9 December 2013

‘Moral and Political Failure’ to Leave Oceans Unprotected, Speaker Tells General Assembly, as It Adopts Two Broad-Based Resolutions on Topic

9 December 2013
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly


62nd & 63rd Meetings (AM & PM)

‘Moral and Political Failure’ to Leave Oceans Unprotected, Speaker Tells General

Assembly, as it Adopts Two Broad-Based Resolutions on Topic


Decision Taken on Commemorating Anniversary of Human Rights Declaration

It was urgent for the world to come together to sustainably safeguard the health of its oceans, which covered two thirds of the Earth’s surface, connected 90 per cent of the population, provided 350 million jobs, and had 1 billion people in developing countries dependent on the fish those waters yielded, delegates in the General Assembly heard today prior to adopting two related draft resolutions.

The Assembly also unanimously adopted a draft decision on commemorating the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights before beginning its day-long debate on the world’s major water bodies. 

A 48-page draft resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, adopted by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 1 against (Turkey), with 2 abstentions (Colombia, Venezuela), addressed pressing issues, including transnational organized crime, maritime safety and marine biodiversity.  By the text, the Assembly called for capacity-building initiatives to take into account the needs of developing countries and upon States to harmonize their national legislation with the provisions of the Convention on Oceans and the Law of the Sea.

Adopting a draft text on sustainable fisheries without a vote, the Assembly urged States, individually and through relevant regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements, to establish mandatory vessel monitoring, control and surveillance systems.  The 32-page text containing 180 operative paragraphs recognized, for the first time, the need to tackle the causes of ocean acidification and to implement strategies to minimize its impact.

Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, the representative of the Marshall Islands, said oceans, seas and fisheries must be given priority on the sustainable development post-2015 agenda because leaving the majority of the Earth’s surface unprotected was a moral and political failure.

Similarly, Jamaica’s speaker, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that with rising global temperatures and dwindling fish stocks putting oceans more at risk than at any other time in history, it was a global responsibility to ensure the sustainable development of the planet’s major bodies of water.

The representative of the Maldives, noting his economy’s dependence on coastal and maritime ecosystems, urged the international community to implement global instruments requiring fish to be harvested sustainably in line with an ecosystem-based approach.  Asking whether the international community could afford regression in such critical areas as overfishing, climate change and sustainable development, he said “we have only borrowed the world from our children”.

Many delegates heartily supported the 1994 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as defining the rights and responsibilities of nations in their use of the world's oceans.  A representative of the Philippines said the combined 80 pages of the two drafts represented the most comprehensive view of the pressing matters at hand and he reiterated a call to all States to ratify the Convention and to settle any differences to allow the world to fulfil its obligations.

Nevertheless, some speakers expressed reservations about parts of the drafts, including the representative of Turkey, who said his delegation had opposed the resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea because the Convention had failed to provide sufficient safeguards for special geographical situations.  Nor did it consider conflicting interests stemming from special circumstances, and it prohibited States from registering reservations to any of its articles.

An observer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources expressed deep concern about the “retreat” from transparency and open debate reflected in the exclusion of civil society from working group meetings.  “It is critical that civil society have a voice in ensuring that the interests of both State and non-State actors are heard,” she said.

Also addressing the Assembly were Shunji Yanai, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and Nii Allotey Odunton, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority. 

Statements were also delivered by representatives of New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, the European Union Delegation, Norway, Nauru, Iceland, Argentina, Mexico, Ukraine, Monaco, Japan, El Salvador, Singapore, Viet Nam, India, United States, Palau, China, Cuba, Netherlands, Honduras, Kiribati, and Venezuela.

The General Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 10 December for a commemorative meeting to mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The General Assembly met this morning to consider a draft decision on the Promotion and protection of human rights (document A/68/L.23).

It would also consider its agenda item on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, for which it had before it the following documents: Reports of the Secretary-General (document A/68/71 and Add.1), Report on the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole (document A/68/82) and the Report on the work of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process (document A/68/159)

Action on Text

The General Assembly adopted, without a vote, a draft decision on the Commemoration of the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, determining that it would hold a commemorative plenary meeting on 10 December on that occasion.

