27 November 2001


Press Release

Fifty-sixth General Assembly


65th Meeting (PM)



Debate Begins on Issues Related to Oceans, Law of the Sea Convention

States were urged to fund the inter-agency appeal for Tajikistan, while authorities were urged to streamline bureaucratic procedures for delivery of humanitarian assistance, by the terms of a resolution adopted this afternoon by the General Assembly.

It was one of two drafts adopted without a vote, as the Assembly met to conclude its consideration of the strengthening of coordination in humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, including special economic assistance, and to take up issues related to oceans and the law of the sea.

The resolution on assistance to Tajikistan emphasized the importance of facilitating the work of humanitarian organizations and of ensuring the security of humanitarian personnel.  It emphasized the role humanitarian organizations would play in alleviating the urgent humanitarian needs of the country and in its post-conflict rehabilitation, including the reconstruction of its economy.

The second resolution was on emergency assistance to Belize.  It noted the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Iris on 8 October.  It urged Member States to contribute generously to the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, asking the Secretary-General to mobilize and coordinate the United Nations contribution.

The two resolutions were part of the Assembly’s consideration of special economic assistance to individual countries or regions, under the overall topic of strengthening humanitarian assistance.  Other related issues under discussion were the strengthening of emergency humanitarian assistance, cooperation in continuing to deal with consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, the participation of volunteers, or ‘white helmets’, in the humanitarian activities of the United Nations, and assistance to the Palestinian people.

Addressing the Assembly on those issues were the representatives of Belarus, Russian Federation, Palestine, Mongolia and Indonesia.  The Observer for Palestine also spoke, as did the Observers for Switzerland and for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies (IFRCRCS).

The representatives of Israel and Palestine spoke in right of reply.

On matters related to oceans and the law of the sea, the representative of Brazil introduced a generic draft resolution, the first of two texts on the issue.  He said capacity-building and the transfer of up-to-date technological resources were crucial for establishing comprehensive national programmes in marine science and technology.  Existing regional and global mechanisms must be put into action to foster international cooperation.  Existing programmes should be revitalized.

Introducing a draft on implementing the Law of the Sea Convention as it related to fish stocks, the United States representative noted that the Agreement on Straddling Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was about to enter into force.  It would protect fish stocks as food security and as a source of economic development into the future.  It was part of the global system of instruments negotiated in recent years to promote sustainable fisheries.  The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) had recently adopted an International Plan of Action to eliminate unregulated fishing.

Speaking on those issues were the representatives of Iran (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), Norway, Nauru (on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum Group), Monaco and India.

The Assembly will meet at 10 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, 28 November, to continue its consideration of oceans and the law of the sea, and of the agreement to implement provisions of the law of the sea Convention relating to straddling and migratory fish stocks.


The General Assembly met this afternoon to conclude the consideration of its agenda item on strengthening coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations.  (For background information see press release GA/9978 of 26 November.)  The Assembly was also to begin consideration of the agenda item, “Oceans and the law of the sea”.

Oceans and the Law of the Sea

The Assembly had before it a report of the Secretary-General on Oceans and the law of the sea (document A/56/58 and Addendum 1).

In an overview the Secretary-General observes that the state of the world’s seas and oceans is deteriorating, and that the pollution of the seas and oceans has returned to the forefront of international concern.  Pollution, it is noted, generally enters the sea from coastal industries and sewage systems.  The sewage pollution has become a great health hazard and has detrimental economic effects, since it ruins large areas for recreation and tourism.  Other activities giving rise to concern are the fisheries, including the over-exploitation of stocks, the by-catch and discards, as well as major changes in the shipping industry.

According to the Secretary-General’s report, more than a billion people depend on the world’s fisheries for their primary source of protein.  The decline of the worldwide catch, an outcome of over-fishing, has reached serious proportions.  The fishing fleets, which operate near the coast where fish stocks are increasingly over-exploited, are now venturing out into deeper waters, and the deep-sea stocks are more vulnerable than those in shallow waters.

Increase in shipping has placed a heavy burden on traffic through important navigation routes.  Another major problem is the ageing of the world’s fleet, increasing risk of accidents and creating problems related to the disposal of decommissioned ships.  A global market for seafarers has emerged, requiring a global response as well as a body of global standards applicable to the whole industry.

