Law of Sea Convention Bodies Increasingly Called upon to Resolve Disputes, Expand Maritime Jurisprudence, Say States Parties in Opening Meeting
Law of Sea Convention Bodies Increasingly Called upon to Resolve Disputes, Expand Maritime Jurisprudence, Say States Parties in Opening Meeting
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Meeting of States Parties
to Law of Sea Convention
161st & 162nd Meetings (AM & PM)
Law of Sea Convention Bodies Increasingly Called upon to Resolve Disputes,
Expand Maritime Jurisprudence, Say States Parties in Opening Meeting
The three bodies created to implement the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — known as the “constitution for the oceans” — were increasingly being called upon to resolve disputes between States and to expand maritime jurisprudence, said delegates today as the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention began its twenty-third annual session.
In particular, speakers underscored that the scope and capacity of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea had grown substantially, ruling on cases that now ranged from the detention of warships to the rights of States in their exclusive economic sea zones. Many delegations praised the body’s efficient and expeditious rendering of several judgments over the past year, and referred to its potential involvement in a new, unprecedented case in which the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission requested an advisory opinion from the full Tribunal.
The landmark Convention on the Law of the Sea was opened for signature on 10 December 1982 and entered into force on 16 November 1994. Its 320 articles and nine annexes govern all aspects of ocean space and maritime issues, from navigational rights, maritime limits and marine scientific research to resource management, marine environment protection and dispute settlement. The adoption of the Convention established three bodies — the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf — whose top officials all addressed the Meeting of States Parties today.
Shunji Yanai, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, told the Meeting that 2012 had been a remarkably busy year for the Tribunal, with four complex cases before it that related to a variety of issues. In addition, it had also issued its first-ever decision in a maritime boundary dispute concerning the delimitation of the boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal.
He also noted another case, known as the “ARA Libertad” case, which concerned the detention of an Argentine warship by the Government of Ghana. There, the Tribunal had delivered a unanimous order in December 2012 calling for the unconditionally release the vessel. Ghana had responded promptly, he said, releasing the vessel within a few days of the order.
Mr. Yanai emphasized that those and other cases demonstrated the growing role the Tribunal was playing in international adjudication. They also illustrated that the dispute settlement system established by the Convention was operating ever more frequently and effectively.
A number of delegates — including several involved in cases before the Tribunal — lauded the strides made over the past year. The representative of Argentina, observing that the Tribunal was “very healthy” and receiving increased responsibilities, praised the body’s recent work, in particular the decision reached in the “ARA Libertad” case.
Also taking the floor, Ghana’s representative — the other party to the “ARA Libertad” case — echoed the importance of the role played by both the Convention and the Tribunal, and reiterated her country’s focus on maintaining friendly relations with Argentina.
Patricia O’Brien, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, affirmed, as well, that, because a growing number of States had referred their disputes to the Tribunal, its case law was touching on an expanding range of law of the sea issues. In providing innovative solutions to address those issues, the Tribunal had contributed significantly to the development of the modern jurisprudence in that field of law.
Turning to the other two bodies created by the Convention, she said that the International Seabed Authority played a vital role in organizing and controlling activities and administering resources in the Area (the seabed and ocean floor, and subsoil thereof beyond the limits of national jurisdiction). Meanwhile, the increasing workload of the Commission on the Limits on the Continental Shelf, which had been the subject of intense discussion in the Meeting of State Parties, had recently adopted new working arrangements and increased its meeting time to 21 weeks in 2013, in order to better address the backlog of submissions by States.
The backlog was of concern to many delegations, with Bangladesh’s representative stating out that his country had submitted a claim to the Commission in 2011, providing scientific and technical information in support of its claim to use resources beyond 200 nautical miles. However, its submission was currently fifty-fifth on the submissions’ list. Moreover, many countries were spending substantial budgets to comply with the requirements of the Commission, he said, and they had the right to have their submissions considered within a reasonable length of time.
Also briefing the Meeting were Nii Allotey Odunton, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority; Lawrence Folajimi Awosika, Chair of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf; and Philippe Gautier, Registrar of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea on Budgetary and Financial Matters of the Tribunal.
The Meeting of States Parties will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 11 June, to continue its work.
The twenty-third Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea began this morning at Headquarters, and is slated to run through 14 June. For background, see Press Release SEA/1989 of 7 June.
