|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-seventh General Assembly
51st & 52nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Advancing Rio Call to Secure ‘Future We Want’, General Assembly Notes Importance
of Healthy Marine Environment to Achieving Goals for Sustainable Development
Texts on Law of the Sea, Sustainable Fisheries, Welcome Rio+20 Outcome,
Spotlight Ecosystem Approach, Protecting Biodiversity, Conservation of Oceans
Deeply concerned by the continued threat of human activities on the planet’s marine environments and biodiversity, the General Assembly today – by the terms of its annual omnibus resolution – reaffirmed its commitment to the far-reaching 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and called, in particular, for action to deliver on the three dimensions of sustainable development in the context of the world’s vital waterways.
The Assembly, adopting the wide-ranging text on “oceans and the law of the sea” by a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 1 against (Turkey), with 4 abstentions (Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Venezuela), noted commitments made by States at the recently convened United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development — known as “Rio+20” — to protect and restore the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity. (For details of the vote, see Annex.)
Recalling also that the Rio Conference had recognized that oceans, seas and coastal areas formed an integrated and essential component of theEarth’s ecosystem and were critical to sustaining it, the Assembly recognized the importance of improving understanding of the impact of climate change on oceans and seas. Additionally, it expressed deep concern at the adverse economic, social and environmental impacts of the physical alteration and destruction of marine habitats that might result from land-based and coastal development activities.
Introducing the resolution, the representative of Trinidad and Tobago said that delegates were in agreement that the elements of the Rio outcome document — known as “The Future We Want” — should be reflected in the text. Indeed, the resolution contained elements necessary for the management, preservation and sustainable use of the resources of the world’s oceans and seas, as well as guidelines for the conduct of States in discharging their obligations emanating from the international law of the sea, including the 1982 Convention.
References to the Rio outcome were contained throughout the resolution, he said, especially in the section on marine environment and marine resources. In that context, States were called to take action on several issues, especially as they related to the health of the oceans and marine biodiversity, which were negatively affected by marine pollution, including marine debris. He also pointed to references to another new initiative, the Secretary-General’s “Oceans Compact”, unveiled in August, which was aimed at strengthening United Nations system-wide coherence to deliver on its ocean-related mandates.
The representative of New Zealand, introducing a second draft resolution on sustainable fisheries, said that the outcome of Rio+20 had been a key focus for that text as well. The Conference had addressed the sustainable development of fisheries, he said, and recognized the significant contribution of fisheries to all three dimensions of sustainable development, stressing the crucial role of healthy marine ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and sustainable aquaculture for food security and nutrition, and in providing for livelihood of millions of people.
He also noted that the text — adopted by consensus this afternoon — reflected commitments made by States in Rio on the need to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as a threat to sustainable development; to eliminate subsidies that contributed to such fishing and over-capacity; and to enhance actions to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from significant adverse impacts, including through the effective use of impact assessments.
It also reflected the call for the adoption, by 2014, of strategies to assist developing countries – particularly least developed countries and small island developing States - in developing their national capacity to conserve, sustainably manage and realise the benefits of sustainable fisheries.
During the debate ahead of action on the resolutions, the representative of Palau, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum, said he was pleased that the international community had reaffirmed the need for urgent collective action to address the state of the planet’s oceans and fisheries by incorporating the Rio+20 commitments into the resolutions. However, he stressed, the international community must work together to ensure the effective implementation required to make such commitments take place, he said.
“The [Rio+20] commitments are not an outcome in an of themselves”, he added in that regard, reminding States that oceans needed to be fully considered and explored as part of the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals process. Like other speakers today, he also stressed the need to conclude an international instrument for the conservation of marine biodiversity beyond the limits of national jurisdiction – something which was not covered by the 1982 Convention – and said he was encouraged that the international community had agreed on a timeframe to elaborate such an instrument.
Speaking in his national capacity, he went on to say that Palau had been hit by the first typhoon in its recent history and was in a state of emergency. Pointing to destruction in both his country and neighbouring States such as the Philippines, he said that the storm had been a terrible reminder of the fragility of the planet’s oceans. “It affects us all, some more than others. But, no one is immune,” he stressed. The international community’s efforts, as shown in the resolutions, would be for nothing if all States did not deal urgently and effectively with climate change.
Other speakers today focused on the accelerating work of the three bodies created by the Convention, namely, the International Seabed Authority, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. In particular, many spotlighted the first-ever maritime delimitation judgment by the latter, which had been issued in March in the case between Bangladesh and Myanmar. In that regard, the representative of Bangladesh noted that the decision had been rendered within 28 months, which constituted a “manifestation of unprecedented efficiency” on the part of the Tribunal. The proceedings had also been conducted in a transparent, just and equitable manner, he stressed.
Addressing that judgement as he briefed the Assembly today was Shunji Yanai, President of the Tribunal. He said that, in the landmark case, the Tribunal had been asked to decide on the delimitation between the parties of the continental shelf at a distance beyond 200 nautical miles. As a result of the judgement, which had been well received by the two States, both parties could now exploit the natural resources of their maritime areas, he said.
The Observer for the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization said that the use of advisory proceedings for dispute settlement and reconciliation — a “special feature” of the Tribunal - had not yet been activated. Such an opinion would not be binding per se, but was “authoritative and carried weight”. States would be free to use those opinions as a building block for conciliation and for finding solutions to their disputes, he said in that regard.
Also today, the Assembly concluded its commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Speaking on that topic were representatives of El Salvador, Malaysia, Nicaragua, United Republic of Tanzania, Venezuela, Ecuador, Norway and the United Kingdom. For more details, see Press Release GA/11323.
An observer from the International Union for Conservation of Nature also participated in that discussion.
Also speaking on “oceans and the law of the sea” and “sustainable fisheries” were representatives of Jamaica (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Samoa (on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States), Argentina, Kuwait, Egypt, Philippines, the United States, Viet Nam, Monaco, Japan, Russian Federation, Nauru, China, Ukraine, Singapore, Norway, India, Federated States of Micronesia, Maldives and Honduras.
A representative of the Delegation of the European Union also spoke, as did observers from the International Seabed Authority and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Speaking in explanation of position on the vote were the representatives of Venezuela, Argentina and Turkey. Taking the floor on a point of order were the representatives of Ecuador and Greece.
The Assembly will reconvene tomorrow, 12 December, at 10 a.m. to take up various agenda items.
The General Assembly met today to continue its commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the opening for signature of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The Assembly was also expected to begin its annual consideration of matters related to the law of the sea, including the issue of marine renewable energies contained in the Secretary-General’s report on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/67/79), which had initially been prepared for discussion at the thirteenth meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, held 29 May to 1 June 2012. Also see a correction (document A/67/79/Corr.1).
The report discusses opportunities and challenges of marine renewable energies within the context of sustainable development. It says that the oceans contain a large amount of energy with different origins that can usefully be exploited. These “gifts of nature” can assist in alleviating poverty, promoting green growth, combating climate change and enhancing energy security.
To that end, the report notes, further investments in technology, research and development are required along with increased efforts to undertake resource potential assessments and mapping, data collection and monitoring and economic modelling. Establishing regulatory frameworks, which encourage investments, cooperation and coordination, capacity-building and technology transfer could facilitate the scaling up of marine renewable energy to its full commercial potential. The report concludes that such measures are necessary to reach the goal of doubling the renewable energy share in the overall global energy mix by 2030 as envisioned in the Secretary-General’s initiative “Sustainable Energy for All”.
