UN Legal Counsel calls for more focus on state of environment

Hans Corell

4 March 2004 – United Nations Legal Counsel Hans Corell appealed today for more attention to be paid to the condition of the world's environment as he reflected on related conventions that have been ratified and have entered into force during his 10 years of UN service.

"There is a tendency, of course, because of the way some behave, that we are focusing on armed conflicts and the use of arms and issues related to that. What I am actually more concerned about now, since part of my responsibility is the environment, is the status of the globe on which we live," the Under-Secretary-General told a pre-retirement news conference at UN Headquarters in New York.

"I have the responsibility of providing the Secretary-General's report on the Law of the Sea. The seas, the oceans, 70 per cent of the globe, are deteriorating. We have deteriorating situations in other parts - desertification and so forth."

The world should focus on protecting the environment and on how to live in dignity on the globe in the future, he said.

One of the impressive achievements in recent times has been the entry into force of the Law of the Sea, which is also known as "The Constitution of the Seas," Mr. Corell said.

An advocate of the international rule of law, he said it was difficult to assess how many conflicts have been prevented by the very existence of the treaty. States now know how to settle their differences under the convention and if they cannot settle by themselves they can take the case to an international court in The Hague or in Hamburg, Germany.

The international rule of law on trade has also improved, he said. The Legal Counsel's office in Vienna was being upgraded to a full division and would serve not only the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), but would offer States technical advice on implementing international trade conventions and laws.

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