Turning first to the composition of its Bureau, the Meeting elected Ferit Hoxha ( Albania) to serve as its President, having been nominated by the Group of Eastern European States according to the practice of regional rotation.
Mr. HOXHA, taking his place at the podium, told the Meeting that the Convention was continuing its steady progress towards universal participation. Since June 2012, Ecuador, Swaziland and Timor Leste had become parties, bringing the total number of States parties to 165, including the European Union. He also recalled that the importance of the Convention had been recognized at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in 2012, and that the instrument had been mentioned in the meeting’s outcome document, known as “The Future We Want”.
The Meeting then turned its attention to the provisional agenda of the current session, contained in document SPLOS/L.72, adopting it by consensus.
It also considered a note verbale from the delegation of the United Kingdom (document SPLOS/260 and Corr.1), dated 10 May, by which the delegation proposed a new agenda item for consideration by the Meeting.
The representative of the United Kingdom took the floor to express her hope that the proposed item would be considered under the proposed title “Mechanism for scrutinizing the budget of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea”.
The representative of Argentina said that, while his delegation was open-minded about new agenda items, he disagreed with the phrasing of the title of the proposed item. It should be more neutral in nature, he said. The representative of the Russian Federation agreed.
The United Kingdom’s delegate then suggested a new title, “Proposal for a Mechanism for scrutinizing the budget of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea”.
The Meeting adopted the new agenda item by consensus.
Turning back to its Bureau, the Meeting then elected Milan Jaya Nyamrajsingh Meetarbhan ( Mauritius), Abdulaziz Rodiman ( Saudi Arabia), Hernan Salinas ( Chile) and Jean-Cédric Janssens de Bisthoven ( Belgium) as Vice-Presidents.
It also elected nine States parties to the Credentials Committee: Argentina, Côte d’Ivoire, Greece, Indonesia, Lithuania, Malta, Myanmar, Saint Lucia and Tunisia.
PATRICIA O’BRIEN, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, then addressed the Meeting, recalling that 2012 had marked the thirtieth anniversary of the opening for signature of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Convention, which had proven itself worthy of the title as “the constitution for the oceans”, was now in its fourth decade since being entered into force. At a time when the ocean and its resources had become the focus of many international legal instruments, processes and initiatives, the role of the Convention in strengthening international peace and security and ensuring sustainable development of the oceans and seas was more important than ever.
She said that during the current session, States parties would hear details on the work of the three institutions established by the Convention, namely the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. On the work of the Tribunal, which settled disputes relating to oceans and seas, she noted that because a growing number of States had referred their disputes to the Tribunal, its case law was touching on an expanding range of law of the sea issues. In providing innovative solutions to address those issues, the Tribunal had contributed significantly to the development of the modern jurisprudence in the field of the law of the sea.
She then turned to the International Seabed Authority, which plays a vital role in organizing and controlling activities and administering resources in the Area. The increasing workload of the Commission on the Limits on the Continental Shelf had been the subject of intense and protracted discussion in the Meeting of States parties. To address that situation, the Commission, with a total of 21 weeks of meetings scheduled in 2013, had adopted a new working arrangement of six subcommittees actively considering submissions at any given time. She then concluded, underscoring that the goals of the Convention included peaceful uses of oceans, equitable and efficient utilization of their resources, conservation of their living resources, and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment.
International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea
SHUNJI YANAI, Tribunal President, introduced the annual report of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for 2011 (document SPLOS/256) which covered the period 1 January to 31 December 2012. He noted that 2012 had been a remarkably busy year for the Tribunal, as it was actively dealing with four complex cases relating to a variety of issues. The scope of those cases encompassed maritime delimitation, requests for the release of detained vessels, including a warship, and claims for damage arising from the arrest of vessels.
In terms of procedure, he said that the work of the Tribunal was also quite varied, ranging from cases on the merits to urgent proceedings and, for the first time, a counter-claim brought before the Tribunal. Of the four cases dealt with in 2012, two were disposed of by the Tribunal in the same year, and a third was completed in the first half of 2013.