The addenda (document A/67/79/Add.1 and document A/67/79/Add.2) to that report provide an overview of developments in ocean affairs, with a view to assisting the General Assembly in its annual review of the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982.
Also under consideration was the report of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment (document A/67/87), which contains recommendations of the Working Group to the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly.
The Assembly was set to take action on a draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/67/L.21).
Delegates also had before them the Secretary-General’s report on sustainable fisheries (document A/67/315) and a relevant draft resolution (document A/67/L.22). The report discusses how the international community has responded to the relevant Assembly resolution 66/68. It notes that fish provides about 4.3 billion people worldwide with some 15 per cent of their intake of animal protein, as well as livelihoods and income for a significant portion of the world’s population. The state of the world’s fish stocks, however, has not kept pace with population growth and the expansion of trade.
The report concludes that considerable challenges remain in global efforts to conserve and sustainably use fisheries resources, while meeting the food security and nutritional needs of a growing population. Despite the international community’s efforts, unsustainable fishing practices, such as overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, continue to erode the resource base. These practices are compounded by a multitude of cross-sectoral impacts, such as climate change, pollution and habitat degradation that threaten marine ecosystems.
Thirtieth Anniversary of Opening for Signature of Law of the Sea Convention
ALFREDO MARTÍNEZ MORENO ( El Salvador) said that his country was one of the few signatory States that had not ratified the Convention. That treaty largely reflected the aspirations of mankind to a just and balanced legal regime, he said, and El Salvador felt that the stipulations of the Convention were already norms of international law which must be respected. He regretted to inform the Assembly that on 5 January 2012, Reynaldo Galindo-Pohl, one of the founders of the Convention and a Salvadorian, had passed away. As Chairman of the Second Committee during both Conferences on the Law of the Sea, Mr. Galindo-Pohl had been well respected. His greatest contribution had been proposing – in a difficult climate – well-balanced solutions dealing with the nature and scope of marmite spaces. In that regard, he had been able to lead the various groups towards serious discussions that had harmonized their positions.
He said that Mr. Galindo-Pohl’s proposals, which were based on scientific standards, were adopted because they were also just and well balanced, he continued, recalling, in addition, Mr. Galindo-Pohl’s contribution to the concept of the common heritage of mankind. Through that principle, he had thus contributed to the economic well-being of hummankind, and of developing countries in particular. Indeed, the Convention’s various elements had been praised by many experts who appreciated the legal logic and the good equilibrium between positions that were, at times, completely opposed. He urged States to show respect for jurists, such as Mr. Galindo-Pohl, who had contributed to that historic agreement.
HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia) said UNCLOS was the most comprehensive instrument governing the conduct of States and the use of oceans. He said that Malaysia would continue to implement Convention principles faithfully, as it had since ratifying the treaty in 1986. Malaysia had demonstrated and made use of provisions under the Convention to settle disputes, adhering to arbitration processes before the International Court of Justice, and respecting the Court’s decisions irrespective of whether they favoured Malaysia or not.
He said that Malaysia had worked with other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in promoting peaceful settlement of disputes and was currently implementing various activities under the Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the 2012 Statement of ASEAN Foreign Ministers on ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea. He was also ready to begin negotiations on a new Code of Conduct to ensure better implementation of the Declaration, he said. On the Straits of Malacca, he said that their growing relevance to international trade posed a variety of challenges in balancing economic viability and environmental sustainability of the area.
In line with Part III of the Convention, Malaysia had put in place its Traffic Separation Scheme and Aids to Navigation in maintaining safety and security of the passage through the Straits. A Cooperative Mechanism on Safety and Navigation and Environmental Protection in the Straits of Malacca had been established with two other littoral States, he said. Noting the work of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, he said he was pleased that Malaysia had contributed actively to the Commission’s work through their current expert Dr. Mazlan Madon as well as former expert, Dr. Abu Bakar Jaafar.
CARLOS ARGÜELLO-GÓMEZ ( Nicaragua) said that because his country was a State with extensive coastlines on the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and islands and keys within its territory, UNCLOS had been the basis on which it could assert rights. In that regard, Nicaragua had requested an opinion of the International Court of Justice in the matter of the delimitation of its maritime borders with Honduras and Colombia. Meanwhile, the recent ruling with Colombia represented a “milestone”, recognizing Nicaragua’s rights in maritime areas in the Caribbean Sea, particularly with the delimitation of 200 nautical miles of the exclusive economic zone and the acknowledgement of his country having a continental shelf, as well as the recovery of sovereign rights over the vast natural resources they contained.
Further, he said, the ruling would have positive effects on national economic development as well as facilitate closer relations with countries of the region. He acknowledged the contribution of the Court on maritime delimitations between States, noting that 14 cases that had been presented to the Court on those matters had enabled the Court to develop and interpret the rules established by the Convention. “The assurance of obtaining an equitable result is why Nicaragua turned to the Court,” he stated.
He also expressed hope that other States who were party to those cases would respect their obligations to abide by the decisions by the Court. Commending the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, he said that their work was particularly important for small and developing countries such as his. Therefore it was essential to grant funding and flexibility to the Commission to update the workload and fulfil its purpose.
ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) said that the adoption of the Convention had been a “milestone” in the governance of global maritime affairs. It was in that spirit that the Government of Bangladesh had organized a high-level national event on 10 December 2012 to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the treaty’s opening for signature, organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in association with relevant stakeholders in both the public and private sectors. Maritime territory had become an important area of economic interest for all nations, and more so for a country such as Bangladesh, with limited resources and extensive development challenges. The settlement of maritime disputes with its neighbours was immensely important for the country, which sought to rightfully claim maritime resources in the Bay of Bengal.
In that regard, on 14 March 2012, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea had issued a historic judgement in the delimitation proceedings between Bangladesh and Myanmar, instituted under part XV of the Convention. The judgement had been rendered within 28 months, which constituted a “manifestation of unprecedented efficiency” on the part of the Tribunal. The proceedings had also been conducted in a transparent, just and equitable manner. “Our felicitations go to the delegation of Myanmar, too, for taking the invitation of Bangladesh in a positive note and thus helping to solve a contentious issue in a peaceful manner,” he added. Touching briefly upon Bangladesh’s submission in 2011 to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, he stressed that his country, through that submission, had sought to delimit its continental shelf to provide a basis for exploration, conservation and development of living and non-living resources that would safeguard his country’s sustainable development, energy needs and the welfare of its people.
TUVAKO N. MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said that his country had been among the original 119 signatories of UNCLOS in Montego Bay. The rigorous and complex negotiations had resulted in a regime of ocean governance taking into account a broad range of interests and circumstances that was, and continued to be, “worthy of our collective pride and support”. In that vein, it was necessary for the international community to recommit itself to the full implementation of the Convention and to its goals and objectives as a contribution to the maintenance of international peace and security and to further strengthening and promoting the legitimate uses of the sea.
The United Republic of Tanzania attached great importance to the role played by the Convention, which it had ratified in 1985, becoming the twenty-fourth State Party. Much had been achieved within the framework of that treaty. However, the past 30 years had not been without challenges, which required the sustained effort and dedication of Member States. In that regard, the need for States to support, respect and protect the interests of landlocked, geographically disadvantaged, developing coastal and small island States deserved special attention. Furthermore, efforts needed to focus on the equitable and efficient utilization of ocean resources, curbing marine pollution and countering the new forms of piracy, not originally envisaged under the Convention. “It is our responsibility to ensure that oceans are safe for navigation, international trade, fishing, off-shore drilling and other economic activities,” he stressed in that respect. Finally, he also underscored the need to strengthen capacity-building for developing countries in maritime activities.
