that all States parties were obliged to ensure its full implementation. She also called on non-States parties to consider acceding to the Convention in an effort to make it universal and even more far-reaching.
The representative of the Philippines said that, on the eve of its thirtieth anniversary, the Convention had never been more important, in particular, for developing countries. Prior to the Convention, archipelagic States literally “floated” in the middle of the sea, without any mechanism to ensure their stability and security. The Convention served to protect their rights over their waters, as well as the unity of their islands. The oceans did not and should not set the international community apart. All States parties must renew their commitment to respect rights and abide by their obligations and responsibilities under the Convention.
The representative of Argentina said that his delegation had long supported the idea of a special declaration to celebrate the commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary. The Convention was one of the world’s clearest contributions to peace, stability and friendly relations between nations. He urged States to preserve the delicate balance established by the Convention, adding that all new questions relating to the oceans and seas must be approached within the treaty’s framework.
The representative of China said that oceans and the seas were closely related to the survival and development of mankind, and that building an equitable order in the oceans and seas was critical for the preservation of international peace and security. The principles and the rules established by the Convention had been applied all over the world, and its bodies were gaining in credibility. China attached great importance to oceans and the seas and maintained a harmonious maritime order. Among other key issues, it was critical to achieve the sustainable development of oceans and the seas and to strike a balance between the ocean-related interests of individual States and those of the international community. “The Convention has travelled an extraordinary journey over the past 30 years”, the delegate said, briefly reviewing the treaty’s history. Hopefully, countries would continue to follow its spirit as new issues and challenges emerged.
The representative of Lebanon said that the commemoration allowed States to take stock of the important role that the Convention had played in international relations. “The Convention has stood the test of time”, she said in that respect, noting that it was all the more important as the world now sought to understand the nexus between peace, security and sustainable development. The Convention had settled decades of uncertainly on the definition of maritime zones and had upheld the principle of the pacific settlement of disputes. The international community should adopt new instruments to address new realities such as climate change. It should enhance cooperation between developed and developing States, allowing the latter to fulfil their obligations under the Convention. Additionally, high standards of responsibility for environmental damage must also be established.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that the world was changing, and international law was likewise developing. There had been talk of revising provisions of the Convention. In that vein, he called on States to recognize that the document was multifaceted and that its provisions were interrelated. Moreover, it had been deliberately set up a degree of flexibility, which had served the States parties well. The Convention was alive, it was still functioning, and it was still needed by the international community.
The representative of European Union delegation said that the Convention gave clarity to certain disputed issues, including the breadth of the territorial seas and the limits of the continental shelf. Those and other elements in the Convention were today considered as customary law. The European Union regretted that disputes still arose about the breadth of the territorial sea and transit passage. The Union remained committed to the Convention and pleaded for universal adherence to it. He said that it remained a dynamic instrument in the field of international law covering the largest part of the surface of the planet. Important implementing instruments had been adopted under the Convention. Hopefully, a decision would be reached without delay to initiate negotiations for an implementing agreement on conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.
The representative of Canada said that the Convention was an exceptional document. It addressed a broad range of issues that were of paramount importance for the maintenance of friendly relations among nations. It brought clarity to matters such as maritime jurisdiction, navigation rights, boundary delimitation, exploration and sustainable exploitation of ocean resources, marine scientific research and environmental protection, and facilitated peaceful settlement of disputes. As new uses of ocean space emerged, the Convention retained its relevance. However, in order to continue to fulfil its role, it should be fully implemented and given wider recognition.
* *** *For information media • not an official record