He then gave an overview of certain cases before the Tribunal, recalling the first maritime delimitation case judgement, which had been issued in March 2012 and had addressed the dispute concerning maritime boundaries between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal. The next case on the agenda, known as the “Louisa” Case (Satin Vincent and the Grenadines v. Spain), had been filed by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and introduced in 2010. The case centred around a vessel, flying the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, that had been boarded, searched and detained by Spanish authorities in 2006. In its final judgment on the case, the Tribunal had found, by 19 votes to 2, that it had no jurisdiction to entertain that application which requested the Tribunal to declare that the detention of the ship’s four individuals had been unlawful and their human rights, in violation of the Convention, abused.
In November 2012, he said that the Tribunal also adopted an order on the admissibility of a counter-claim submitted by Guinea-Bissau on its Counter-Memorial in a case known as “Virginia G” (Panama/Guinea-Bissau). First submitted to the Tribunal in 2011, the dispute related to the oil tanker Virginia G, which, according to Panama, had been arrested by the authorities of Guinea-Bissau in 2009 in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Guinea-Bissau. The vessel had been released in 2010, but Panama was seeking reparations for the damage allegedly suffered.
In a Counter-Memorial, he continued, Guinea-Bissau stated that Panama had violated article 91 of the Convention by granting its nationality to a ship without any genuine link to Panama. That facilitated the practice of illegal actions of bunkering without permission in Guinea-Bissau’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Guinea-Bissau also sought damages, while Panama asked the Tribunal to dismiss the counter-claim. In its Order, the Tribunal found that Guinea-Bissau’s counter-claim was admissible under article 98 of the Convention, and decided to present Panama with the opportunity to file an additional pleading confined to the counter-claim. The case remained ongoing, with oral proceedings scheduled for September.
A fourth case, he said, known as the “ARA Libertad” case (Argentina v. Ghana), related to a request, filed by Argentina in November 2012, for the prescription of provisional measures pending the Constitution of an arbitral tribunal under article 290 of the Convention. The dispute concerned the detention by Ghana of an Argentine warship. In December 2012, the Tribunal delivered a unanimous order on the case in which it considered that a warship enjoyed immunity and that any act that prevented a warship from discharging its mission was a course of conflict that might endanger friendly relations among States. It prescribed that Ghana must unconditionally release the ship. Ghana complied with that order and the warship was released several days later.
Those cases, he stated, demonstrated that the Tribunal was playing a growing role in international adjudication and that the dispute settlement system established by the Convention was operating ever more frequently and effectively. In that context, the Tribunal had received a new case in early 2013, in which the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission requested the body to render an advisory opinion.
He also said that, in addition to its judicial work, the Tribunal had held two sessions in 2012, during which it considered legal, as well as organizational and administrative matters. During those sessions, the Tribunal also gave consideration to budgetary matters, including its budget for 2013-2014, the report on budgetary matters for the financial periods 2009-2010 and 2011-2012, the cash flow situation and the status of contributions. He also touched briefly on the importance of the Tribunal’s internship programme, as well as several capacity-building and training programmes on dispute settlement, which were being run by the Tribunal.
Following that introduction, the representative of Germany, as the host State of the Tribunal, highlighted the impressive scope of activities successfully undertaken by the court in 2012. Regarding the maritime boundary dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar, for which the Tribunal delivered a judgment in a little more than two years, he said he was not aware of any other case under international tribunals that had been so efficiently settled.
The delegation of Bangladesh, underscoring his Government’s commitment to peaceful solutions of disputes, said that he was pleased to see its maritime boundary dispute with Myanmar settled expeditiously in 28 months. Noting that the dispute had been longstanding and complicated, he commended the Tribunal for its work in the matter. The judgement had been balanced and equitable, satisfying both Bangladesh and Myanmar. As well, the judgement allowed both parties to conduct maritime economic activities. He reaffirmed the Tribunal’s role in developing the rule of law in the sea and stressed the importance of capacity-building in that field.
The representative of Japan said that, as a maritime State that placed great emphasis on the rule of law, his country affirmed the important role of the Tribunal in the maintenance of international peace on the oceans. The new case brought before the Tribunal in March of this year was the first request for an advisory opinion by the full Tribunal, he pointed out, adding that the Tribunal was also undertaking various other activities that underscored the trust increasingly placed in it by States parties. Japan was not only the Tribunal’s leading financial contributor, but also a source of its judges. In that vein, his delegation had decided to nominate President Yanai to the position of judge during next year’s scheduled election.