JULIO ESCALONA OJEDA ( Venezuela) said that his country’s early optimism during the development of the Convention had been “frustrated by an unjustifiable lack of flexibility that prevailed in the drafting of the final instrument”. Venezuela had, therefore, voted against adoption. Thus, any intention aimed to confer customary international law to certain provisions of the treaty and impose them on non-Party States was unacceptable.
The Convention’s provisions were not, he said, opposable to his country, except “to the extent that they have been expressly accepted”. Further, Venezuela had fulfilled its international obligations under the treaty. He urged that all negotiations related to the Convention reflect criteria and principles associated with the right to sustainable development and the preservation and sustainable use of the marine environment and its resources for future generations.
The thirtieth anniversary, he went on to say, highlighted new situations which had not been foreseen when the Convention had first been drafted. However, the implementation and expansion of criteria, rules and principles responding to those situations had not been ample enough to allow equitable and inclusive development of the principles and rules relating to those new circumstances.
For that reason, he continued, it was difficult to join in the celebration, as Venezuela could not contravene principles and rights that were essential and which maintained validity and relevance. Still, the anniversary offered an opportunity to evaluate issues on which there was no consensus and consider the possibility of updating the terms of the Convention, reviewing in particular the provisions that prevented it from achieving a truly universal participation. In order for the Convention to become a “constitution for the oceans” it would be necessary to facilitate the participation of all.
WALTER SCHULDT ( Ecuador) said his delegation was pleased to report that it acceded to the Convention earlier this year. That move had come after 10 years of internal negotiations, which had been intense and had involved various actors, including those in the academic and social sectors. There was no doubt that Ecuador had already been “a part of the Convention” because the country was deeply involved in law of the sea processes long before actually joining the treaty. He recalled that Ecuador had long-promoted the rights of coastal states to exclusive maritime territories, which were now known as 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zones.
For 30 years, the Convention had stood the test of time and had promoted the peaceful use of the seas and oceans. Likewise, it had promoted the maintenance of peace and security in the oceans by defining boundaries in maritime spaces and managing the seabed. The treaty also had contributed to the establishment of the marine scientific regime. Given that resources were common heritage of mankind, that establishment of the regime for overseeing mining activities was a most important event. For its part, Ecuador intended to protect the area around the Galapagos Islands and complete the studies to justify its territorial limits. Hailing UNCLOS as “the legal instrument of the century”, he paid tribute to trailblazers, including those from Latin American countries, who had helped shape it and pave the way for its elaboration.
TINE MØRCH SMITH ( Norway) said the establishment and determination of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles was a central element in the implementation of the Convention. That required in-depth, interdisciplinary knowledge of geology, geophysics and hydrography. Preparing the data and materials to be used in the submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf was a complex operation. As called for by the General Assembly, Norway provided considerable technical assistance to developing countries. The aim was to enable those partner countries to exercise their rights to the natural resources in their continental shelf and thus provide them with an important basis for economic and social development. Since 2008, Norway had cooperated with Benin, Sao Tome and Principe, Somalia, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya and Mozambique in that area.
At present, Norway’s support focused on sub-regional cooperation with Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone, she continued. That support included a desktop study of their continental shelf, training and capacity-building, financing and management of the acquisition of additional seismic and bathymetric date, data analysis, drafting of the submissions, and, where applicable, assistance with determining baselines and the establishment of exclusive economic zones. “Our cooperation is based on African ownership, African cooperation and Norwegian support,” she added.
JESSE CLARKE ( United Kingdom) said he valued the Convention’s stance on different maritime zones which offered clarity where previously there had been uncertainty and a multitude of different national claims. He welcomed the provisions on the protection on the maritime environment, be it from pollution or over-exploitation; on the promotion of marine scientific research; and above all on the need for States to cooperate at regional and global levels, to ensure humanity could enjoy the benefits of the oceans in the future. Actions by one party regarding the world’s oceans could have a debilitating impact on other parties’ utilization of ocean resources elsewhere in the world; he pointed out, and called on the international community to keep that in mind in order to ensure that all people benefited from the use of oceans and its resources in the future.
The regime for deep seabed mining might have been controversial at a certain point in time, but the 1994 Implementing Agreement had proved to be crucial in ensuring its general acceptability. The International Seabed Authority and Member States had to cooperate to ensure the same balance of interests preserved in the Convention - between the desire for development and optimal use of resources and the need to protect the environment - was followed as regimes for exploitation were developed. He viewed UNCLOS as one of the most important cornerstones of international law, providing an indispensible foundation for dealing with issues relating to the oceans. He mentioned that the United Kingdom made a contribution of $20,000, earlier this year, to the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea, towards promoting wider appreciation of and enhancing specialized experience in those fields.
HARLAN COHEN, observer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said his organization’s work focused on valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development. IUCN helped the world find pragmatic solutions to the most pressing environment and development challenges. The percentage of the world’s overexploited fish stocks had increased from 10 per cent in 1974 to 30 per cent now.
Further, he said that warming oceans and the acidification of their waters threatened the diversity of marine living resources. Coral reefs were in decline. Urgent and immediate action was necessary to conserve, protect and ensure the sustainable use of the world’s oceans. It was estimated that just over 2 per cent of the marine areas were now under protection. “We must act quickly to reach the 10 per cent target by 2020,” a target set by Governments under the Convention on Biological Diversity, he said.
ROY LEE, observer for the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization, said that the celebration was particularly meaningful as the Convention represented a major success story in treaty making and the laws of the oceans. From sovereignty and jurisdiction to common heritage, and from maritime delimitation to dispute settlement, the Convention addressed not only the interests and concerns of the coastal States, but also of the landlocked and geographically disadvantaged. From the beginning, his organization had championed and worked closely with African and Asian nations to promote the concepts in the Convention. They had become core elements of the treaty, he stressed. The Consultative Organization associated itself with tributes and acknowledgements of past statesmen who had contributed to the Convention’s adoption.
He went on to draw attention to two specific areas of interest to his organization, the mapping of maritime baselines and the use of advisory opinions for fishing. On the first, he said that the establishment of baseline was a prerequisite for determining maritime zones, and provided the basis for the exercise of sovereignty, jurisdiction and management. The Convention required States to establish baselines and to deposit them with the Secretary-General. Today, only 54 of the 154 parties had fully or partially complied with those obligations; he urged those who had not complied to do so. In particular, it would be difficult for a state to determine the effects of sea level rise if baselines had not been established.
Turning finally to the use of advisory proceeding for dispute settlement and reconciliation, he said that that special feature of the Tribunal for the Law of the Sea had not yet been activated. Such an opinion would not be binding per se, but was “authoritative and carried weight”. States were free to use those opinions as a building block for conciliation and for finding solutions to their disputes, he said.
Introduction of Drafts
EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago), introducing the resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (A/67/L.21), said that the text contained elements necessary for the management, preservation and sustainable use of the resources of the world’s oceans and seas and guidelines for the conduct of States in discharging their obligations emanating from the international law of the sea, including the Convention. Delegations were in agreement that the elements of the outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development ( Rio+20), “The Future We Want”, should be reflected in the draft text. References to that document were contained throughout the resolution, he said, especially in the section on marine environment and marine resources. In that context, States were called to take action on several issues, especially as they related to the health of the oceans and marine biodiversity, which were negatively affected by marine pollution, including marine debris.