The report states that piracy and armed robbery are costing the shipping industry millions, while also endangering the lives of seafarers.  The smuggling of migrants is on the rise.  There is a need to strengthen international efforts to combat those crimes at sea.  Moreover, many of those illicit acts are not defined as crimes under international law.

The report also addresses issues such as marine science and technology and access to resources into deep waters and remote areas.  Development of marine technology has also permitted access to underwater cultural objects.  Negotiations were continuing at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for a regime applicable to the cultural heritage found in deep-water areas beyond the zones referred to in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The report states that, overall, the lack of coordination and cooperation in addressing ocean issues has prevented the emergence of more efficient and results-oriented ocean governance.  The United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea was established in 1999 to deepen the debate in the Assembly and to contribute to a broader understanding of the issues. The first meeting of that Consultative Process took place in 2000.

The report reviews the status of the Law of the Sea Convention and its implementing Agreements, noting that since last year’s report (document A/55/61) the pace of ratifications and accessions has slowed noticeably.  Only three States -– Nicaragua, Maldives and Luxembourg –- have deposited their instruments of ratification.  The addendum to the report (document A/56/58/Add.1) notes that two more States -– Bangladesh and Madagascar -– have deposited their instruments of ratification, so that at 30 September 2001 the number of States parties to the Convention stood at 137.

The addendum to the Secretary-General’s report contains chapters on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and its implementing Agreements; Maritime Space; Shipping and Navigation; Marine resources, the marine environment and sustainable development; Underwater cultural heritage; Marine science and technology; Settlement of disputes; International cooperation and coordination; and a review by the General Assembly of developments in Ocean Affairs:  United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process established by the General Assembly in its Resolution 54/33 in order to facilitate the annual review by the Assembly of developments in ocean affairs.

The Assembly also had before it a Report on the work of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process established by the General Assembly in its resolution 54/33 in order to facilitate the annual review by the Assembly of developments in ocean affairs at its second meeting.  The report is transmitted by a letter dated 22 June from the Co-Chairpersons of the Consultative Process addressed to the Assembly's President (document A/56/121).

The report contains a number of issues and elements for consideration by the Assembly, such as:

-- Further progress on the prevention, deterrence and elimination of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing;

-- Protecting the marine environment from pollution and degradation from land-based activities;

-- The importance of marine scientific research for the objectives of sustainable development;

-- Exchange and flow of data;

-- General policy on marine science;

-- Interactions between the atmosphere and the oceans;

-- The needs for scientific research for integrated management of oceans and coastal areas;

-- Prevention of piracy and armed robbery at sea; and

-- Coordination and cooperation within the United Nations system.

The report also summarized discussions at the first and second plenary sessions of the second meeting within the Consultative Process held at United Nations Headquarters from 7 to 11 May, including the Statements made by the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, Hans Corell, and the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai.

Also before the General Assembly was a draft resolution on Oceans and the law of the sea (document A/56/L.17) by which the Assembly would call upon all States that had not done so to become parties to the Convention and the Agreement, and harmonize their national legislation with the provisions of the Convention.  It would request the Secretary-General, in cooperation with the competent international organizations and programmes, as well as representatives of regional development banks and the donor community, to review the efforts being made with a view to implementing the Convention.

The Assembly would further request the Secretary-General to convene the twelfth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention in New York from 16 to 26 April 2002, and to provide the services required.  The Assembly would appeal to all States parties to the Convention to pay their assessed contributions to the Authority and to the Tribunal in full and on time.

The Assembly would call upon States to ensure that knowledge resulting from marine scientific research and monitoring is made available in a user-friendly data format, especially to developing countries, and to continue to strengthen capacity-building activities.

The Secretary-General would also be requested to continue to carry out the responsibilities entrusted to him in the Convention and related General Assembly resolutions, and to ensure that the appropriate resources are made available to the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.  He would further be asked to bring the present resolution to the attention of heads of intergovernmental organizations, and the specialized agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations engaged in activities relating to ocean affairs and the law of the sea.