The representative of the Republic of Korea agreed that the Tribunal, as a respected judicial organ, should play a more important role in developing the law of the sea and in resolving disputes. The body had laid the foundation for such development, he said, recalling, the first maritime delimitation case regarding the Bay of Bengal. Further, while noting three contributions that his country had made to the Tribunal’s trust fund, he said he believed that the Tribunal would continue to contribute to the peaceful settlement of dispute in new and upcoming cases.
The delegate of the European Union acknowledged the cases settled by the Tribunal in 2012, including the dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar, and stressed the important role the Tribunal played in setting international disputes through peaceful means. Stating that he would address budgetary matters under the relevant agenda item, he urged all States to become parties to the Convention if they had not done so, and he commended Nippon Foundation for funding capacity-building activities.
The representative of Senegal welcomed a new case submitted by the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission, consisting of seven States in West Africa, that sought the Tribunal’s advisory opinion regarding illegal fishing.
The representative of South Africa noted with great concern the financial difficulties facing the Law of the Sea institutions. He urged States to fulfil their obligations to those bodies, and to contribute to the trust funds that had been set up to support them, including by funding the participation of developing countries in their work.
The representative of Argentina, observing that the Tribunal was “very healthy” and was receiving increased responsibilities, praised the body’s recent work, in particular the two decisions reached on the maritime delimitation case in the Bay of Bengal and in the “ARA Libertad” case. In the latter, he said that Argentina was pleased that the Tribunal had exercised great wisdom in reaching a unanimous decision that faithfully reflected the generalized acceptance of the norms of the Convention. The case had also been decided with enormous efficiency and expediency. In addition, he thanked Ghana — the other party to that case — for its quick implementation of the Tribunal’s judgement.
The representative of Mexico joined other delegates in underscoring the importance of the Convention and the Tribunal in the development of jurisprudence for the sea. His Government had hosted a two-day capacity-building workshop in support of the Convention’s goals. He encouraged the utilization of workshops as a basis to build regional capacity.
The representative of the Philippines said that the settlement of the dispute between Bangladesh and Myanmar was not just a landmark case, but also underscored the importance of the Tribunal in peaceful settlements of disputes, including through arbitration. In that regard, he recalled the Manila Declaration. With the new additions, there were now 165 States parties.
The representative of Ecuador said he was participating in today’s meeting for the first time as a representative of a State party. His Government was committed to contribute to the peaceful management of the sea.
The representative of China said that the growing number of cases and their increasing scope indicated that the Tribunal had entered a new stage in its work. Regarding its new case, in which the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission had requested the body to render an advisory opinion on matters related to the exclusive economic zone of third party States, he pointed out that States held different views on whether the full Tribunal had jurisdiction in such a case, and on whether such power should be exercised. He said he hoped that the Tribunal would fully consider the concerns of all parties in deciding whether to exercise its full jurisdiction. In addition, he stressed that choosing the Tribunal as a way to resolve disputes was a right of States which should be respected.
The representative of Malaysia commended the work of the Tribunal and its efficiency in judgments, in particular in the Bay of Bengal case, observing that the court’s work in recent years was an increasingly sought mechanism to resolve disputes, notably with the request of a full Tribunal’s advisory opinion in the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission case. With regards to the Tribunal’s capacity-building and training activities, he thanked all those that had contributed to the trust fund, thus enabling developing countries to enhance their knowledge of the Tribunal’s work and of the law of the sea in general.
The representative of the Dominican Republic stressed the importance of capacity-building. He was pleased to note that among the interns at the Tribunal was a representative from his country. He also welcomed newest States parties and underscored the universal character of the Tribunal.
The representative of Sierra Leone recognized the efficient manner in which the Tribunal settled disputes, especially the case between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Thanking the Nippon Foundation and other benefactors, he underscored that capacity-building activities impacted developing countries positively. He also welcomed a new case submitted by the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission seeking the Tribunal’s advisory opinion.
The representative of Ghana thanked the comprehensive report presented by the Tribunal President and stressed the important role of the Convention and the Tribunal. Regarding the relevant case involving her country and Argentina, she said Ghana was committed to the rule of law and keen to continue friendship with Argentina.
The representative of Pakistan said that his delegation appreciated the expeditious and efficient manner in which the cases before the Tribunal were being decided. Like other delegations, Pakistan supported the body’s activities in training and capacity—building, and welcomed the ratification of the Convention by new States over the past year. “We are hopeful that we are not far from the universal application of [the Convention],” he said in that regard.
