28 June 2021

States Parties to United Nations Convention on Law of Sea Conclude Thirty-First Meeting at Headquarters, 21-25 June

NEW YORK, 28 June (Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea) ― The thirty-first Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was held at Headquarters from 21 to 25 June.  In light of the continuing situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the thirty-first Meeting was held in a format combining in-person plenary meetings at United Nations Headquarters with online consultations.  For background, please see Press Release SEA/2130.

The Meeting elected by acclamation Holger Martinsen (Argentina) as President of the thirty-first Meeting of States Parties.  Ibrahima Toure (Côte d’Ivoire), Muhammad Taufan (Indonesia), Enrico Milano (Italy), and Wladyslaw Andrzej Manteuffel (Poland) were elected as Vice-Presidents.

The Meeting of States Parties took note of the annual report of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for 2020, as well as the information reported by the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority and the Chairperson of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, on the activities of these bodies since the thirtieth Meeting of States Parties in 2020.  In its consideration of administrative and budgetary matters of the Tribunal, the Meeting took note with appreciation of the report of the external auditor for the financial period 2019–2020 and the report on budgetary matters for the financial period 2019–2020.  The Meeting also endorsed the amendments to the financial rules of the tribunal.

The Open-Ended Working Group for consideration of issues related to the conditions of service of members of the Commission continued its work.  As it required more time to conclude its deliberations on proposals before it, the Meeting requested the Working Group to continue to work intersessionally and report to the thirty-second Meeting of States Parties.

In considering the issue of a vacancy in the Commission, the Meeting decided to provide additional time to the Group of Eastern European States to identify possible candidates to be nominated to fill the vacancy.  In this regard, the Meeting decision was similar to those adopted at the twenty-seventh, twenty‑eighth, twenty-ninth and thirtieth Meetings held in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Under the agenda item “Other matters”, the Meeting decided to extend the term of office of members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf until 15 June 2023.  The decision was made on an exceptional basis, owing to the unprecedented circumstances arising as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and without prejudice to article 2, paragraph 4, of annex II to the Convention.  This decision does not constitute a precedent, either for the Commission or for other bodies of the Convention or the United Nations with elected members.  Notwithstanding the extension of the term of office, the next election of the members of the Commission will take place as initially scheduled at the thirty‑second Meeting of States Parties in 2022.

Under article 319 of the Convention, the Meeting considered the report of the Secretary‑General for the information of States Parties on issues of a general nature, relevant to States Parties, which have arisen with respect to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (document A/75/340).  In their interventions, delegations expressed appreciation for the report of the Secretary‑General and for the important work of the three bodies established under the Convention.  They addressed a wide range of issues, including the role of the Convention in maintaining international peace and security, reinforcing friendly relations among States and ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources; the achievement of gender equality in all ocean‑related sectors; marine scientific research; the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects, in particular the launch of the second World Ocean Assessment; protection of the marine environment, including the issue of plastic pollution; impacts of climate change on the ocean, including sea‑level rise; Sustainable Development Goal 14; the blue economy; migration by sea; maritime security and safety, including piracy and other crimes at sea; fraudulent registration of ships; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; national and regional initiatives addressing challenges faced in maritime zones; and the need for capacity‑building, transfer of marine technology and cross sectoral cooperation and coordination.

Delegations also highlighted the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the health of the ocean and ocean‑related processes and activities, including challenges faced by seafarers to support global supply chains, as well as the need for a resilient post-pandemic recovery in ocean-related sectors.  Delegations also expressed support for the decision of the General Assembly to postpone the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Conference, under the auspices of the United Nations, to consider the recommendations of the Preparatory Committee established by resolution 69/292 of 19 June 2015 on the elements and to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument under the Convention on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction and stressed the importance of the fourth session of the Conference and intersessional work prior to that session.  Delegations also welcomed the recent meeting of the United Nations Open-Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, with a focus on “sea-level rise and its impacts”.

The Meeting also addressed a number of other matters.  Among them, it was appraised about the current status and projected funding requirements of trust funds established by the General Assembly and administered by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, as well as about the contributions process at the United Nations.  The appeal, contained in General Assembly resolution 75/239, addressed to States, international financial institutions, donor agencies, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and natural and juridical persons to make financial contributions to the Trust Funds, was also underscored.

In his closing statement, after recalling that the Meeting has already taken action to promote gender equality by revising the language of its Rules of Procedure to render them gender‑inclusive, the President encouraged States Parties to further promote gender equality through representation in the Bureau.

A more detailed account of the proceedings of the thirty-first Meeting of States Parties will be included in the report of the Meeting, to be issued in due course as document SPLOS/31/9.

The Convention, which entered into force on 16 November 1994, governs all aspects of ocean space and maritime issues, from navigational rights, maritime limits and marine scientific research to resource management, marine environment protection and dispute settlement.

For further information on the Meeting, including its documents, please see the website of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs:

For information media. Not an official record.