Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.

RIO+20 The Future We Want

RIO+20 the future we want

UN General Assembly Marks 30th Anniversary of the Historic Law of the Sea Convention with Calls for Universal Participation

Aerial View near Kismayo, South SomaliaNew York, 12 December—The United Nations General Assembly observed the 30th Anniversary of the watershed UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) with a renewed call for all countries which had not yet done so to join it.

After many years of negotiations, the Convention on the Law of the Sea was opened for signature in 1982.  The Convention, often referred to as the “constitution” for the world’s oceans and seas has presently 164 parties, including the European Union.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Let us work to bring all nations under the jurisdiction, protection and guidance of this essential treaty.”

“Like a constitution,” he said, the Convention was a firm foundation – “a permanent document providing order, stability, predictability and security -- all based on the rule of law. The Convention on the Law of the Sea is the legal framework that guides every aspect of our management of the oceans and seas. It is an acknowledgement that the many challenges and uses of the ocean are interrelated and need to be considered as a whole.”

UN General Assembly President Vuk Jeremić called the Convention on the Law of the Sea “a United Nations success story,” and also urged all countries, that have not yet done so, to join the Convention. 

“The preamble to UNCLOS,” the President said, “states the convention ‘will promote the peaceful uses of the seas and oceans, the equitable and efficient utilization of their resources, the conservation of their living resources, and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment.’  It is a commendable goal to which I believe all nations can and should agree. In that regard, I encourage all Member States that have not done so, to act in the service of mankind by signing and ratifying this seminal convention.”

The commemorative meeting featured special speakers who have been instrumental in the work of the Convention including Ambassador Tommy Koh, President of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea and Ambassador Christopher Grima of Malta who made a special tribute to the late Ambassador Arvid Pardo. In addition, there were representatives of the institutional bodies established by the Convention, the President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Shunji Yanai, the President of the Assembly of the International Seabed Authority, Ambassador Milan Meetarbhan, as well as its Secretary-General, Nii Odunton. Also taking part were the Chairman of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Lawrence Awosika, the President of the twenty-second Meeting of States Parties of the Convention, Ambassador Isabelle Picco, and Judge Greenwood spoke on behalf of the President of the International Court of Justice.  Ambassador Rosemary Dicarlo of the United States represented the Host Country.

The Convention on the Law of the Sea has had a major impact on ocean governance, with provisions covering the limits of maritime zones that coastal countries can claim, the rights of passage and navigation, peace and security of oceans and seas, conservation and management of marine living resources, protection and preservation of the marine environment, marine scientific research, and dispute settlement procedures.

Many delegations participating in the Convention’s anniversary commemoration took note that the outcome document of the recent Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development, “The Future We Want,” reaffirms that the Convention provides the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources.

The Secretary-General said, “In short, the Convention on the Law of the Sea is an important tool for sustainable development, as affirmed this year by the Rio+20 Conference. But the oceans continue to face many challenges -- pollution, ocean acidification, over-exploitation of resources, piracy and maritime boundary disputes.”

A brochure marking the 30th Anniversary of the Convention can be found at http://www.un.org/Depts/los/index.htm and a publication containing the personal recollections and reflections of the delegates who negotiated the Convention United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea at 30: Reflections is available as well.

The text of the Convention on the Law of the Sea can be found at http://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/unclos_e.pdf