The representative of the United States said that the role of the Meeting was proscribed by the Convention; among other things, it conducted elections and heard and took note of reports. Regarding the recent request by the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission that the full Tribunal render an advisory opinion on a number of matters, she said that the Convention — including its Annex VI — did not provide for any additional advisory jurisdiction beyond the opinions of the Seabed Disputes Chamber. While jurisdiction could be granted for specific issues, that did not extend to general matters. Therefore, the United States did not view the request of the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission to be permissible under the Convention.
The Meeting then took note of the report of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
International Seabed Authority
NII ALLOTEY ODUNTON, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, noted that, last year, the Council of the Authority had approved five applications for plans of work for exploration in the Area, bringing the total of approved plans to 14, a significant increase in the work of the Authority. In addition, there were currently six applications pending approval, including the first three cases relating to cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts.
The administration and supervision of exploration contracts had a cost, he said. Some Governments had expressed concerns last year that those costs should not be borne exclusively by States parties from their assessed contributions to the Authority’s administrative budget. The Council had agreed to take up that matter for consideration during the Authority’s upcoming nineteenth session, to take place from 15 to 26 July.
The Authority, he noted, was the unique organization which had the competence to develop an appropriate level of environmental protection for the Area. For the first time, last year, the Council had established an environmental management plan. Science had always been a key driver of the activities of the Authority, as better knowledge of the deep sea environment was a prerequisite to effectively manage the common heritage of mankind. As well, the Authority was pursuing its efforts to standardize the taxonomy of three classes of fauna associated with marine minerals.
He pointed out that the Authority was also responsible for developing rules, regulations and procedures in a timely manner, following the pace of activities in the Area. It had completed the part of the Mining Code that related to prospecting and exploration for nodules, sulphides and crusts. The current challenge for the Authority was to develop exploitation regulations. An ambitious work plan to prepare a first set of regulations on exploitation of nodules in the Area had been agreed upon last year.
The representative of Singapore said he needed more information on the substance of the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. He also expressed hope that future elections of the Commission’s members would take into account the need to have representatives from both broad shelf States and landlocked and geographically disadvantaged States. As his country was a geographically disadvantaged developing country with no natural resources, he said he appreciated the work of the International Seabed Authority for giving developing countries the opportunity to participate in activities in the Area. With the Authority’s regulations in place, his delegation had decided to sponsor the application by a well-established company for deep-sea exploration.
The representative of Jamaica welcomed the addition of new States to the Convention, as such additions contributed to the universality of the instrument. Jamaica would host the nineteenth session of the International Seabed Authority next month. Small island States were often the custodians of deep-sea mineral resources. Six applications would be under discussion. He was pleased to note that one of the applications came from a small island State, Singapore, which would level the playing field. His Government was mindful of the need to protect the marine environment. Avoiding the negative environmental impact would be one of the topics to be discussed at the upcoming session. He called for the scaling up of voluntary contributions to improve the work of the Authority and for active participation in the conference.
The representative of Japan noted, among other things, that possible revisions of the regulations for exploration and exploitation of polymetallic nodules in the Area were on the agenda. She hoped that at the Authority’s upcoming session, discussions on that issue would be advanced in the spirit of cooperation among States parties. She also welcomed the fact that the number of applications for planned work in the Area were increasing. However, in light of the uniqueness of the ecosystem in the Area, exploration and exploitation needed to be conducted carefully and she expressed support for the environmental plan that had been approved last year.
The representative of India recalled that, in view of the increased workload of the Authority’s Legal and Technical Commission, a meeting had been held in February of this year to consider applications for work plans in the Area. He hoped that those applications would continue to be considered on a timely basis, even in light of short resources.
The representative of China, highlighting the progress made last year in the work of the Authority, said that approval of work plans for exploration enhanced the “vigour” of the seabed affairs and the submission of the six applications demonstrated confidence in the Authority. He also stressed the balanced approach that took into account both industrial development and the environment. His delegation supported the work of the Authority through technical seminars, funds and ocean research. In July of last year, his country made a contribution of $20,000 to the voluntary trust fund. In addition, a research institute held a seminar on the implementation of article 82 of the Convention in Beijing.
The representative of Ghana said her country would be represented in the Authority’s nineteenth session in Jamaica. Her delegation was aware of the important role of the Authority and was considering the ratification of the agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Protocol on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Seabed Authority. Those treaties, together with the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, would be submitted to her country’s Parliament for approval by the end of this year.
