of the 20th Anniversary
of the Opening for Signature of the Law of the Sea
H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan, President of the Fifty-seventh Session of
the United Nations General Assembly
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honour and pleasure for me to open this session.
We must remind ourselves that life itself arose from the oceans.
Ocean covers 72 per cent of the earth´s surface. Since ancient
times, domination of the sea and maritime trade has symbolized
and attributed power and prosperity. From the fifteenth century
onwards, great discoveries gave further importance to domination
of the sea, as also an extraordinary impetus to seafaring. Modern
technologies of the last century offered the opportunity to exploit
the mineral resources of the sea and speeded up the industrial
and economic development. The use of oceans has evolved from basic
provision of food and as a medium of transportation, resources
for energy and minerals. The great importance of the ocean remains.
Thus it is no surprise that the supremacy over the oceans has
also been a source of conflicts and for many years it was law
of the strongest that ruled.
on 10 December it will be 20 years since the United Nations Convention
on the Law of the Sea was opened for signature, as an result of
the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea that
took place from 1973 until 1982. Aware of the extreme importance
to elaborate a new and comprehensive regime for the law of the
sea the international community worked together and mutual cooperation
overcame numerous conflicting interests of various countries.
More than 150 participating delegations, representing all regions
and all legal and political systems, representing costal countries,
island states as well as landlocked countries, made great efforts.
The text of the Convention was adopted by consensus having in
mind and (let me quote the preamble paragraph of the Convention):
"the historic significance of this Convention, as an important
contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice and progress
for all people of the world
believing that the codification
and progressive development of the law of the sea achieved in
this Convention will contribute to the strengthening of peace,
security, cooperation and friendly relations among all nations
in conformity with the principles of justice and equal rights,
and will promote the economic and social advancement of all peoples
of the world, in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of
the United Nations as set forth in the Charter."
elaboration of the Convention represents an attempt to establish
true universality in the effort to achieve a "just and equitable
international economic order" governing ocean space. For
the first time the Convention offers universal and complex legal
framework for sharing the oceans as a common heritage of mankind.
The text of the Convention is not only the result of codification
of customary law, but it embodies the progressive development
of international law as well, and also constitutes the International
Seabed Authority and the International Tribunal for the Law of
the Sea. The high number of states parties to the Convention is
the best proof of the magnificent success of all those who participated
in the work.
deep regret, I would like to take this opportunity to commemorate
the eminent persons who created the Convention but some of who
are no longer with us to participate in today's session. We are
grateful to them and their presence is ensured through the fruit
of their work.
new law of the sea established by the Convention is based on the
idea of the oceans as a common heritage. This concept must be
understood not only as sharing the benefits offered by the sea
but, above all, as sharing the responsibility for its protection
and conservation in order to enable the ecological balance of
our planet and for the future generation to maintain and enjoy.