Law of the Sea

The Assembly then turned to its agenda item on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, which included sub-items on sustainable fisheries.

JIM MACLAY ( New Zealand) introduced the draft resolution on Sustainable Fisheries (document A/68/L.19) and highlighted main points.  The draft text addressed important issues such as the conservation and management of sharks, the global ban on all large-scale pelagic draft-net fishing and efforts to assess and mitigate the by-catch of non-target species.  For the first time, the text also recognized the need to tackle the causes of ocean acidification and to implement strategies to minimize its impact on marine ecosystems.

Further, the draft text considered several key outcomes from other forums, among them, the Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.  Among its other provisions, the text called on States to initiate work, within the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to elaborate guidelines and relevant criteria relating to catch documentation schemes and traceability, including possible formats.

EDEN CHARLES (Trinidad and Tobago) introduced the draft on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (document A/68/L.18, saying the text contained elements necessary for managing, preserving and sustainably using ocean and sea resources as well as guidelines for States towards that end.  It also had language on several aspects of “The Future We Want” outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference, among them, matters concerning the health of oceans and marine biodiversity.  The 48-page text was comprehensive in character and scope, and took into account States’ obligations under the Convention on the Law of the Sea concerning the peaceful settlement of disputes, the work of treaty bodies established under that instrument, maritime safety and security, and marine science, among other issues. 

He said that the text’s operative paragraph 40 had been agreed with the understanding that five days would be allocated to the 2014 Meeting of States Parties to the Convention, instead of the usual practice of allocating more than five days in election years.  He was pleased that delegations had agreed on language relating to improving the conditions of service of Members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, following establishment of a working group on that subject at the last Meeting of States Parties; agreement on the role of seafood in global food security as the topic for discussion at the 2014 Meeting of the Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea; as well as agreement on the Terms of Reference for UN Oceans, the inter-agency mechanism for enhancing coordination and effectiveness.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), expressed concern over the damaging impact of climate change and ocean acidification due to the spike in greenhouse gas emissions, which led to coral bleaching, increase in invasive species and other negative effects of anthropogenic activities.  “As the global temperature rises and fish stocks dwindle, further threatening livelihoods and food security, it is clear that oceans are now more at risk than ever before,” he said, encouraging national, regional and global action to mitigate climate change’s impact, particularly on small island developing States.  The political momentum created at the Rio+20 Conference must be maintained in the post-2015 development agenda; sustainable use of resources of oceans and the seas must be part of the discourse.

He said that the Caribbean Community’s priority areas of action for the forthcoming Third Small Island Developing States Conference were marine biodiversity protection and preservation, management of coral reefs and associated ecosystems, and strengthening of sustainable, responsible fisheries management mechanisms.  He called on the international community to support the work of the Caribbean Sea Commission to advance the designation of the Caribbean Sea as a special area in connection with sustainable development.  He welcomed the decision in the text before the Assembly to task the Ad-hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study conservation and the sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.  By 2014, CARICOM Heads of Government were expected to adopt a common fisheries policy.  The International Seabed Authority’s workshops aimed at giving effect to article 82 of the Law of the Sea Convention deserved support.  

EGLANTINE CUJO, representative of the European Union Delegation, welcomed the text’s focus on the declining quality of the marine environment and the continued loss of marine biodiversity.  Its focus on piracy and armed robbery was also welcome.  He expressed serious concern the increase in the number of attacks on ships in the Gulf of Guinea and he supported steps to address it.  He noted with alarm the growing evidence of the harmful effects of marine litter, especially micro-plastics, on wildlife and habitats and on marine biodiversity and the environment.  He strongly supported the Assembly’s concerns over its impact on human health and safety, ecosystem services and sustainable livelihoods.   He fully supported the call to tackle the causes and impact of ocean acidification and to improve the resilience of marine ecosystems.   He was pleased that the text had given great importance to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. 