The representative of Bangladesh said that it was heartening that six new applications for exploration and exploitation of the Area were pending with the Authority. States parties should take up the challenge to “double up” exploration and exploitation regulations, in particular those which benefited developing States. However, a balance should be struck between the needs of developed and developing States and the preservation of the environment. As well, the capacity-building, training and outreach programmes of the Authority, as well as its planned workshops, were appreciated by his country, he added.
The representative of the Philippines said that, pursuant to its mandate, the Authority had performed considerable work resulting in the adoption of an entire regime for the exploration and exploitation of the Area. Further, his country supported the Authority’s work on capacity-building, as seabed mining was an expensive and time-consuming endeavour. Through such programmes, developing countries could more equitably participate in those activities.
The representative of Malaysia stressed the role of the Authority to manage the resources in the Area, which were the common heritage of mankind. There was renewed interest in commercial exploration of mineral resources. However, because the exploration would have an impact on the marine environment, his country supported the environment management plan adopted by the Council of the Authority. He also underscored the importance of capacity-building, scientific research and the establishment of endowment funds, among other things. Turning to financial matters, he stated that Malaysia had paid its assessed contribution in full and he urged Governments in arrears to do so as well.
The representative of Australia welcomed the progress relating to regulations on exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese and the establishment of an environment management plan. His delegation looked forward to the upcoming session of the Authority in July.
The representative of Tunisia recalled that article 136 of the Convention had declared the Area and its resources as the “common heritage of mankind”. However, that concept was meaningless if no revenues were derived from their use. In that vein, he called for the framing of a set of regulations for the exploitation of the various seabed resources, with a view towards initiating the process of generating revenue and benefits and bringing about economic development and prosperity for developing States in particular. He also stressed that rights to those resources should go hand in hand with the need to ensure the sustainable development of the oceans and to safeguard those resources for future generations of mankind.
The Meeting then took note of the report of the International Seabed Authority.
Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf
LAWRENCE FOLAJIMI AWOSIKA, Chair of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, then gave a briefing on the Commission’s work after the June 2012 Meeting of States Parties. At its thirtieth session, held in August 2012, the Commission had decided to both increase the number of weeks of meetings in 2013 to 21, and to adopt new working arrangements for its subcommissions. It also decided to establish four new subcommissions, so that a total of six subcommissions would actively be considering submissions.
He said that the Commission and its subcommissions had commenced their consideration of the submissions made by Argentina and by Ghana, and the partial submission made by Iceland and by Denmark. The Commission and its subcommissions were also continuing their consideration of submissions made by Uruguay and the Cook Islands. In addition, the subcommissions held meetings with the respective delegations of those States.
He said that the Commission had heard a presentation on the submission made by the United Republic of Tanzania and a second presentation on the submission made by Argentina at the latter’s request for the benefit of newly elected members. Finally, the Commission took note of the new submission made by Denmark.
At the thirty-first session of the Commission, held in early 2013, he said that the body and its subcommissions continued their consideration of a number of those submissions, as well as a submission made by Myanmar. The Commission took note of communications received from Bangladesh and Myanmar and decided to further defer the consideration of Myanmar’s submission in order to take into account any further developments that might occur in the intervening period.
He went on to say that the Commission heard presentations on the submission made by Ghana and the submission made by Iceland, as well as a second presentation made by Denmark. Finally, the Commission took note of new submissions made by Tuvalu, France and New Zealand (Tokelau).
On the matter of the Commission’s workload, he said that the body concluded that, owing to the extended stay of members in New York, workload issues were closely related to working conditions. The dearth of office space, loss of income, lack of family members’ visits, and the high cost of prolonged stays in New York were discussed. In that regard, the Commission had requested the Chair to suggest to the Meeting that an intersessional working group of the Meeting be established to consider issues relate to medical and dental insurance, including the possible use of a trust fund for that purpose.
The representative of Indonesia welcomed the presentations by the three institutions. The Tribunal was essential in solving legal problems arising from the interpretation of the Convention, and had reached remarkable milestones in 2012, including judgements delivered on the case touching boundary limitations. She also commended both the work of the Seabed Authority, underlining its work to prevent the harmful effects that could arise from deep-sea exploration and the Commission on the Limits of Continental Shelf, in particular, the faster pace with which it was handling submitted cases.