The draft is sponsored by Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Malawi, Malta, Monaco, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

The Assembly also had before it a further report from the Secretary-General, on the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (document A/56/357).  In its resolution 54/32 of 24 November 1999, the Assembly recognised, inter alia, that the above agreement set forth the rights and obligations of States in authorizing the use of vessels flying their flags for fishing on the high seas, so that the activities of these vessels do not undermine the effectiveness of conservation and management measures adopted in accordance with international law.  It emphasized the importance the early entry into force of the agreement.  The Secretary-General indicates replies received to a note verbale he sent to all States and relevant organizations, drawing their attention to the terms of the resolution.

The Assembly also had before it a draft resolution (document A/56/L.18), on implementation of the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.

By the terms of the draft the Assembly would urge all States and other entities referred to in the Agreement to pursue cooperation with relevant organizations in relation to straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks, to ensure the effective conservation, management and long-term sustainability of such stocks and, where there are no subregional or regional fisheries management organizations, to cooperate to establish such organizations.

The Assembly would ask the Secretary-General to include in his next report a background study concerning requirements of developing States and assistance they may require.  States would be urged, as a matter of priority, to coordinate their activities and cooperate through relevant regional fisheries management organizations in the implementation of the International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing which was recently adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The development of national plans of action on illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and management of fishing capacity would also be called for, together with information-sharing and full participation in all efforts to coordinate the work of the Food and Agriculture Organization with other bodies, including the International Maritime Organization.

The draft is sponsored by Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sweden, Tonga, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

Statements on Disaster Relief Assistance

SERGEI LING (Belarus) said the consequences for Belarus of the Chernobyl disaster included newly emerging signs of deteriorating public health, especially in children who continued to live in contaminated areas.  The real scope of the health consequences of Chernobyl was yet to be realized.  Overcoming the disaster put an extremely heavy socio-economic burden on his country, requiring the reallocation of tremendous financial, material and human resources.  In coming years, Belarus would have to spend up to 20 per cent of its annual budget on that issue.  A similar catastrophe would have caused serious problems even for economically advanced countries.  For Belarus, undergoing socio-economic and political reforms, post-Chernobyl rehabilitation was a very serious challenge.

He was extremely appreciative of the efforts undertaken by the United Nations system in the area, and was convinced that the appropriate coordinating and catalytic role of the United Nations must be continued and consolidated.  He welcomed the Secretary-General’s efforts for devising and implementing innovative measures.  He commended the new strategic approach to international cooperation proposed in the Secretary-General’s report and defined as the need to implement comprehensive medium and long-term programmes to restore the sustainable development and the human potential of the Chernobyl-affected areas.  Further efforts towards international cooperation should be gradual and thoughtful, with the goal of increasing the effectiveness of existing coordinating mechanisms.

Belarus counted on the continued inclusion of the Chernobyl issue on the international agenda, he said.  The issue was of crucial importance to his country in terms of both its domestic and foreign policy.  The Chernobyl catastrophe had occurred outside his country, but Belarus continued to carry the burden of that tragedy, relying almost exclusively on its own means.  It had accumulated vast and invaluable experience in overcoming the consequences of the disaster, and was ready to share that experience with the international community.  The Chernobyl problem was an issue of global relevance.

YURIY ISAKOV (Russian Federation) said the international community needed to improve security for humanitarian staff and access to those needing assistance, perfect its strategy for humanitarian operations and improve coordination in the field.  It must also strengthen the capabilities of countries in the fields of early warning and preparedness for natural disasters.  Recent humanitarian operations had confirmed that it was high time for the international community to elaborate an integral concept of humanitarian activities during conflict and emergency situations.

The Russian Federation had positively assessed efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, he said.  While increasing the volume of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, it was also important to ensure its maximum efficiency, including strengthening the coordination of international efforts in that area.  In the new, dynamically developing situation of liberating Afghanistan from the Taliban, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs needed to carry out its tasks in the most effective and flexible manner.