The draft – which was perhaps the most comprehensive resolution adopted annually by the General Assembly – also addressed the obligations of States which flowed from the Convention, other global agreements and regional undertakings. Those included, among other things: the peaceful settlement of disputes, maritime safety and security and flag State implementation; issues relating to marine science, and regional cooperation.
The resolution also stated that the fourteenth meeting of the Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea would focus on the impacts of ocean acidification on the marine environment. It was expected that, in elaborating on the topic, emphasis would also be placed on pursuing research, especially in programmes of observation and measurement of that phenomenon. In addition, the draft resolution highlighted the continued call by Member States for enhanced inter-agency cooperation of mechanisms on oceans and coastal issues within the United Nations system, such as UN-Oceans. Mention was also made of the Secretary-General’s new initiative entitled the “Oceans Compact”. Calls were being made for open and regular consultations with Member States on all aspects of that initiative, he said.
JIM MCLAY (New Zealand), introducing the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries (A/67/L.22), said that this year’s text once again addressed critical issues, such as ensuring that the decisions taken by regional fisheries management organizations were based on the best available scientific information; implementation of plans of action for the conservation and management of sharks; and the impact of industrial fishing on species low down on the food chain, given their important role as food for other species in the marine ecosystem. The draft resolution also recognized, for the first time, the need to collect data on the use of fish aggregating devices, so as to improve monitoring and mitigation measures for those devices.
The relevant outcomes of the Rio+20 had been a key focus for this year’s text, he said. The Conference had addressed the sustainable development of fisheries, recognized the significant contribution of fisheries to all three dimensions of sustainable development and stressed the crucial role of healthy marine ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and sustainable aquaculture for food security and nutrition, and in providing for livelihood of millions of people.
He also noted that the text reflected commitments made by States at Rio+20 on the need to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as a threat to sustainable development; to eliminate subsidies that contributed to such fishing and over-capacity; and to enhance actions to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from significant adverse impacts, including through the effective use of impact assessments. It also reflected the call for the adoption, by 2014, of strategies to assist developing countries – particularly least developed countries and small island developing States - in developing their national capacity to conserve, sustainably manage and realise the benefits of sustainable fisheries.
GILLES MARHIC, Delegation of the European Union, welcoming Ecuador and Swaziland as new Parties to the Convention, urged States who had not done so to accede to the treaty. He said that it was commendable that the resolutions before the Assembly reflected the outcome of the recent Rio+20 Conference, which had tackled topics such as marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, sustainable fisheries, and marine pollution, among others. The omnibus resolution recognized the challenge and effort required to combat piracy and armed robbery, which affected a wide range of vessels engaged in maritime activities. In its own capacity, the Union remained committed to combat piracy, in particular through the framework of its European Naval Force Somalia — Operation ATALANTA.
On the declining quality of the marine environment and the loss of marine biodiversity, he said that, particularly with marine biodiversity, “time was running out” if compliance was to be met with the schedule established by the Plan of Implementation of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, as well as the relevant Aichi Targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Turning to the resolution on sustainable fisheries, while acknowledging the reserves of some States, he said that the Union was strongly committed to the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and believed that effective implementation of the accord was necessary for correct management of those stocks. In addition, he welcomed the resolution’s encouragement of the Regional Fisheries Management Organization or Arrangements continued performance reviews, undertaken by a number of them, in the sustainable management of the fisheries resources.
The resolution, he said, acknowledged the need for proper management of Fish Aggregating Devices, including data collection and greater importance to the protection of sharks, and the safety of fishers and fishing vessels with its reference to the new Cape Town Agreement. He urged States to become party to the Agreement so that it could be entered into force at the earliest opportunity.
RAYMOND WOLFE ( Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the Convention was as relevant today as it had been when it was signed 30 years ago. The Caribbean Sea was of great importance to the regional and international trade, tourism and fisheries industries of CARICOM members, which meant protection and sustainable management of the Sea was a high priority. He therefore welcomed acknowledgement of the link between protection and sustainable management of the marine environment that was contained in the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference. He commended the Caribbean Sea Commission for spearheading the initiative to designate the Sea a “special area” in the context of sustainable development and was encouraged by negotiations on the biennial resolution on the subject.
Oil spills and ballast water exchange posed threats to the region’s marine environment and its fragile ecosystems, he said, praising the partnerships formed between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Caribbean Environment Programme to try and tackle waste water management, sanitation and sustainable tourism and other issues in the wider Caribbean region. Urgent international cooperation was needed to address the vulnerability of corals and coral reefs to climate change, ocean acidification, destructive fishing practices and pollution, he said, placing value on the work of the Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, particularly in capacity building assistance on marine scientific research. A growing number of countries had benefited from the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Memorial Fellowship on the Law of the Sea and the United Nations-Nippon Foundation of Japan Fellowship Programme.
Transportation of nuclear waste and hazardous materials through the Caribbean was a major concern, as was the threat of piracy. He was heartened by attempts to deal with that threat, which had resulted in a reduction since 2011, but also expressed concerns over human, drug and arms trafficking by sea, welcoming the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to address those issues. The heightened political attention falling on the process to establish the outer limits of the continental shelf was of great interest, he added. Overall, the important work undertaken by the constitutive organs created by UNCLOS underlined the continued relevance of the Convention to the international community.
STUART BECK (Palau), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum, said he was pleased that the international community had reaffirmed the need for urgent collective action to address the state of the planet’s oceans and fisheries by incorporating the Rio+20 commitments into the resolutions under consideration today. However, the international community must work together to ensure the effective implementation required to make such commitments take place.
He also welcomed the call to identify and mainstream strategies by 2014 that would assist least developed countries and small island developing States in developing their national capacity to conserve, sustainably manage and realize the benefits of sustainable fisheries. In that regard, Samoa would be hosting the Third International Conference on Small Islands in 2014, which convened once a generation. There, leaders would consider sustainable development challenges facing their region.
He said he was encouraged that States had agreed on a timeframe in which a decision would be made to develop an international instrument under the Convention regarding the conservation of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction. Turning to the resolution on the oceans, he welcomed the inclusion of the impact of climate change on oceans, as well as ocean acidification as a United Nations Informal Consultative Process on Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea topic.
However, he said he was disappointed that it had not been possible to also agree on a post-Rio topic, and he reminded States that oceans needed to be fully considered and explored as part of the post-2015 development agenda and sustainable development goals process. Concluding, he said that Pacific States were working together to contribute to the current assessment phase of the Regular Process, and he encouraged all States to participate actively to ensure maximum progress be made in advance of the 2014 deadline.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said that the Palau Government had a constitutional obligation to preserve the country’s natural environment, a commitment based on thousands of years of tradition and culture. Because of such efforts, Palau had just been recently designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List.
Yet, for his country’s domestic efforts to be successful, he underscored, it could not act alone. The world needed to take action to maintain healthy oceans, ensuring, among others, that global fisheries be sustainable. The incorporation of language into the resolutions that reflected equity for coastal States was welcomed, as was the increased shark sanctuaries.