The representative of Japan welcomed the Commission’s adoption of a new working arrangement, which, despite financial constraint, had been realized by the flexibility of the Commission. She also said that the Commission’s plan to keep the new working method under review was highly valued. Given the indispensable role of the Commission in extending the continental shelf and establishing the legal order under the Convention, she said that her country would contribute $352,000 to the voluntary trust fund, which supported participation of members from developing States.
The representative of Nigeria said that the Convention on the Law of the Sea was a unique instrument setting out a framework for all human activities in the oceans. The three bodies set up under the Convention were meant to ensure that it operated with fairness and equity, and in the best interest of States and the environment as a whole. He was particularly pleased at the Commission’s new work programme consisting of three sessions of seven weeks each. That new development was encouraging, and would surely go a long way towards the consideration of States’ submissions. His country supported for the Commission’s request to look into health and dental insurance for members while they were on extended stays in New York.
The delegate of the European Union welcomed the concrete steps taken by the Commission regarding workload, in particular, the decision to meet for a total of 21 weeks and the decision to establish four new subcommissions, among other new measures designed to expedite the Commission’s work. In regards to the possibility of increasing the number of submissions considered by each subcommission or of adopting a more flexible approach to which submission should be considered next, he said he looked forward to hearing further details of those ideas. The increased activity of the Commission did incur expanded costs. Thus, contributions made by States to the trust fund designed to defer the costs of States participating in the work of the Commission were welcomed, and he encouraged States who were able to do so to contribute to that fund.
The representative of Argentina welcomed the new working arrangement that allowed faster consideration of submissions by subcommissions, pointing out that a few years ago, the wait time had been much longer. He supported the idea of having intersessional meetings to consider the issue of medical and dental insurance for the Commission’s members.
The representative of Chile said that since the adoption of the Convention, there had been scientific developments that required taking a new look at certain areas not sufficiently developed in the Convention, specifically, activities in areas beyond national jurisdiction that affected marine biological diversity and in particular genetic resources. His Government had supported the position of the Group of 77 developing countries that a multilateral agreement must be drafted in the framework of the Convention to deal with those issues. He said that he hoped that the working group on those issues in the General Assembly would soon be able to negotiate a binding agreement along those lines to clarify the applicable legal regime.
The representative of Canada said she was pleased at the Commission’s new working arrangements and the establishment of new subcommissions. Nonetheless, she noted that challenges existed in implementing such changes. As the Commission moved forward in its work and in the implementation of improvements, she said she wished to better understand that body’s plans.
The representative of Bangladesh said that his country had submitted its most significant claim to the Commission in 2011, providing scientific and technical information in support of its claim to use resources beyond 200 nautical miles. However, its submission was currently fifty-fifth on the list of submissions to be considered. Thus, logistical problems could arise due to the long period of time between the submission of the information and its consideration. Moreover, many countries were spending substantial budgets to comply with the requirements of the Commission and had the right to have their submissions considered within a reasonable length of time.
The representative of Ghana said his delegation would continue to support the Commission’s efforts to expedite its work and he welcomed the setting up of new subcommissions to review submissions, including the one from Ghana. His delegation would engage in constructive dialogue and seek the way forward. He also welcomed the newest States parties, noting that the Convention was drawing nearer to its universality.
The representative of Malaysia welcomed the establishment of the four sub-commissions to cope with the Commission’s increased workload, as well as the increased allocation of meeting time to 21 weeks in the current year. However, the Commission needed more adequate resources, he stated, welcoming Japan’s announcement of its contribution.
The representative of Uruguay said that there was no doubt that the Commission was involved in the development of the Law of the Sea. Therefore, it was important that the work of the Commission be measured not only in terms of quantity, but also in terms of complexity. He congratulated the Commission for its hard work and, in that regard, said that it was reasonable to look into the issue of health insurance for its members.
The representative of Senegal said that, along with six other countries of the West African sub-region and with technical and financial assistance from Norway, her country was working on a project to extend the limits of the continental shelf. She also stated that she shared the concerns of other delegations about the timetable for dealing with submissions to the Commission, and about the increased financial burden that resulted from the long delay.
The representative of Namibia had been concerned about the pace of the Commission’s handling of submissions, but was now comforted by the fact that four additional subcommissions had been established, bringing the total to six. His delegation was convinced that the new working method would enable the Commission to complete its work in a timely manner.