MARWAN A. JILANI, Observer for Palestine, said that apart from the Secretary-General’s report, a lot of other reports had been forwarded to the Assembly by agencies of the United Nations and other institutions.  All those reports underlined the gravity of the current crisis and its detrimental implications for the life of the Palestinians.  The reports pointed to the practices and policies of Israel, which were in flagrant violation of humanitarian law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.  Those practices and policies tended to hinder the efforts of the United Nations and other organizations aiming to provide assistance to the Palestinian people.

The practices of Israel, the occupying force, had claimed the lives of hundreds of Palestinian people, including children, he said.  Structures had been destroyed, as well as roads and electricity and communications installations. There was a blockade on movement of goods and people between Palestinian towns and villages.  The continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, including Jerusalem, the continuation of the settlement policies, the humiliation of the Palestinian people and the failure of the peace process constituted the real reason for the current crisis.  He agreed with the Secretary-General’s conclusion that no peace and security could be achieved without resumption of negotiations based on relevant Security Council resolutions.  The first step would be implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell Report.

He thanked the European Union for providing assistance to the Palestinian people and Authority, as well as the Arab countries which continued to provide assistance.  A draft resolution would call on Israel to put an end to its policy of closure and blockade.  It should also end the hindrance of movement of people and goods inside the Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem.  Israel should refrain from any further settlement building and implement the recommendations of the Mitchell Report.

JARGALSAIKHANY ENKHSAIKHAN (Mongolia) said the demand for humanitarian assistance had increased over the last four decades, as the number of disaster-affected communities had increased threefold, and economic losses suffered by victims of natural disasters had increased tenfold to $40 billion per year.  Complex emergency situations were posing tremendous challenges on an ever greater scale.

Mongolia was among the countries hit hard over the last years by drastic weather changes, he continued.  A number of points had become apparent regarding international humanitarian assistance.  First, natural disasters such as droughts and storms were increasing, but their devastation caused mostly short-term effects.  Longer-term effects such as desertification and deforestation, changing ocean currents, reduced water quality and the spread of warm weather affected people’s lives more profoundly, particularly in developing countries.  The United Nations should be active in devising longer-term proactive strategies for sustained disaster prevention, starting with an analysis of changing weather patterns, environmental conditions and vulnerabilities.

Secondly, he said that development in the long run reduced the need for emergency assistance by placing the country’s economic, social and environmental fabric on a sound and sustained footing.  The current complex emergency situation in Afghanistan was an example.  Emergency assistance was urgently needed.  Of equal importance was the need to follow up with long-term post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation assistance since long-term stability prospects for war-ravaged people depended on the country’s development.

Finally, he said that helping victims of natural disasters to preserve their livelihoods was, in fact, preventing them from falling into poverty.  Mongolia had suffered two consecutive winter disasters known as “dzuds”.  That had led to a loss of nearly 17 per cent of the country’s livestock.  Nine people had lost their lives in a tragic helicopter accident during the United Nations effort to help.  The agricultural sector, which was the economic backbone of the country, would have failed if it had not been for the overwhelming response to the joint appeal launched in January by the United Nations and Mongolia.

BALI MONIAGA (Indonesia) underlined the importance of humanitarian relief efforts being channeled through multilateral assistance programmes, thus ensuring a truly global, even and comprehensive response.  It was unfortunate that higher-profile humanitarian situations tended to attract more than a fair share of resources, while the less publicized but equally needy must struggle to meet goals.  Moreover, for humanitarian relief efforts to maximize their effectiveness, there needed to be close cooperation between the relief agencies and the host country.  The international community must not lose sight of the importance of the continuum from relief to development, and the transition from war to peace.  Failure to plan for and improve the transition between relief and development only threatened to undo short-term results. 

He recalled the need for increased resources from the donor community for the acquisition of appropriate technology and the needed human resources to access such technology.  Only by increasing coordination and cooperation among all partners would one ensure that developing countries could acquire the technology necessary to effectively address mitigation, preparation, planning and response. 

The additional international attention now being directed to the issue of internally displaced persons was welcomed, he said.  He believed that it was the primary responsibility of each government to care for those within its national territory.  Aware, however, of the limited capacity of many host countries to adequately respond on their own, there was a clear need for international assistance in support of national initiatives.  At the same time, the contributing factors to the internally displaced persons crisis must be addressed, on the understanding that such factors were often not conflicts, but principally poverty, natural disasters and catastrophic events.

