Law of Sea States Parties Fill One More Seat on Continental Shelf Commission, as Work Continues to Hammer out Budget for International Tribunal

7 June 2012

Law of Sea States Parties Fill One More Seat on Continental Shelf Commission, as Work Continues to Hammer out Budget for International Tribunal

7 June 2012
Meetings Coverage
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Meeting of States Parties

to Law of Sea Convention

155th & 156th Meetings (AM & PM)

Law of Sea States Parties Fill One More Seat on Continental Shelf Commission,

as Work Continues to Hammer out Budget for International Tribunal


Concluding a protracted voting process, States parties to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea today elected Muhammad Arshad of Pakistan as a member of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf following eight rounds of voting that took place over two days.

The election of Mr. Arshad fills the twentieth seat of the 21-seat Commission, mandated to make recommendations to coastal States on matters related to their outermost limits.  A final seat remains vacant — to be filled from the Group of Eastern European States.  It was postponed until later this year.

In line with the terms of the landmark 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Commission consists of experts in the fields of geology, geophysics or hydrography.  They are elected to five-year terms, meaning that the terms of those elected this week would begin on 16 June 2012 and end on 15 June 2017.

In accordance with the rules of procedure, the members elected should represent an agreed-upon geographic distribution, with no fewer than three members of the Commission elected from each geographic region.  Members are elected by secret ballot, with those elected receiving a majority of two thirds of the votes of those present and voting.  A list of nominations and their curricula vitae were circulated in documents SPLOS/239 and SPLOS/240, respectively.

Today’s balloting, which started yesterday, ended after Spain withdrew the candidacy of Luis Somoza Lozada for the seat and Mr. Arshad obtained the support of the required two-thirds majority of the States parties present and voting, with a total of 139 votes.

Three inconclusive rounds of voting had been held yesterday, with a total of four candidates participating in the first round.  According to the rules of procedure, where the first round of voting is inconclusive, the subsequent three rounds would be restricted to the two candidates who received the highest votes in the first round.  Thereafter, the next three rounds would be open to all the candidates but the three rounds thereafter would again be restricted.

Today’s first round of voting, and the fourth round since the voting began yesterday, was also inconclusive, forcing the meeting to go back to unrestricted voting in the next round.

That new round was, again, inconclusive as no candidate scored the required majority.  The representative of Viet Nam subsequently announced the withdrawal of the candidate from his country from the elections.

Two further rounds of unrestricted voting were held with no candidate receiving the required majority, forcing the meeting to revert to restricted voting, again with Mr. Arshad and Mr. Lozada as the candidates.

At this point, however, the representative of Spain announced the withdrawal of Mr. Lozada from the race, leaving Mr. Arshad as the sole candidate for that final round, during which he then received 139 votes.

Following the election, the representative of Pakistan expressed gratitude to the States parties for their support for Mr. Arshad.  He thanked the delegations of Spain and Viet Nam for the constructive spirit they had exhibited in the elections and said that Mr. Arshad would prove worthy of the confidence that had been entrusted in him.

The observer for Palestine congratulated the candidates that had been elected to the Commission and thanked the Secretariat for its work.

The representative of Israel then took the floor to lodge a complaint, which he said he had previously made regarding his country’s objection to the manner in which the Palestinian delegation had been seated at the meeting.  The treatment being accorded that delegation brought about no real or meaningful changes on the ground and was an effort to hijack the work of the States parties.  The only way to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was through direct negotiations, without preconditions or shortcuts, he said.

Meeting President ISABELLE PICCO of Monaco noted that with today’s vote the States parties had elected 20 of the 21 members of the Commission.  She congratulated all the elected members and requested the concerned Permanent Missions to the United Nations to communicate the contact details of the new members to the Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.

With regard to the election to fill the remaining seat, allotted to the Group of Eastern European States, she announced that the meeting had decided to request the Secretary-General to open a three-month period for nominations and to convene a meeting of States parties for the election of that member who would then serve from the date of the election until 15 June 2017.

The representative of the European Union made a statement on procedures.