He expressed concern, however, over the continued unethical practice of shark finning and disappointed that the Assembly had not sent a stronger message to prevent and deter it.  He was also disappointed over the lack of stronger language on marine-protected areas for fishery purposes, noting that the agreed target of achieving 10 per cent coverage of the oceans by 2020 remained out of reach. 

GEIR O. PEDERSEN ( Norway) said healthy marine ecosystems and sustainable and responsible marine management were of vital importance if oceans were to remain a food source. It was vital that the international community seek to sustain healthy marine ecosystems, whose “living resources” could provide food and income for present and future generations.  Norway supported measures to strengthen sustainable fisheries management and actions to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from destructive fishing practices.  The fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing was crucial for safeguarding the world’s stocks.  Norway recognized that, in some cases, there was a link between illegal fishing and transnational organised crime.  It was committed to the protection and sustainable use of marine resources, inside, as well as outside national jurisdiction.  Clear maritime boundaries were essential for identifying each State’s rights and obligations under Sea Law. 

HASSAN HUSSAIN SHIHAB (Maldives), noting his economy’s dependence on coastal and maritime ecosystems, asked the international community to implement global instruments requiring fish to be harvested sustainably in line with an ecosystem-based approach.  He welcomed the recent attention devoted to marine debris, including plastic, and the initiatives to address its environmental impacts.  On CO2 emissions, he said that they had led to ocean acidification, hampering the ability of calciferous marine organisms to develop their shells and skeletons, including coral reefs, which were the foundation of the country’s tourism and fisheries industries.  Asking whether the international community could afford the danger of regression in such critical areas as overfishing, climate change and sustainable development, he said “we have only borrowed the world from our children”.

AMATLAIN KABUA (Marshall Islands), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, said there were serious shortfalls in the health of the world’s oceans.  It was a moral and political failure to leave the majority of the Earth’s surface unprotected.  Oceans, seas and fisheries must be given priority in the post-2015 development agenda.  The Pacific region was leading in action but could not succeed without partners, she said, inviting countries to join its efforts and telling those that could not follow to not stand in the way.

She said that food security was a pressing issue, as some stock was perched on the edge of extinction.  The coming International Conference on Small Island Developing States would highlight some of those issues, however, she was concerned about commitments that were not durable or genuine.  Forum members had issued a call at Rio+20 for sustainably managed fisheries, and she hoped those efforts and others would result in more than just handshakes.  The Forum welcomed the global attention paid to ocean acidification, which had already impacted the coral ecosystems in many countries, and to shark management.  Given the current realities, it was increasingly urgent need to address such pressing issues.

MARGO R. DEIYE ( Nauru), associating herself with the Pacific Islands Forum, said that island nations had a unique dependence on oceans.  The sustainable use of marine resources was a key tool for eradicating poverty for present and future generations.  But those resources must be protected beyond national jurisdictions, given the factors threatening oceans’ health, including acidification and over-fishing.  Her country was pleased with the text on shark management, but more needed to be done, including addressing depleted tuna stocks and imposing limits on fishing vessels.  She urged parties to the Nauru Agreement to honour their commitments.  Among the biggest problems were the information needs of fisheries; national and international efforts could help to correct that.  Also crucial was the creation of a legal regime on marine biodiversity beyond national borders.

TOMAS H. HEIDAR ( Iceland ) said that the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction was an extremely broad issue, making it imperative to define the scope of a possible implementing agreement before a decision was taken on its development.  Focus should be on benefits sharing with regard to the exploitation of marine genetic resources on the seabed beyond national jurisdiction.  The Convention did not mention such living resources because their existence in the deep seabed, far from any sunlight, had not been known when the Convention had been drafted.  Today, living marine genetic resources were considered even more valuable than non-living mineral resources.  The scope of a possible new instrument should not include fisheries, however, as those were already subjected to a sufficient international legal regime.