Currently, his country was in a state of emergency as it had been hit by the first typhoon in recent history, Bopha, which had displaced hundreds of families. However, he pointed out that the course of the typhoon had spared Palau from devastating destruction. The Philippines had not been as fortune and he offered condolences and well wishes to that country’s citizens. The typhoon was, he stressed, a terrible reminder of the fragility of the planet’s oceans. “It affects us all, some more than others. But, no one is immune,” he pointed out. The international community’s efforts, as shown in the resolutions, would be for nothing if all States did not deal urgently and effectively with climate change.
ALI’IOAIGA FETURI ELISAIA (Samoa), speaking on behalf of the Pacific small island developing States, stressed the complementary relationship between the “green” and “blue” economies and the reliance of Pacific Island peoples on the health and sustainable use of the Ocean and its resources. As such, he welcomed the strong language on that subject in the Rio+20 outcome document, noting in particular points on climate change and ocean acidification, as well as the conservation and sustainable management of water resources.
He was also pleased that important aspects of the outcome were incorporated in the resolutions, especially calls for science-based management plans, protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems, addressing marine pollution and ocean acidification and for identification and mainstreaming of strategies by 2014 to assist small island developing States in capacity development to sustainably manage and realise the benefits of fisheries and to harness the ocean’s potential as a source of renewable energy.
He welcomed the convening of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be held in Samoa in 2014, saying that that event would provide a timely opportunity to tackle issues related to the preservation of the marine environment. While small islands could not meet the formidable challenges on their own, they were by no means insurmountable if genuine partnerships were formed and sustainable, focused, forward looking and implementable solutions were built. The Conference could offer a unique chance to move beyond mere discussions to the launch of tangible initiatives, he said.
He commended the decisions to make ocean acidifications the Informal Consultative Process topic for discussion in 2013 and he praised the Secretary-General on the recently launched Oceans Compact Initiative, which provided a strategic vision for the United Nations system to deliver on its ocean-related mandates and for all stakeholders to work towards achieving the shared objective of “Healthy Oceans for Prosperity”. Looking ahead, he hoped for adequate reflection of oceans in discussions and decisions on the post-2015 development agenda, hoping to see establishment of healthy and productive oceans among the Sustainable Development Goals.
MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) reiterated that the Convention was one of the major contributions to the strengthening of international peace and security, cooperation and friendly relations among nations. At the same time, it constituted one of the international instruments with major economic, strategic and political implications. She said it allowed for a balance to be preserved by all States, individually and as Members of international organizations with a competence in ocean affairs and other organizations.
Currently, questions regarding biodiversity beyond the limitations of national jurisdiction remained among the new emerging issues of the law of the sea, she said. In that regard, Argentina welcomed the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group, which would address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, in particular marine genetic resources, conservation measures, capacity-building and the transfer of technology. Regarding the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems, she reminded delegations that the sedentary resources of the continental shelf were subject to the sovereignty rights of the coastal States in the full extent of that maritime area.
Therefore conservation and management of resources was under the exclusive powers of coastal States, which had the responsibility of adopting the necessary measures regarding such resources and their associated ecosystems that could be affected by fishing practices that could have a destructive impact, including bottom fishing. Also regarding fisheries, Argentina reiterated its concern on an increasing trend towards trying to legitimize through General Assembly resolutions attempts by regional fisheries management organizations to adopt measures beyond their spatial, material and personal scope of application. Argentina objected that General Assembly resolutions could be thus interpreted, particularly regarding measures that could reflect some kind of claim of authority of such organizations over vessels flying the flag of countries that neither were members of such organizations nor had consented to measures of such nature.
ABDALLAH AHMAD ALFAHAD ( Kuwait) said that renewable marine energy “is […] part and parcel of the global vision for sustainable development”. For that reason, Kuwait emphasized the importance of increasing investments in the fields of technology, research and development, capacity building and the transfer of technology, which could raise the level of energy exploitation, particularly in developing countries. Calling upon States that were not yet parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea to join the treaty, he emphasized the need to respect international law and the relevant international agreements, as well as the Convention, and to ensure their implementation.
It was in that context that Kuwait condemned all acts of piracy, high jacking of commercial vessels and acts of terrorism that took place on the high seas, and in that regard he welcomed efforts exerted by the Contact Group on Piracy of the Coast of Somalia. He also welcomed the efforts of the Security Council in that regard, and stressed that there was a need for concerted action by the international community to confront acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships. To those ends, Kuwait had contributed $1 million to the United Nations Trust Fund for Countering Piracy.
In addition, Kuwait affirmed its adherence to Security Council resolution 2077 (2012), which called upon all States to criminalize piracy in their domestic laws and to explore in a positive manner the issue of prosecuting pirates and suspects, as well as detaining those responsible for facilitating and funding them on land, in accordance with the applicable international human rights laws.
SHUNJI YANAI, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, said that body, which had been established by the Convention, had been set up as a specialized court, universal in nature, to be called upon to deal with disputes of any kind concerning the sea or activity carried out at sea. It had jurisdiction over any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of an international agreement related to the purposes of the Convention.
He then turned to the Tribunal’s first maritime delimitation case, in March of this year, between Bangladesh and Myanmar regarding the Bay of Bengal. The court had been asked to decide on the delimitation between the parties of the continental shelf at a distance beyond 200 nautical miles. The resulting judgement, well received by the two States who could now exploit the natural resources of their maritime areas, took slightly more than two years, which was, he noted, “remarkably fast for a complex delimitation case”.
The Tribunal was also active in providing training in the law of the sea, as well, he said, welcoming the fact that the court brought on some 20 interns from around the world for approximately three months at a time. Special trust funds had been established to provide financial support to applicants from developing countries through assistance from the Korea Maritime Institute and the China Institute of International Studies. As well, a capacity-building and training programme on dispute settlement under the Convention, supported by the Nippon Foundation, had welcomed seven participants from around the world during the 2011-2012 session.
IBRAHIM SALEM ( Egypt) emphasized the need to further enhance the efforts and programmes aiming to tackle threats caused by increased sea temperatures, sea level rise caused by climate change, as well as ocean acidification, which posed further threat to marine life, coastal and island communities and national economies. At the core of those efforts lay the necessity to build the capacity of States to implement relevant international instruments, particularly through channelling additional funding to support mitigation and adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change. His delegation further emphasized the importance of international efforts to strengthen and develop the field of marine scientific research, particularly under the International Seabed Authority, on the effects of mining activities on the marine environment at sea bottom.
Additional progress had to be made in relation to the settlement of disputes concerning maritime boundary delimitation, in particular of those disputes with a potential to become sources of tension and conflict. In that regard, Member States should fully use the international judicial bodies, such as the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice. Turning to maritime security, Egypt was relieved by the reduction in reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coasts of Somalia during the first six months of the year. He was also concerned about such incidents in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa and the adverse effects it had caused on African maritime trade, calling for due attention to be given by the international community to that issue.
As for sustainable fisheries, he stressed the need to exert more efforts to protect endangered fish species, fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and refrain from destructive fishing practices of the seabed. Egypt was of the view that States parties to the 1995 Fisheries Agreement should review its provisions, including those relating to the boarding and searching of fishing vessels, to make it easier for non-parties, especially developing countries, to join the Agreement.
EDUARDO JOSE DE VEGA (Philippines) said that the session’s draft resolution on the oceans and the law of the sea was a testament to the continued interest and value placed by Member States on the sustainable use of oceans and their resources, anchored on the rule of law. In addition, the Secretary-General’s report on the matter was clear evidence that States and States Parties to the Convention were conscious of the fact that the problems of ocean space were closely related and needed to be considered as a whole. Despite all efforts at cooperation, however, problems still continued to exist in many areas. Marine pollution and destructive fishing methods continued to threaten the fragile ocean environment, piracy remained a threat to the safety of navigation and other marine crimes continued to threaten global security.
