It is a great honour to join you today to celebrate the upcoming twentieth anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Today, we also mark World Oceans Day, giving us an opportunity to underscore the close relationship between the Convention and the human activities that it regulates.
The Convention is one of the most significant and visionary multilateral agreements of the 20th century. As “the Constitution for the seas”, the Convention provides the basis for peaceful cooperation and legal certainty. These are of critical importance to:
- the peaceful uses of the oceans;
- the equitable utilization of their resources;
- the conservation of their living resources;
- and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment.
They are also critical to the economic and social advancement of people.
The Convention has lived up to the expectations of its negotiators and the international community. Its principles have stood the test of time, and most of its provisions are now widely recognized as constituting customary international law.
Over the years, the Convention has also demonstrated its dynamic character. For example, its provisions on the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks were complemented by the adoption of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement in 1995.
Also noteworthy are the contributions of the three bodies established by the Convention: the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority, and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
People everywhere continue to look to the oceans for food security and as a source of jobs, prosperity and well-being. Oceans and seas can play a critical role in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and in the post-2015 development agenda.
But it is essential to manage the oceans in a sustainable manner in accordance with the Convention and other legal instruments. We must address the many pressures facing the oceans as a result of overfishing, acidification, land-based activities and, above all, climate change.
Achieving the goals enshrined in the Convention also means strengthening the capacity of its Parties in the ocean sector, in particular in the areas of information for decision-making, human resources and financing.
At this crucial moment for action on the MDGs, the future development agenda and the grave risk of climate change, I encourage you all to recommit to the task of implementing the Convention. With effective policies and practices, we can protect and safeguard our oceans for the benefit of all humanity, for generations to come.