Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks to the fortieth annual Conference of the Center for Oceans Law and Policy, in New York today:
It is a privilege for me to join you on the occasion of the fortieth annual Conference of the Center for Oceans Law and Policy, in cooperation with the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs. This year’s Conference is particularly important, as it will focus on an issue that affects everyone: the legal order for the world’s oceans and the regime under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
This is the first annual conference since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the historic climate change agreement reached in Paris last year. These milestones are aimed to ensure a world without poverty, a vibrant and inclusive global economy, a sustainable future and a life of dignity for all.
Healthy oceans are critical to sustaining life on our planet. They regulate the climate and provide an incredible range of natural resources, nutritious food and jobs that benefit billions of people. But, we should admit that our impact on oceans and seas is taking a heavy toll. Many marine species are at serious risk from ocean warming and overfishing. Rising sea levels are existential threats to small island States, which bear so little responsibility for climate change, but are on the front lines of its imprint on their nations and people.
Oceans figure prominently in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development Goal 14 focuses specifically on the conservation and sustainable use of oceans, seas and marine resources. I welcome the international conference in Fiji in June next year on oceans and Sustainable Development Goal 14.
The 335 million square kilometres of water on the surface of our planet are integral and fundamental to meeting many of the challenges we face, from fighting hunger to providing the clean energy we need to drive industry and counter climate change. Today, we have an opportunity to reflect on the intersections between the rule of law and the Sustainable Development Goals. The decisions we make now on the sustainable use of ocean resources stand to benefit millions of people, for generations to come.
The programme of this year’s Conference promises to deliver a vision for the future. Working for a sustainable planet means that we must strengthen the rule of law. We must strike the right balance between rights and responsibilities. And we must benefit from our natural resources, while taking care of them for future generations. We must renew our efforts to protect our oceans and use their resources peacefully, equitably and sustainably for generations to come.
The recognition by all countries of the importance of the oceans in the 2030 sustainable development agenda is a first important step. A second is the approval by the United Nations General Assembly of the summary of the first Global Integrated Marine Assessment — the outcome of the first cycle of the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment. This will provide a sound and scientific basis for decisions at the global level on the world’s oceans and seas. And it will provide a framework for national and regional assessments. A third important step is convening the first session of the preparatory committee to develop a law on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas outside national jurisdictions.
These developments, these steps, show how essential the Convention and its Implementing Agreements remain in strengthening international peace and security and ensuring sustainable development of our oceans and seas.
I am confident that this Conference will provide participants with the opportunity to advance the goals of the Convention: peaceful use of the oceans; equitable use and conservation of their resources; and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment. Basically, the Convention is about respect for nature and about the necessity to accept long-term responsibility for a better future both for people and the planet.
I thank the Center for Oceans Law and Policy for the leadership they have demonstrated over 40 years, and I thank all of you, distinguished presenters and delegates, for coming to the United Nations today to share your expertise. I thank you and wish you a successful conference.