Piracy – to which attention was once again drawn in this year’s omnibus resolution – “is a menace to the world”, he said, adding that it disrupted global trade and posed genuine security threats. The Philippines, which accounted for 350,000 or a quarter of the world’s seafarers, sought greater support on that issue. It also welcomed attention given to building capacity with regard to the safety and security of seafarers, and called on States that had not yet done so to ratify or accede to the International Convention on the Standards of Training, Certification and Watch keeping for Seafarers and its subsequent Code.
In the omnibus resolution before the Assembly, attention had been paid to the outcomes of the Rio+20 conference, “The Future We Want”, particularly on the concern that the health of the oceans and marine biodiversity were negatively affected by marine pollution from a number of marine and land-based sources. “Our obligation to protect [marine resources] from poaching, pollution and other detrimental activities is borne out of the duty to ensure that those who come after us will have an environment that is much better than what we have enjoyed,” he said in that respect. As the Secretary-General’s report pointed out, the importance of marine biodiversity, including in areas beyond national jurisdiction, for global food security, healthy functioning of marine ecosystems, economic prosperity and sustainable livelihoods “cannot be overstated”, he said.
JOAN PRINCE ( United States), as a co-sponsor of the resolutions, stressed the critical role that oceans, seas, and coastal areas played in sustaining the Earth’s well-being. Such sustainability was necessary for global prosperity. International law, as seen in the Convention, provided the framework to seek solutions regarding the management of oceans and seas. It served the international community to identify key issues and constructive ways forward to address challenges in sustainable development.
She then turned to the omnibus text, saying that it reflected the commitments made at the recent Rio+20 Conference and demonstrated efforts towards sustainable development. Further, she welcomed the newly established Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre, operated by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Monaco Environmental Laboratories, which would address the growing problem of ocean acidification. Further welcomed was the groundbreaking First Global Integrated Marine Assessment of the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socio-economic Aspects, as a means to improve oceans and the efficacy of decision to preserve resources.
Turning to the resolution on sustainable fisheries, she pointed out that that text, as well, reflected the Rio outcomes, which had demonstrated commitments to sustainable fishing for women, indigenous people and small island developing States, among others. The resolution illustrated the collaborative efforts of the international community in challenging illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, enhancing protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems and, in particular, expanding the protection and conservation of migratory animals and migratory sharks, an issue of great significance.
LE HOAI TRUNG ( Viet Nam) agreed with other speakers that UNCLOS embodied the aspiration of the international community for a just international legal order in the oceans. It provided a “fine balance of rights and duties” of States Parties, and did not allow for reservations to be made to any of its provisions. States Parties were therefore obliged to fully implement the treaty in good faith and a responsible manner; to respect the legitimate rights entitled to coastal States Parties in their territorial seas, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf; cooperate for the development of marine scientific research, optimum exploitation of living resources and conservation of marine environment; and to manage the international seabed in the interests of mankind.
Viet Nam had actively and constructively participated in the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Indeed, as a country with more than 3,200 kilometres of coastline facing the South China Sea, its interest in the sea was significant. Viet Nam therefore cared dearly for the maintenance of peace and stability, including maritime security and promotion of prosperity and friendly cooperation in accordance with international law, in particular UNCLOS, in the South China Sea. In that connection, he called on all Signatory States to fully implement, and for other States to support, the implementation of the 2002 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and the 2012 Statement of ASEAN Foreign Ministers on the Group’s Six Point Principles on the South China Sea.
ISABELLE PICCO ( Monaco) said that the Rio+20 outcome document, “The Future We Want”, had devoted particular attention to the world’s oceans and the threats facing them. The documents before the General Assembly also highlighted the political aspects of the topic. Highlighting the Monaco Blue Initiative at the International Exposition Yeosu, Republic of Korea, she stressed that it was crucial to preserve the economic value of oceans in line with the reality the international community was facing, as oceans were of strategic importance in food security, tourism and marine biodiversity. Cooperation needed to be established with all stakeholders, supported by knowledge from the scientific community.
Turning to the issue of climate change, including the acidification of oceans, she lauded the newly established Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre which was recently established as part of the IAEA Monaco Environmental Laboratories. That would allow collaboration and cooperation on the study and research of ocean acidification and its effect on different regions of the world, and would enable the seeking of solution for the protection of the most vulnerable organisms.
She also spoke of the Second International Workshop on acidification of the oceans, which was held in Monaco this year. The Workshop, devoted to the socio-economic impact from acidification of the oceans, had brought together 55 experts from 19 countries, as well as representatives of international organizations. Commending the hard work and effort that went into drafting the resolutions before the Assembly, she stressed the urgency of the issue regarding the conservation of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction.
JUN YAMAZAKI (Japan) said adoption of the draft resolution on the oceans and the law of the sea was extremely important for maritime States like Japan and for the international community as a whole, as the text contained crucial issues for the maintenance of peace and security in the world, such as peaceful dispute settlement, freedom of navigation, safety at sea and compliance with international laws, including UNCLOS. As for the International Tribunal for the Law of Sea, Japan highly appreciated the important role played by the institution in peaceful settlement of disputes as well as the maintenance and development of the rule of law at sea. On the international Seabed Authority, Japan welcomed the adoption of new regulations for exploration and highly valued workshops on those regulations organized by the Authority.
He went on to acknowledge 61 submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the adoption of 18 recommendations, including that for Japan. The Commission’s workload could be eased through such measures as extending the duration of its sessions in 2013. Japan had made a contribution of $352,000 to the Trust Fund for the purpose of defraying the costs of meetings participation by the Commission members from developing States. On maritime safety and security, Japan currently deployed escort ships and patrol aircraft to the coast of Somalia.
In addition, he said, Japan had disbursed $14.6 million and $3.5 million respectively to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Djibouti Code Trust Fund, a multi-donor trust fund initiated by Japan, and the Trust Fund to Support Initiative of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. On sustainable fisheries, Japan was dedicated to addressing the promotion of sustainable use through the conservation and management of marine living resources and the appropriate conservation of the marine ecosystem, in cooperation with the parties through bilateral agreements, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and regional fisheries management organizations.
IGOR PANIN (Russian Federation) stressed the significance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea by echoing the words spoken of the treaty by other delegates, and paid tribute to those who had been present at the time of drafting and adopting the Convention. The international treaty encompassed all aspects of maritime affairs. The world was changing, so was international law. The Convention had been adopted as a package with a delicate balance of responsibilities and duties. It was flexible in nature. It was Member States themselves who played a role.
The Russian Federation supported sustainable management of marine resources but it could not support arbitrary moves, he said. In that regard, his Government welcomed forthcoming two relevant thematic workshops. He went on to commend the high-quality work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and called for additional support to be given to the body. States had placed trust in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. Turning to sustainable fisheries, his Government called for particular attention to the management of fishery resources, including the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The Russian Federation would make active contribution domestically and through regional management bodies.