PIERRE HELG, Observer for Switzerland, said that 10 years ago, resolution 46/182 had been adopted with the aim of strengthening the coordination of United Nations humanitarian assistance.  In an environment undergoing constant change and characterized by internal conflicts, Switzerland fully supported the establishment of coherence and conformity in the respective mandates of those involved in humanitarian assistance.  It was important to fine-tune certain instruments aimed at coordination and planning.  Much had been done to strengthen United Nations capacity, but the strengthening of local preventive structures and the response to emergency situations must also be a top priority.  He added that the safety of humanitarian personnel was vital, both in situations of conflict and during natural disasters.

The primary responsibility for humanitarian workers’ safety lay with Governments affected, he said.  However, the international community as a whole was also responsible, since all countries had signed the Geneva Convention.  There was also a responsibility to care for the innocent civilian population.  It had been established that the civilian population was most often the victim of barbaric acts.  The forced displacement of civilian populations was a cruel testament to that fact.

He saluted the humanitarian personnel working in Afghanistan.  It was clear that providing a safe environment for such personnel in Afghanistan would remain a priority over the next few weeks.  In that context, it was necessary to strengthen planning and coordination under the auspices of the Afghan Support Group.  He highlighted the importance of not substituting humanitarian action for solutions to the underlying roots of problems.  The management of conflicts and their consequences required thorough knowledge of the economic and social causes behind them.

JAQCUES VILLETTAZ, of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that the sheer dimensions of the human suffering resulting from the numerous conflicts raging in the world, together with the complexity prevalent in most humanitarian crises, went far beyond the capacity of any single organization.  That was among the reasons why the number of humanitarian actors in the field, with different mandates, areas of expertise and varying resources, had considerably increased in recent years.  However, in spite of those developments, the ICRC was deeply distressed by the toll paid by civilians in general, particularly those most vulnerable such as women and children.  It was therefore natural that coordination was essential to the effectiveness of the universal humanitarian effort.

For the ICRC, the whole issue of humanitarian coordination basically involved two sets of challenges, he said.  The first concerned coordination among humanitarian actors, which included United Nations agencies as well as other organizations, and the second related to cooperation between humanitarian organizations on the one hand and political and military authorities on the other.  Both activities aimed at rendering humanitarian action effective.  Concerning humanitarian actors, the ICRC’s approach to coordination was based upon regular contact involving dialogue and mutual consultation, both at headquarters and in the field, on thematic issues as well as on operational questions.  The objective was to achieve the greatest possible complementarity with other actors.

Humanitarian action should remain fundamentally different from political and military action, he said.  It was neutral concerning the conflict; undertaken in favor of all those who suffered without any adverse distinction; and non-coercive, based on the consent of all the parties concerned.  Were this perception to be altered by blurring of the distinction between humanitarian action on the one hand and political initiatives and military operations on the other, the consequence could be greatly impeded access to victims and high security risks for humanitarian workers.  As a result, humanitarian organizations would be considerably less capable of alleviating the suffering of men, women and children.  

ENCHO GOSPODINOV, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said coordination was primarily about partnership -– among agencies and between agencies and individual governments -– whether in countries where activities were carried out, or in those who provided resources, and not least, between agencies and their beneficiaries.  Such partnerships were important for a number of reasons.  In the first place, the needs of the people were multifaceted and changed over time.  There was no single agency that could cover them all at all times.  It was not only a question of resources, but of requirement of all humanitarian agencies to focus on that which they did best and not venture into activities which they were less well equipped. 

It was in that context that the notion of better and more strategic partnerships between agencies as the basis for coordination was so important, he said.  Coordination included the exchange of information and analysis, the common understanding of the situation and the voluntary allocation of roles and responsibilities based on mutual understanding and respect among all actors.

Afghanistan supplied an example of the need to coordinate humanitarian and development work, he said.  Much ink had been used already to describe the need for post-conflict rehabilitation and re-construction after the current military confrontation was over, and hopefully, stability had returned to the country.  He believed that the ability of the Afghan Red Crescent Society to continue to build its presence and its activities at the local level was evidence of the resilience of Afghan communities and their dedication to creating a better future. 