The representative of the Republic of Korea, noting that his delegation had been a member of the Commission since its beginning and had assumed vice-chairmanship since last year, pointed out that the workload had dramatically increased over the past years. It was important to improve the Commission’s efficiency. In that regard, meeting for a total of 21 weeks in 2013 was in the way of efficiency. He also sought a careful review of the proposal regarding medical and dental insurance coverage, including such details as expected cost-per-member and extra burden for States nominating candidates. His Government would make an annual contribution of $20,000 this year as it did from 2010 to 2012.
The representative of China, stressing that the Commission’s work was essential to the effective implementation of the Convention, observed that, to date, the Commission had reviewed and made recommendations on 18 submissions. He noted the increased workload and the resulting working conditions and potential impact on its members’ work. Improving those working conditions, including the addition of health and dental benefits, was welcomed. Further, the Meeting was the appropriate forum for resolving such practical issues. Nonetheless, he stressed that that all plans to increase efficiency should be implemented in ways that did not reduce the quality of the consideration of each submission.
The representative of Brazil said that his delegation had worked closely with others in the creation and implementation of new working arrangements for the Commission. However, he said it would be unfair to increase the working time of the Commission without granting its members increased benefits.
The representative of Norway acknowledged the Commission’s importance and welcomed flexibility in handling new submissions. She also noted that working conditions for Commission members must be adequate. However, she could not support the proposal to establish an intersessional working group towards the creation of a trust fund for covering medical and dental insurance of Committee members. Nonetheless, if her delegation was the only one taking such a position, she would not oppose the creation of such a group.
The representative of Japan said her delegation would be careful about the establishment of a trust fund to assist medical and dental insurance. Still, she said she was willing to participate in the discussion on that matter if States parties wished to create a working group.
The representative of Argentina said another option was to use the existing trust fund to cover medical and dental insurance. The idea of having an intersessional working group on the matter was, as well, a good idea.
The representative of the Russian Federation, making a general statement, stressed the importance of upholding the correct interpretation of the Convention. His delegation was satisfied with the work of all the three institutions established by the Convention and stood ready to constructively participate on discussion on all agenda items at the forthcoming session of the Commission.
The representative of Iceland said he was fully supportive of the proposal to establish an intersessional working group to discuss issues related to benefits for members of the Committee. However, he stressed that such a view should be understood without prejudice to the outcome of such discussions.
Mr. HOXHA then proposed that the intersessional working group be established, with a Chair to be selected later. The Meeting decided to accept that proposal.
The Meeting then took note of the report of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
Budgetary Matters of the Tribunal
PHILIPPE GAUTIER, Registrar of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, introduced the report of the external auditor for the financial period 2011-2012 (document SPLSO/257), and the report on budgetary matters for the financial periods 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 (document SPLOS/258).
In the first document, Mr. GAUTIER stated that the financial statements complied with the Financial Regulations and Rules of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and gave a true and fair view of the net assets, financial position and results of operations of the Tribunal.
He then turned to the second document, which consisted of three parts: budgetary performance for 2011-2012; budgetary performance for 2012-2013; and the budget for 2013-2014. The total expenditure for 2011-2012 stood at €19.22 million, representing 94.24 per cent of the appropriation approved for that period. The initial budget proposal for 2013-2014 was €21.89 million; however the Meeting approved €21.23 million, 3 per cent less than the proposed amount.
Since July 2012, he continued, the trust fund for the law of the sea had been used to support the Tribunal’s internship programme and provide financial assistance to interns from developing countries. As of December 2012, the balance stood at €39,992.
The Korea International Cooperation Agency, he noted, had contributed €627,045 to its Agency’s trust fund during the 2004-2009 period, which was then used to finance training of participants from developing countries. The entire balance had been used during the last financial period and the special account had been closed in July 2012.
He also said that the Nippon Foundation had contributed €1.29 million to the Foundation’s grant during the 2008-2012 period to support the Tribunal’s capacity-building and training programme on dispute settlement under the Convention. The amount of €235,258 was available as of 31 December 2012.
As well, he said that the China Institute of International Studies had made a contribution of €100,000 to its Institute’s Grant in June 2012 to support the Tribunal’s internship programme and other projects. As of 31 December 2012, the balance had stood at €79,000.
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