LARA DANIEL (Nauru), aligning herself with the Pacific Island Forum and the Pacific small island developing States, said marine, ocean, coastal and fisheries resources were the foundation of Pacific economies, but the benefits from their use were inequitable, as was the conservation burden. “This must change,” she said, adding that the capacity of developing countries to participate in straddling and highly migratory fisheries must be enhanced. She looked forward to the identification and mainstreaming of strategies by 2014 that would help realize the benefits of sustainable fisheries – including through better market access.
She called for urgent implementation of strategies to combat destructive fishing, and lauded the international commitment to maintain or restore stocks to levels that could produce maximum sustainable yield by the 2015 deadline. In Nauru, there was concern that the biomass of bigeye tuna might fall below the maximum such yield by 2015 if fishing mortality continued on the tropical Pacific high seas. She hoped the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission would impose compulsory limits on vessels under its jurisdiction. As for ocean acidification, she urged deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Nauru was among the first States to institute controls on industrial fish aggregating devices. She also urged not losing sight of artisanal fisheries. “What we need is more attention to fishing itself – building systems that work at the local level,” she stressed.
LI BAODONG ( China) commended the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf for a balanced handling of the rights of coastal States and interests of the international community. He called for assisting the Commission in finding a solution to its workload challenges. China also supported the International Seabed Authority and promoted developing countries’ participation in such affairs. The Authority’s regulations for exploiting resources in the Area should reflect a balance between resource use and environmental protection, on the one hand, and the interests of “exploiters” and the international community as a whole on the other.
As for the International Tribunal, he supported its important role in peaceful maritime dispute settlement, maintenance of the international maritime order and dissemination of the law of the sea. China supported its efforts to enhance developing country capacity building. It also supported the adoption of recommendations by the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group on marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction, whose work should proceed incrementally and accommodate the needs of all countries. To address greenhouse gas emissions from ships, he urged upholding the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities. He advocated enhanced international cooperation to promote common development of all countries, as well as maintaining a harmonious maritime order. On international insular and maritime disputes, concerned States should negotiate on the basis of international law.
YURIY SERGEYEV ( Ukraine) said his delegation appreciated this year’s omnibus resolution on the oceans and the law of the sea, which highlighted the importance of keeping up efforts aimed at providing safety and security of international maritime shipping. One of the major challenges in that field was piracy and armed robbery at sea. Although considerable gains had been made so far in combating that threat, a lot of work was still “ahead of us”. Noting that the current declining trend in the number of attacks was reversible and predominantly dependent on the international naval patrol, Ukraine had decided to make its own contribution by sending Frigate “Hetman Sahaidachniy”, a flagship of the Ukrainian Naval Forces, to the waters off the Horn of Africa as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Operation “Ocean Shield”. The vessel, equipped with a deck helicopter, was currently undergoing final preparations before heading to he waters off the Somali coast.
He said the combat against piracy could not be successful without ending impunity for its perpetrators, organizers and backers, he said. Ukraine welcomed the fact that this year’s resolution once again encouraged Member States to make efforts in bringing pirates and their sponsors to justice. Current statistics in that respect were very encouraging: 1,186 individuals were prosecuted or awaiting prosecution in 21 States. His Government was pleased to see the omnibus resolution call on Member States to develop national anti-piracy legislation. Ukraine stood ready to further actively engage in that subject matter within the framework of the United Nations and other competent entities.
ALBERT CHUA (Singapore), maintaining that the Convention represented a “constitution for the oceans” that had stood the test of time, encouraged non-party Member States to accede to it, while noting that for the most part, it already reflected customary international law. As a small island trading nation, his country was committed to full implementation of the Convention. Noting that about half of global sea trade passed through the Straits of Malacca, which his country bordered, he said it was in the interest of all States to continue to preserve the freedom of navigation and passage rights through those and other waters, perhaps even more so in uncertain economic times.
As new technologies made possible the exploitation of resources beyond national jurisdiction and increasing coastal populations put pressure on marine ecosystems, fresh debate over the sufficiency of UNCLOS or its proper application might arise. In that context, it was important to maintain the peaceful order and balanced use of the seas. The temptation to put undue emphasis on certain aspects of the Convention, or to read unintended interpretations into it, must be resisted. It was also important to remember that the Convention was drafted as a package and no selectivity should be exercised in its application. Not all new challenges were explicitly dealt with in the Convention, but it contained the core set of principles to apply and set the necessary scope to address all emerging issues, as shown by the references to it in the Rio+20 outcome. As the future of the oceans was charted, it was imperative not to undermine the Convention’s integrity.
TINE MØRCH SMITH ( Norway) said peaceful and sustainable use of the oceans, including sound fisheries management, remained a key priority for her Government. Another Norwegian priority was global food security. Oceans were critical in that regard, and sustainable and responsible marine management was of vital importance if the oceans were to continue to be a source of human food. Norway welcomed the Rio+20 outcomes, which had stressed the crucial role of healthy marine ecosystems, sustainable fisheries and sustainable aquaculture for food security and nutrition, and in providing for the livelihood of millions of people. Norway expected the General Assembly to emphasise those important issues in this year’s resolution on sustainable fisheries and furthermore encourage the FAO to give due priority to those issues in its future work by following up the report of the Committee on Fisheries.
She welcomed the work of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Norway also supported and remained committed to the decision taken at Rio+20 to address the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Impacts on such biodiversity might differ from region to region. Different challenges required different solutions. Regional cooperation in all areas must increase. In that regard, priority should be given to improving the effectiveness of regional management bodies. There was a need for a fuller understanding of the effects of ocean acidification on marine organisms, and the Rio+20 outcome document called for support for efforts in that regard.
MANJEEV SINGH PURI (India), noting the many challenges facing proper management of ocean resources and the need for proper management, expressed serious concern over piracy and armed robbery at sea, particularly off the coast of Somalia. Piracy endangered lives of seafarers, affected national security and hampered countries’ economic development, among others. In that regard, he expressed appreciation for the relevant Contact Group, established in 2009, which had served as an excellent forum for international cooperation and coordination in combating the menace off the coast of Somalia.
He went on to say that the effective and unhindered functioning of the International Seabed Authority, International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf were key in achieving the goal of fair and equitable uses of oceans and their resources. Because of the heavy workload of the Commission, he hoped that the increased number of weeks for the body’s meetings would help manage its workload.
Concluding, he pointed out that India had a vast coastline and numerous islands, with a traditional abiding interest in maritime and ocean affairs. A party to the Convention, the Implementing Agreement and the Fish Stocks Agreement, his country took a keen interest in all matters pertaining to ocean affairs. He emphasized that it was in the interest of the international community as a whole to continue to extend full cooperation in order to ensure the proper management and sustainable use of the oceans and seas.
JANE CHIGIYAL ( Federated States of Micronesia) said that her country “is part of a blue continent”, adding that the “ocean brings us together, it sustains us, and its resources enrich us”. Pollution and the transboundary movement of hazardous waste negatively impacted those waters. She urged all Member States to fulfil the commitment made at Rio, affirming the important role the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea played in achieving sustainable development.
Given the vulnerability and limited capacity of Federated States of Micronesia as a small island developing State, she welcomed the references in the current drafts to the need to identify and mainstream strategies by 2014 that could assist those islands in developing their capacity to conserve, sustainably manage and realize the benefits of sustainable fisheries. She said that it must be recognized and commended that States and international financial institutions were invited, through the texts, to develop special financial mechanisms or instruments to assist those nations in developing their national capacity to exploit fisheries resources. Urging Member States to follow in her country’s footsteps, she said: “In our part of the Pacific, we have taken the lead in preserving healthy fish stocks and to protect our environment. We have created innovative tools to keep our stocks at a level producing at least maximum sustainable yields based on the best available science.”