Turning to sustainable development goals for the post-2015 development agenda, he said Iceland would focus on renewable energy, land restoration, gender, and oceans.  In negotiating goals on the oceans, his Government emphasized three issues: sustainable fisheries management, stronger pollution control, and capacity-building.  Targets developed since the 1992 World Summit in Rio provided a sound basis, and the focus should be on implementing already agreed commitments.

MARCO ESTREME ( Argentina) said that the Convention’s delicate balance of rights and obligations must be preserved.  On the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries, the speaker reiterated the need not to step aside from the rule of all law of the sea negotiations, inherited from the Convention, of proceeding by consensus.  Conservation and management of marine resources was under the exclusive power of coastal States, which had the responsibility of adopting the necessary measures.  He reiterated concern over the attempts by regional fisheries management organizations to adopt measures beyond their scope of application. Argentina objected that General Assembly resolutions could be thus interpreted in a way that enabled those organizations to presuppose some kind of claim of authority over vessels flying the flag of countries that were neither members of their groups nor had consented to such measures.  That would contradict one of the basic norms of treaty law.

RICARDO ALDAY ( Mexico) hailed the Tribunal’s June workshop on its role in settling rule of the sea disputes in the Caribbean region, in collaboration with his/her Government and the Association of Caribbean States, and the Seabed Authority’s mid-November workshop on deep seabed mining opportunities, both held in Mexico City.  The Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process should not repeat themes already discussed during past sessions, such as illegal fishing or the contribution of fishing to sustainable development.  The decision in the draft to allocate five days to the 2014 Meeting of States Parties to the Convention was exceptional and should not be considered as precedent for forthcoming resolutions.  He lauded the last Meeting of States Parties for its consideration of ocean acidification and called for increased attention to that matter under the list of urgent marine environment concerns.  He welcomed the draft’s invitation to the Seabed Authority to consider developing and approving environmental management plans in international seabed area zones similar to the plan for the Clarion-Clipperton zone.  Mexico was an active promoter of steps to monitor fish aggregating devices.  Additionally, it had set up a legal framework for shark conservation.

YURIY SERGEYEV (Ukraine), associating with the European Union, welcomed initiatives aimed at reinforcing cooperation between Member States and relevant international bodies in developing national legislation on piracy.  The fight against piracy could not bring sustainable results without also combating impunity and bringing to justice the perpetrators.  Applauding the decrease in the number of attacks in the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and in South America, he noted that new challenges to maritime safety and security were emerging.  He, thus, welcomed the discussions on initiatives regarding the use of privately contracted armed security personnel on board commercial vessels.  In closing, he said the impacts of piracy should be addressed, especially with regard to its victims.

ISABELLE PICCO ( Monaco) said acidification threatened to hamper sustainable development efforts in many States in the face extreme weather caused by climate change.  Underlining other elements of the draft text on oceans and law of the sea, she said global attention and cooperation were needed to tackle, among other things, challenges posed by illegal fishing and piracy.  It also was essential to include oceans and seas on the post-2015 development agenda, she said, emphasizing the importance of the Convention and recognition of the intrinsic link between life on Earth and the health of its oceans and seas.  For its part, Monaco had, among other things, made efforts through the “OptimaPac” project on channelling thermal marine energy and it had participated in regional meetings.

HIROSHI ISHIKAWA ( Japan) stressed the importance of the text’s adoption.  He welcomed Timor-Leste’s and Niger’s accession to the Convention.  Japan, the largest contributor to the Law of the Sea Tribunal’s budget, fully supported its work.  It had re-nominated current Tribunal President Shunji Yanai for the June 2014 election as a Tribunal member.  He welcomed the International Seabed Authority’s approval in July of a work plan for the exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crust by Japan Oil, Gas and Metal National Corporation.  Japan had supported the Authority’s activities; this year it had contributed $44,760 to its trust fund.  It had nominated a member to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and this year would give that body’s trust fund $352,100 to defray the cost of participation in its meetings by developing country members. 