The States parties met in informal discussions on budgetary matters for most of the afternoon, resuming in plenary at approximately 5 p.m.

PALITHA KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) said that the working group on budgetary matters had held wide-ranging discussions on the budget proposed by the Registrar of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, 2013-2014, but had not reached agreement.  The group was nowhere near reaching an agreement either on the budget or on the proposals made by the European Union, or on the non-paper presented by the United Kingdom.  Under those circumstances, he proposed that delegations be given more time to discuss the budget and, hopefully, arrive at a common position.

The representative of Argentina said that the proposal to continue in informal discussions should be considered if it was agreed that no budget cut would be forthcoming on the judicial operations of the Tribunal.  If that was agreed, then his delegation would go along with the proposal, but if not, there would be no sense in putting together a group on budgetary affairs.

The representative of the European Union delegation said that he agreed the work could proceed in the informal working group, but he could not agree to take a position that would prejudice the discussion as was proposed.  The European Union could not accept such limits in advance.

The representative of Trinidad and Tobago said that proposals needed to be supported with an argument.  The European Union had not put forward a cogent argument to support the proposal contained in its paper.  He hoped that it would do a better job and come back with an argument.

The representative of Canada agreed with the statement made by the representative of the European Union.

The representative of Guatemala asked for clarification about the Japanese proposal.

The representative of Brazil reiterated that the documents presented by the Registrar were very fair and that all the necessary financial control systems were in place.  He did not see any reason to continue with the debates on the budget without very serious reason.  States parties should not waste time, since they had been reiterating their support for the work of the Tribunal and its continued improvement with the new cases.  Since all States parties received back the surpluses from the Tribunal, the delegate did not see why the European Union continued to insist on its proposal.  He urged it to reconsider its position.

The representative of Argentina said that if the European Union wanted to keep the discussion open with all issues under consideration, the place for that was the plenary.   Argentina could not join any consensus to leave the plenary for further discussion on the topic.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that he had been optimistic and had expected a clarification from the sponsors of the proposals at the informal discussions but now found himself in more complexity.  His delegation had not received a real basis that would have been convincing for accepting the proposal.  The informal discussions had not proved to be useful, so the discussion should take place in plenary.

The representative of European Union said that the States parties were not wasting time but were engaged in serious deliberation.  The meeting should not be made a rubber stamp.  The Union still felt that more progress could be made in an informal setting.  It was not acceptable that only one side should be asked to reconsider its position.  The Union hoped to come back tomorrow in the informal group and to answer many of the questions that had been raised in detail.

The representative of Japan noted that the working group had met for less than two hours, but said that it had made some progress.  The States parties should continue to exert themselves to reach a conclusion.   Japan was ready to continue in the informal setting.

The representative of Haiti expressed support for the Registrar and said that the information he had provided had been very thorough.   Haiti did not see why a minority of States parties would insist on modifying the proposed budget.  It agreed with the Brazilian delegation that no more time should be wasted.

The representative of Lebanon said that she had been convinced by the Registrar’s proposal.  She found the Japanese proposal to be sound, but saw it as a counter to the European Union proposal. Lebanon remained committed to the process and hoped that agreement could be found on the matter.

Meeting President PICCO ( Monaco) said that the Bureau would meet and see what the best path to take would be.

The representative of Brazil added that the issue of spending more time on the matter might not be as important as other matters.  He did not understand why the specific cuts were being proposed.  The amounts that were being cut, if divided by States parties, would be very small.  That was why he did not understand why the cuts had been proposed. Some delegations had linked the proposal to the lack of a financial committee for the Tribunal, but that matter had been mentioned previously and there had been no agreement.  Thus, there was no need to spend more time reopening those issues.

The representative of the United Kingdom said that her country had distributed a non-paper, but that paper had not been part of the discussion.  She hoped that she would have the chance to introduce it.  Her country stood ready to continue discussions to seek a compromise on the budget.

The representative of Guatemala noted that the States parties were very close on the budget, at about €20 million.  There had been surpluses and it was required that those be returned; it would be illegal not to return them.

The States parties would meet again at 10 a.m. Friday, 8 June, to continue their work.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.