Action on drafts

The Assembly took up the draft resolutions on emergency assistance for peace, normalcy and rehabilitation.

The Assembly was informed that Czech Republic, Cambodia, El Salvador, Greece, India, Ireland, Republic of Moldova, Syria, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Bangladesh had joined as co-sponsors of draft resolution A/56/L.15, on emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and rehabilitation in Tajikistan.  The draft was adopted without a vote.

The Assembly was further informed that Cambodia, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Madagascar and Saint Lucia had joined as co-sponsors of draft resolution A/56/L.16 on emergency assistance to Belize, which was also adopted without a vote.

Right of Reply

DAVID GOVRIN (Israel), in right of reply, said the Palestinian Observer had once again demonstrated his unwillingness to forgo an opportunity to attack his country.  Israel was not punishing the Palestinian people by its security measures.  It regretted the current difficult situation of the Palestinian people, which was, however, linked to the choice of Palestinians to continue violence and terrorism.  That violence and terrorism had forced the Israeli Government to continue such security measures.  The need for that as was demonstrated once again this morning, when Palestinian gunmen had opened fire in a market in Afula.

He said the failure of the Palestinian leadership to combat violence and terrorism in its own ranks was the reason for Israeli security actions.  They were not punitive actions.  Those who perpetrated such behaviour were responsible for the hardship of the Palestinian people.  Israel tried to make sure that its measures would inflict minimum inconvenience on the Palestinian people.  It was the continuing Palestinian incitement that forced Israel to focus on protecting the fundamental rights of the Israel civilians, first and foremost the right to live.

Mr. JILANI, Observer for Palestine, in response, said the Israeli representative’s assessment of what had taken place was completely different from that reported by specialized organs of the United Nations, as well as international organizations concerned with human rights.  There were many reports of Israelis aiming at unarmed Palestinians at checkpoints, uprooting fruit trees and blocking and destroying roads.

Israel had made reference to attacks by Palestinian extremists today; the Government of Israel was responsible for that action, which Palestine had warned it about.  That action was in response to the Israeli assassination of Palestinians, which came only two days after the occupying force had committed the heinous crime of killing five Palestinian students.  All were unnecessary and unwarranted acts at the security or other levels.  The only justification was the insistence by Mr. Sharon on destroying all possibility of resuming the peace process.  Such a policy was condemned by the entire international community.

If the Israeli Government had a true intention to resume negotiations, the road was clear.  Israel had only to declare its commitment to immediately implement the recommendations of the Mitchell Commission.

Assembly Work Programme

The Assembly was then informed that other draft resolutions related to the subject under discussion –- United Nations humanitarian and disaster relief assistance -- would be submitted at a later date.

Sub-item (f), entitled “Emergency international assistance for peace, normalcy and reconstruction of war-stricken Afghanistan”, would also be considered at a later date, together with agenda item 43, “The situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security”.

Oceans and the Law of the Sea:  Introduction of Drafts

MARCEL BIATO (Brazil), introducing draft resolution A/56/L.17 on oceans and the law of the sea, said that Barbados, Canada, Cyprus, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kenya, Luxembourg, Micronesia, Netherlands, Spain, Tonga, Saint Lucia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea and the Bahamas had joined as co-sponsors of the draft.

He said the draft and today’s debate were an expression of the Assembly’s commitment to issues relating to oceans and the law of the sea.  Many elements had benefited from the outcome of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, held over the last two years.  The draft was the result of a largely consensual negotiating process that reflected the broad-based acceptance of the contribution of the Law of the Sea Convention to the rule of law.  It was a contribution that went beyond the confines of ocean affairs.

He said his country’s views would be reflected in the statement of Chile on behalf of the Rio Group.  There was a growing understanding that problems of the oceans and the seas were interrelated and required a holistic approach.  The adoption of the UNESCO Convention as well as the entry into force shortly of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement were positive trends and both instruments would strike a fair balance between the different and often competing interests involved.