Turning to piracy, he called for a multilayered approach, noting that Japan had been deploying destroyers and patrol aircraft to the Somali coast since 2009.  It also had helped to enhance maritime law enforcement capacity by disbursing $14.6 million to the International Maritime Organization’s Djibouti Code Trust Fund, and $3.5 million to the Trust Fund to Support the Initiative of States Countering Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.  Japan would further promote management of high seas bottom fishing by encouraging the early entry into force of arrangements concerning regional fisheries management organizations. 

EDUARDO DE VEGA ( Philippines) said that at a combined 80 pages, the two draft texts were the most comprehensive view of the matters at hand.  They had built on previous years and articulated the deepening concerns of human threats to marine biodiversity, the Rio+20 outcome document “The Future We Want”, and the impact of climate change, he said, expressing gratitude for the support of his country after the recent typhoon.  He anticipated the first draft of the state of the marine environment scheduled for the spring of 2014 as well as upcoming meetings to address related issues.  On the sustainable fisheries draft text, he reiterated his country’s concerns about over-fishing and illegal activities and noted that the text emphasized other areas of common concern, including shark management and industrial fishing of species low on the food chain.  Reiterating a call to ratify the Law of the Sea Convention, he asked States to resolve differences so the world could fulfil its obligations.

ELIZABETH VILLALTA (El Salvador) recalled the proposal of the country’s President to set up a regime for sustainably developing the Gulf of Fonseca, which had led to the 2007 Declaration of Managua-Gulf of Fonseca, ratified in 2012 by the Presidents of El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.  A tri-national commission had been established to maintain the Gulf as a zone of peace; sustainable development and security had focused on marine environment protection, sustainable tourism development, socio-economic development in the three signatory nations, and port infrastructure.  El Salvador had always complied with international rulings related to the Gulf.  In the spirit of the Managua Declaration, numerous projects had been proposed to capitalize on the area’s potential, as well as the economic development of the Gulf through the creation of a ferry system, shipyards and future tax-free zones at border areas.  Further, proposals were set forth for a marine museum and a tri-national marine research centre.  She hoped that the Gulf would be declared a Ramsar protected area and a biosphere reserve under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s programme.

KAREN TAN ( Singapore) said that the world’s oceans and seas, and their biodiversity, were facing challenges as they struggled to cope with issues such as ocean acidification and marine debris.  To that end, it was crucial to not lose sight of the principles, rights and duties enshrined in the Convention.  Its principles and provisions must not be applied selectively, in a way that emphasized certain aspects while underplaying others.  While focus on technical, scientific and environmental aspects was laudable, it should not be at the expense of the treaty’s other aspects.  As a small island nation, trade for Singapore was “our economic lifeblood”, she said, noting that 90 per cent of it was carried by sea, with half passing through the Straits of Malacca and Singapore.  Adherence to the Convention was crucial to the smooth flow of goods.

PHAM QUANG HIEU ( Viet Nam) pointed to his country’s effort to harmonize the provisions of the Law of the Sea Convention into national law.  As a country with a long coastline facing the South China Sea — or the Eastern Sea for the Vietnamese — Viet Nam was “entitled” to develop its maritime economy.  “We care so dearly” about maritime security, he stressed, calling for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the adoption of a code of conduct.  The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) held a common view on the need for a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea as instrumental to ensuring maritime peace and security. It would also provide a conducive environment for managing and resolving disputes on the basis of international law and Convention.

BHAGWAT SINGH BISHNOI ( India) said he appreciated the work of the Contact Group on Piracy of the Somali Coast in containing the phenomenon through international cooperation and coordination.  Yet India was very concerned about the incidents of piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea.  Though States in the region held the primary role in countering it, he supported cooperation by the international community and their efforts to end this menace.  Noting the valuable information contained in the various reports before the Assembly, the speaker said there was a need for a more comprehensive study on ocean acidification and for capacity building, including filling knowledge gaps and promoting technology transfer.  The smooth functioning of the institutions established by the Convention was crucial to ensuring that its provisions were carried out.  India supported all efforts in that regard, as a country with a vast coastline and many islands, and would cooperate fully to ensure the proper management and sustainable use of the oceans and seas.