HASSAN HUSSAIN SHIHAB ( Maldives) said that the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention and the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Earth Summit) underscored the links between the two fields, as well as the importance of conservation and sustainable use of oceans. He pointed out that his country was a small island developing State whose economy depended on marine resources. Given that tourism and fisheries were Maldives’ two biggest industries, preservation of oceans constituted the basis for its economic, social and environmental development.
The provisions in the current text on sustainable tourism and protection of coral reefs, he said, were particularly welcomed, especially in light of his country’s efforts to combat anthropogenic climate change. Further, there was great concern about overfishing, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, among others. In this regard, he hoped that the Secretary-General’s Ocean Compact initiative, launched in republic of Korea recently, would create a platform for all stakeholders to collaborate and accelerate progress, as the preservation of the oceans was vital to the wellbeing of all future generations.
However, he said he was deeply concerned that current international efforts had not been enough to meet the target of restoring fish stocks to their maximum sustainable yields by 2015. Further, the 2010 target to achieve a significant reduction of the rate of biodiversity loss had not been reached. The loss of species would continue with increased risk of dramatic shifts in ecosystems and he called for all Member States to renew their political commitments towards finding an urgent solution in the matter.
The Baa Atoll, he continued, had been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2011, signalling the Maldives people’s pledge to sustainably manage it. Yet, further commitment by States was needed in enforcing regional agreements on the management of ocean resources. That, in turn, would provide more capacity to Regional Fisheries Management Organizations and make them better equipped to ensure sustainable ocean management.
MARY FLORES ( Honduras), noting her support for the adoption of the resolutions before the Assembly, said that her country’s national waters had been declared a sanctuary for sharks in 2011. The Convention, as “the constitution of the oceans”, made clear that the seabed and ocean floor were the common heritage of mankind. Recalling the Secretary-General’s remarks in 2009 on the World Day of Oceans, she said that it was the responsibility of the international community, collectively and individually, to manage such resources as they were essential to the well-being of the world.
Peace and security between all countries, in particular, coastal countries, contributed to international peace. Following a regional meeting regarding the Gulf of Fonseca, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras agreed to establish a trilateral commission and create and maintain the Gulf as a zone of peace, sustainability and security. The Commission, she continued, would be charged with several goals, including updating and implementing of protocol of navel forces in the Gulf, and expediting the implementation of the comprehensive strategy with a portfolio of projects on sustainability, among others. Further, the Commission would consist of ministers from all three countries.
Concluding, she said that the challenges of protecting and preserving oceans affected the survival of the planet. Thus, the international community must pool its political will to ensure a sustainable ocean that would well-balance development, “which cares for the heritage of the sea for future generations”.
NII ALLOTEY ODUNTON, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, said the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea welcomed two of the Authority’s major achievements in 2012. The first of those was the adoption by the Council of the Authority of the Regulations on Prospecting and Exploration for Cobalt-rich Ferromanganese Crusts in the Area. After many years of debate and negotiation, those regulations had been adopted by consensus. The adoption of the scheme completed the Authority’s regulatory code governing prospecting and exploration for the three main types of mineral resources found in the Area.
“This is a significant achievement,” he continued, noting that following that action by the Authority, two applications for exploration for cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts had already been filed. They would be considered by the Legal and Technical Commission at its meeting in February 2013 and by the Council at its nineteenth session in July that year. He went on to note that the Authority’s second major achievement this year was the decision by the Council to recognize the designation of nine representative areas in the nodule-bearing province of the Pacific Ocean, covering 1.6 million square kilometres, as areas of particular environmental interest where no activity should take place.
HARLAN COHEN, observer of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) said, among other things, that Rio+20 had stressed the importance of capacity building to ensure developing countries benefited from the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans. Further, he recalled that world leaders at the Rio conference had committed to achieving significant reductions in marine debris to prevent harm to coast and marine environments by 2025. In that regard he highlighted the World Bank’s Global Partnership for Oceans.
He urged immediate action to meet the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation target to maintain or restore fisheries stocks that could then produce maximum sustainable yields by 2015. As well, all regional fisheries management organizations should regularly undertake such reviews and make publicly available the results and any actions taken to address those result. Finally, he welcomed the completion of the first global integrated assessment of the state of the marine environment by 2014 which would enable the sharing of information, data and best practices.
Action on Drafts
A recorded vote was requested for a draft resolution on the oceans and the law of the sea (A/67/L.21).
Taking the floor to explain its position before action, the delegate of Venezuela reminded the Assembly that her country was not a party to the Convention and thus abstained from voting. With the spirit of cooperation, however, Venezuela participated in consultations constructively. Although some delegations had shown flexibility, the text did not reflect the consensus of all States. It also contradicted some principles of her Government that had already been in force and did not take into account sensitive interests of Venezuela.
The Convention should not be considered the only international instrument for oceans affairs, or the only universal instrument dealing with the issue. The resolution contained some elements Venezuela had reservations about, such as paragraphs 191 and 193 relating to marine biodiversity. Venezuela’s abstention should not be interpreted as a change in its position.
The resolution was adopted by a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 1 (Turkey) against, with 4 abstentions (Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Venezuela). (See Annex)
Next, the Assembly adopted without a vote a draft resolution on sustainable fisheries (A/67/L.22).
Speaking after the vote, the delegate of Venezuela said that the issue of sustainable fisheries was important to that nation. But Venezuela was not a party to the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea or a party to the 1995 Agreement relating to fish stocks. The delegation did not intend to be an obstacle to the consensus, but still wished to place its reservations on record.
The representative of Argentina said the delegation had joined the consensus to adopt the resolution but wished to reiterate that none of the recommendations in that text could be interpreted as meaning that the provisions of the 1995 Agreement relating to fish stocks could be considered as binding on those States that had not expressly indicated their consent to fulfil obligations under that Agreement. Argentina disassociated itself from the consensus reached by the General Assembly with regard to the paragraphs of the resolution that referred to the recommendations of the Review Conference on the 1995 Agreement.
In explanation after the vote, the representative of Turkey said that his delegation had voted against the resolution on the oceans and the law of the sea. While supporting regimes on the sea of equity that were acceptable to all States, the Convention did not provide sufficient safeguards for his country, nor did it take into account States’ conflicting needs and stances. Further, the Convention did not allow the registration of reservations of articles.
Regarding the resolution on sustainable fisheries, his delegation had supported that resolution, as his country was committed to sustainable fisheries and the relevant regional agreements. However, he disassociated himself from references in the resolution to instruments that his country was not a party, and which would, in that association, change his country’s legal relationship to those instruments.
Next, the delegate of Ecuador pointed out that in the Spanish language version of resolution L.21, in paragraph 251, there was a typographical error. It referred to the sixteenth anniversary of the South Pacific Commission, when in fact it was the sixtieth anniversary.
The representative of Greece pointed out that her vote had not been reflected regarding the omnibus resolution. She was informed that, as a co-sponsor, she would be noted in the records as such.
Vote on Oceans and the Law of the Sea
The draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/67/L.21) was adopted by a recorded vote of 125 in favour to 1 against, with 4 abstentions, as follows:
In favour: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Belize, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, United States, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia.
Abstain: Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Venezuela.
Absent: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Benin, Botswana, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mongolia, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Zimbabwe.
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