He said capacity-building and the transfer of up-to-date technological resources were crucial to the establishment of comprehensive national programmes in the field of marine science and technology.  It was essential that existing regional and global mechanisms be put to action in fostering international cooperation in that field.  There was a need to revitalize existing programmes and coordinating mechanisms such as the Global Ocean Observing System and the Global International Water Assessment.

He said he valued highly the work of the International Seabed Authority.  The recent issuance of contracts for prospecting and exploration of polymetallic nodules opened a new chapter in the sustainable development of ocean resources. Given the lack of experience and the relative paucity of information about the deep ocean, continued consideration of issues relating to the elaboration of regulations for activities like exploration of polymetallic sulphides and cobalt rich crusts should be guided by a general adherence to the precautionary principle.

SICHAN SIV (United States), introducing draft resolution A/56/L.18, announced that it had been cosponsored by Greece, Netherlands, Samoa, Saint Lucia, Nauru and Bahamas.  He was pleased that the Agreement on Straddling Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks was about to enter into force.  That Agreement was essential in protecting fish stocks, so they could provide food security and economic development today and for future generations.  A second element of the system of global instruments promoting sustainable fisheries was the recently adopted Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) International Plan of Action to deter, prevent and eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

The informal consultative process on oceans and the Law of the Sea had provided a valuable forum for nations to move forward on matters relating to the oceans and seas that required improved coordination, he said.  The issues discussed last Spring -– marine science and combating piracy -– were matters of considerable interest and concern to the United States.  A few months later, a U.S. scientific research vessel was attacked off the coast of Somalia, illustrating the threat that piracy posed to marine scientific research and other activities at sea.

Marine science also had important international ramifications, he continued. Oceanographic and other marine studies often required access to the exclusive economic zones of other countries.  The Law of the Sea Convention established a framework for marine scientific research to ensure that coastal States received the benefits of research conducted in those zones.


BAGHER ASADI (Iran), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said sustainable development of the oceans and seas and their resources meant addressing the needs of developing countries, particularly through the transfer of environmentally sound technology and capacity building.  The serious inadequacy or outright lack of technical, financial, technological and institutional capacity in developing countries to effectively tackle threats to the ecology of oceans and seas were among the main problems they faced.  Those countries also lacked or had insufficient access to marine scientific research.

Iran considered several factors necessary to effectively preserve and protect oceans and seas, he said.  Those included strengthening coordination at the international and interagency level to avoid duplication, as well as strengthening the regional organizations of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Seas Programme through further cooperation among relevant international organizations.  It was also important to establish centres to disseminate information on marine scientific research and technology, and to provide financing for relevant capacity-building projects in developing countries, including coastal cities waste management and recycling projects.

OLE PETER KOLBY (Norway) said the Assembly would review the effectiveness of the consultative process at its next session.  That issue must be seen in the broader context of a better organization of the Assembly, and he considered the possibility of referring the item to one of the main committees.  He said establishment of a Special Committee on Oceans and Law of the Sea might also be considered.  Since the entry into force of the sea law Convention, the establishment of the institutions created under the Convention had been the main challenge.  Focus should now be put on the implementation of provisions relating to protection and preservation of the marine environment, to marine scientific research and to development and transfer or marine technology.

He said the degradation of the marine environment continued to be of great concern.  Pollution through land-based activities should be advanced through the implementation of the Global Programme of Action of UNEP for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities.  His country had for many years advocated the strengthening of international regulations on transport of radioactive material by sea, as well as stronger liability rules.  The work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was of vital importance.

To understand and properly exploit the vast underwater resources, he said, the application of marine scientific knowledge and technology was of vital importance.  It was essential to ensure the acquisition, generation and transfer of marine scientific data to assist coastal developing States so that they might be able to fulfil their obligations under the sea law Conventions.

He referred to a maritime incident, which occurred on 26 August this year.  The Norwegian vessel MS Tampa had engaged, at the request of Australian authorities, in a rescue operation that saved the lives of some 450 persons.  But it was denied access to territorial waters and harbour to deliver survivors to a place of safety, even though she was no longer seaworthy.  He feared that the incident might erect a most unwelcome obstacle to prevent those at sea from being rescued.