TED STRICKLAND ( United States) said the annual Assembly resolutions on oceans and fisheries were important vehicles for identifying key marine-related issues and developing constructive ways to address them.  This year’s resolution laid out important developments in ocean acidification, including several new paragraphs detailing the importance of making significant efforts to tackle its causes and to minimize its impact, as well as to build resilience in marine ecosystems.  The United States also applauded the progress towards the publication of the “World Ocean Assessment”.  That groundbreaking work would be the first global integrated marine assessment, under the regular global reporting and assessment process, of the state of the marine environment, including its socio-economic aspects.

Regarding this year’s resolution on sustainable fisheries, he/she noted several key aspects related to food security, as well as the Assembly’s recognition of the need to better understand the human trafficking and forced labour activities associated with some fisheries.  Also notable was the text’s recognition of the successful implementation of the Assembly’s call two decades ago for a moratorium on large-scale drift nets on the high seas, owing to the non-discriminatory nature of that fishing method and its negative impact on non-targeted species.  The United States highlighted the moratorium’s successful implementation for the past 20 years by the North Pacific Anadromous Fish Commission and the subsequent reduction in the use of those nets on the high seas of the North Pacific Ocean.

AARON KORMAN ( Palau) said oceans covered two-thirds of the world’s surface, connected 90 per cent of its population, and provided 350 million jobs.  One billion people in developing countries were dependent on their fish.  Associating his country with the Pacific Island Forum, he said basic principles governing oceans and fisheries should be fair, accountable and sustainable.  His country was pleased to see new calls to protect sharks since they drove economic development; one live shark was worth up to $2 million to Palau’s tourism industry over the course of its lifetime.  He was anticipating more fulsome debate on the imperative of oceans to poverty eradication and economic opportunity. 

Expressing heartfelt condolences to the Philippines over Typhoon Haiyan, he said Palau’s northern island state of Kayangel had also been decimated at a time when the country was still recovering from the 1998 bleaching of 70 per cent of its corals, owing to drastic ocean temperature changes.  Acidification also was affecting livelihoods, he said, voicing great disappointment at the reluctance of nations to accept the recent proposal of loss and damage reparations and calling on all States to act now to reduce emissions that were causing climate change.

LIU JIEYI ( China) said his country appreciated the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf but in view of its growing workload, effective measures should be taken to improve working conditions.  He favoured activities undertaken by the International Seabed Authority, adding that the formulation of rules governing the exploitation of mineral resources should strike a balance between exploitation and environmental protection alongside the interest of developers and the international community.  While his country appreciated the role of the International Tribunal, it hoped it would take into full consideration the concerns of various parties and would deal with case number 21 cautiously to ensure the legitimacy and authority of its work. 

On a broader note, he said that since the high seas and the international seabed concerned the international community’s overall interest, it was important to properly handle marine biodiversity to ensure the maintenance of global maritime order.  On assessing the marine environment, China supported building the capacity of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea.  For its part, China had participated in the work of international fisheries organizations and was committed to strengthening conservation and resources management.

OSCAR LEON GONZÁLEZ ( Cuba) said it was important to uphold the Convention and its related activities.  Cuba had undertaken efforts at the national level aimed at protecting the environment, in line with the Convention.  Those included fighting illicit trafficking and piracy.  International cooperation should be strengthened to protect biodiversity.  He encouraged all States to ensure that the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf completed its work.  At the same time, some countries faced several urgent threats, including rising sea levels and effects of climate change, which also deserved attention.

MARCEL VAN DEN BOGAARD ( Netherlands), associating himself with the European Union, called on States to settle disputes peacefully.  He recognized the Tribunal’s important role in applying the law of sea.  Netherlands was the host State of the International Court of Justice.  The pursuit of peace and justice required the active participation of States, and over the years, the Netherlands had demonstrated its commitment to the rule of law.  The system of compulsory dispute settlements was a truly important innovation, and his country had full confidence in the quality of dispute settlement mechanisms.  In a world where issues concerning oceans were changing, it was vital to uphold the Convention and settle disputes peacefully.  

JOSE F. CORRALES ( Honduras) said all States must strive to improve sustainability of oceans and resources for mutual benefit.  Clear rules governed the Gulf of Fonseca, and there should be no obstacle to fraternal cooperation.  The tripartite committee concerning the Gulf must meet without further delay to consider pending matters for negotiation and uphold the rulings of the International Court of Justice.   The tripartite cooperation mechanism must ensure freedom of navigation, development of port infrastructure, and sustainable ecotourism development, among other things.  More than 21 years since the Court’s judgement regarding the dispute between El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, the ruling had not been implemented.  The United Nations, friendly States and other international organizations concerned about climate change must support the sustainable development in the Gulf of Fonseca.  That endeavour required technical and financial support.

MAKURITA BAARO(Kiribati), associating with the Pacific Islands Forum, said a major security challenge for her country was addressing climate change’s adverse impact on food security, the water supply and the ability to sustain life.  Proper use and management of oceans and marine resources was the only hope for sustainable development in such States.  Joining the Convention had given Kiribati hope of formal international recognition of its role as custodian as the oceans.  Kiribati had always strongly advocated the need for increased domestication of the fisheries industry.  Although its tuna fisheries were valued at $4 billion, Kiribati only derived some 10 per cent of the proceeds from them.  “Where is the equity and the fairness in this?” she asked.  The partnership between Kiribati and fishing nations must be shared and Kiribati’s goals to maximize the return on its resources must be recognized.  Kiribati had set up fish processing plants towards that goal, and urged partners to become more actively engaged. 

With the right support from development partners for marine resource processing and access to markets, Kiribati could sustainably develop its economic resources and zones, as well as reduce reliance on external aid, she said.  Kiribati had the largest marine protected conservation areas in the region; 11 per cent of its ocean cover was marine-protected.  It had set up a trust fund for reverse fishing license arrangements.  What future would people have in countries that submerged underwater?  In Kiribati, children were taught how to survive in a harsh environment.  She stressed the need to improve the situation for Kiribati and other countries facing the same predicament and to focus on those concerns in the post-development agenda and through South-South dialogue.  The challenge in the lead up to next year’s conference in Samoa on small island developing States was to think outside the box.

SHUNJI YANAI, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, reported on the court’s judicial activities since December 2012, noting that the Tribunal had discharged judicial functions with respect to four cases.  It had delivered a judgement on the merits and two orders on requests for provisional measures, and it had received a request for an advisory opinion under article 138 of its Rules.  On 15 December, the court delivered its unanimous Order in a dispute concerning Ghana’s detention of the Argentine warship ARA Libertad, adopting a provisional measure prescribing that Ghana release the frigate and ensure that it, its Commander and crew were able to leave the port of Tema and the maritime areas under Ghana’s jurisdiction.  The ship was released, and on 19 December 2012, it left that area. 

Concerning a case between Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Spain regarding the M/V “Louisa”, a vessel carrying the Saint Vincent flag and detained when docked in a Spanish port, he said the Tribunal concluded that no dispute concerning the interpretation of application of the Convention existed between the parties at the time the application was filed and found, therefore, by 19 votes in favour to 2 against, that it had no jurisdiction “ratione materiae” to entertain the case.  Regarding a case between the Netherlands and Russian Federation, the Tribunal prescribed that the latter should immediately release the Dutch “Arctic Sunrise” vessel and all persons detained upon the posting of a 3.6 million euro bond or other financial security by the Netherlands.

The Tribunal would have a busy judicial agenda in 2014, he said.  It was deliberating on the merits of the M/V “Virginia G” case between Panama and Guinea-Bissau and intended to deliver its judgement next year.  It had received a new case early this year from the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission, comprising seven West African States, and asked to render an advisory opinion under article 138 of its Rules.  He had made appointments to the arbitral tribunal concerning arbitral proceedings instituted by Argentina against Ghana, the Philippines against China, and for arbitral proceedings for the settlement of the maritime delimitation dispute between Bangladesh and India in the Bay of Bengal.  He also drew attention to the Tribunal’s capacity-building programmes on the peaceful settlement of disputes, among them, a workshop in Mexico City in June on dispute settlement, the Tribunal’s internship programme, and a capacity-building and training programme for young Government officials and researchers. 