While significant work had been done towards sustainable fisheries management, unauthorized and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing continued to be a serious problem, both in zones of national jurisdiction and on the high seas.  Developing nations and small island developing States, lacking surveillance and enforcement capacity, were most harshly affected.  The FAO and other specialized agencies involved would depend on the support of Member States, in terms of donor contributions and otherwise, for the effective continuation of efforts to address those issues on a practical level.

VINCI N. CLODUMAR (Nauru), speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said the development of the oceans provided the basis for development in his region, and the protection of its resources and environment protected the health of the region and its people.  His region was therefore gravely conscious of its role as a custodian of ocean spaces and the particular rights and responsibilities it had over the areas of the exclusive economic zones, which amounted to more than 30 million square kilometers of ocean space.  The oceans and seas continued to be polluted, over-fished, and over-exploited, and his region continued to deplore that destruction and degradation.

Although the very word ‘pirate’ might conjure up visions of times past, the problem remained very real today, particularly in the broader Asia-Pacific region, he said.  There was no doubt that combating piracy required cooperation on all levels and among all relevant actors.  The solution to piracy was found not only in traditional concepts of jurisdiction, but also in technical coordination among law enforcement agencies, and in cooperation among all relevant parties, including business and other actors.  It was important to find a modern solution to that ancient crime.

The issue of marine scientific research, although it might not represent such a threat to the safety of the oceans, also required a cooperative approach, he stated.  The countries of the Pacific Island Forum group welcomed such an approach to develop their capacity and enhance their knowledge of the oceans and seas.  The consent regime established under the Convention provided a balance between the interests of coastal States and the broader public interest in improving knowledge and understanding of how the oceans operated. 

He stressed that more and more fishing was conducted illegally, or in an unregulated way, or remained unreported.  Such activity amounted, in some cases, to the theft of the resources of coastal States.  It defeated cooperative efforts to manage fish stocks in a sustainable manner.

JACQUES BOISSON (Monaco) said he was pleased at the adoption by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization of an international action plan to fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.  The protection of the marine environment, its conservation and food safety were priorities for the international community.

Last September, Monaco had hosted the thirty-sixth Congress of International Commission for the Conservation of the Mediterranean.  Member countries attending provided the authorities with essential information for formulation of policies to protect the marine environment, he said.  At the Congress, 550 researchers from all of the countries of the Mediterranean basin as well as North America discussed spatial cartography and the invasion of species into the Mediterranean Sea, among other topics.

The second meeting of parties to the Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea against Pollution (the Barcelona Convention) was held in Monaco in November, preceded by a meeting of the Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development, he continued.  Those meetings focused on progress made in improving the Mediterranean environment, and the importance of integrating environmental concerns in policies for sustainable development.  Progress had been made with respect to urban pollution.  Some 55 per cent of coastal towns already had wastewater plans, but the situation affecting small and medium-sized industries was still a problem, due to the high population density and increase in tourism.

NARINDER SINGH (India) said that it was a matter of serious concern that efforts to improve the conservation and management of the world's fisheries had been confronted by the increase in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities on the high seas.  This was in contravention of conservation and management measures adopted by regional fisheries organizations and arrangements, and in areas under national jurisdiction in violation of the sovereign rights of States to conserve and manage their marine resources. 

A better understanding of the oceans through application of marine science and technology, and a more effective interface between scientific knowledge and decision-making, were central to the sustainable use and management of the oceans. Marine scientific research could lead to a better understanding and utilization of almost every aspect of the ocean and its resources, including fisheries, marine pollution and coastal zone management.  Accordingly, it was vital that developing countries had access to and shared in the benefits of scientific knowledge on the oceans.

The increasing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships represented a serious threat to the lives of seafarers, the safety of navigation, the marine environment, and the security of coastal States, as well as impacting negatively

on the entire maritime transport industry, leading to higher costs and even suspension of shipping services to high risk areas.

He said India fully supported the efforts of the International Maritime Organization in this area.  The main problem areas included resource constraints, lack of communication and cooperation between the agencies involved in this area, and lack of regional cooperation.  Those needed to be urgently addressed by giving higher national and international priority to eradicating such crimes.

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For information media. Not an official record.