NII ALLOTEY ODUNTON, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, urged all Member States to attend commemorative session from 7 to 25 July 2014 to mark that body’s twentieth anniversary.  He highlighted three concerns of particular urgency.  Given the pace of activities, it was important that ways be found to make the Authority’s budget sustainable.  Also, the first group of exploration contracts would expire in the next three years.  It was essential to be prepared for eventualities that included the renewal or issuance of contracts.  It should also be prepared in terms of its exploration code and establishing an appropriate fiscal framework for mining that was fair to industry, investors and the Authority’s member States.  Protecting the marine environment, as reflected in the draft resolution, was another major concern.  With increased interest in marine minerals, including in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, the development of environmental management plans for exploration should be considered.

ANN POWERS, observer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), said that despite progress made in the draft resolution to urgently address marine biodiversity, she remained deeply concerned with the retreat from transparency and open debate reflected in the exclusion of civil society from discussions during recent working group meetings.  That was contrary to the spirit of Rule 60 of the General Assembly’s Rules of Procedure, which stated that meetings of the body and its Main Committees should be held in public.  On matters of common concern and global interest, such as marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction, non-public meetings should be an exception, since the high seas and seabed area made up almost half of the Earth.  “It is critical that civil society have a voice in ensuring that the interests of both State and non-State actors are heard,” she said, urging Member States to recognize the importance of its involvement in substantive discussions of the working group.

The Assembly then took up the draft resolutions on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, “L.18”, and on sustainable fisheries, “L.19”.

Ahead of the vote, the representative of Venezuela said her country was not a party to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, however, it had prioritized national attention to the issues and adopted legislation, which, among other things, contributed to the discourse.  Still, her delegation had reservations and would abstain on voting on “L.18”.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (document A/68/L.18) by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 1 against ( Turkey), with 2 abstentions ( Colombia, Venezuela).

Next, acting without a vote, it adopted the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries (document A/68/L.19).

Speaking after action on “L.19”, the representative of Venezuela said that fishing and aquaculture had featured prominently in the country’s national development plans.  Nevertheless, the country was not party to the Convention on the Law of the Sea and to some other instruments.  However, in the spirit of consensus, her delegation had chosen to not stand in the way of the draft text.

The representative of Argentina said she had joined consensus on the text, but advised that none of the recommendations in it could be interpreted as meaning that the terms of the 1995 Agreement for implementing the Convention’s provisions on conserving and managing straddling and highly migratory fish stocks could be considered as binding on those States that had not expressly indicated their consent in that regard.  Argentina disassociated itself from consensus on the paragraphs of the text concerning the 1995 Agreement and the recommendations of the Review Conference on that Agreement.  Under prevailing international law, neither regional fisheries management organizations or arrangements, nor their member States may adopt any measure with respect to vessels whose flag States were not members of such organizations or arrangements or had not expressly consented to such measures.  Nothing in any Assembly resolutions, including the text just adopted, could be interpreted in a manner contrary to that conclusion.  The implementation of conservation measures could not be claimed as justification for denying or ignoring rights established under the Convention.  And, nothing in Assembly resolutions could affect the sovereign rights of coastal States over their continental shelf.  Paragraph 137 of the current text contained a relevant reminder of that concept.  

Turkey’s representative said his delegation had voted against “L.18, explaining that the reasons that prevented his country from joining the Law of the Sea Convention remained valid.  The Convention failed to provide sufficient safeguards for special geographical situations; it did not consider conflicting interests stemming from special circumstances, and it prohibited States from registered reservations to its articles. 

On “L.19”, the sustainable fisheries text, he said his country was fully committed to cooperation and supported the resolution.  However, it disassociated itself from references made to international instruments to which it was not a party.

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