Calling for Global Action, General Assembly Speakers Stress Law of Sea Convention Must Be Used to Protect Oceans, Coastal Nations, Marine Resources
As the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea approaches its fortieth anniversary next December, delegates at the General Assembly today laid out the urgency of using the international treaty to sustain the oceans, protect marine resources and shield communities facing rising sea levels.
The Assembly postponed action on two draft resolutions aimed at helping meet those goals until its Thursday session. The text “Oceans and the law of the Sea” was introduced by Singapore’s delegate, while Norway’s representative introduced another document on the protection of fish stocks around the world, “Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments”.
General Assembly President Abdulla Shahid (Maldives) said today’s meeting was a much-needed opportunity to bolster global action on marine conservation and sustainability as Member States prepare for the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon next summer. The ocean makes up more than 70 per cent of the planet’s surface and produces more than half of the world’s oxygen.
“Yet, despite its necessity for the survival of our planet and peoples, the ocean is increasingly under threat,” he said. The consequences of climate change are particularly worrisome, with small islands — or large ocean States as they could be called — bearing the brunt of this existential threat. “We have no choice but to respond to the needs of the ocean, and to do so through a multilateral means,” he said.
The representative of the Federated States of Micronesia said the Law of the Sea Convention established maritime zones in 1982, along with the rights and entitlements that flow from these zones. These rights shall apply regardless of the physical changes emerging from climate-change sea-level rise. His country is already facing many challenges, such as the saltwater inundation of its food crop sources and ground-water wells. “Even our dead are no longer safe in their burial grounds,” he said, adding that frightened children have to wade through water just to get to their schools.
Echoing that stance, the representative of Maldives said the severe anthropogenic pressures on the oceans may even cause some Member States to leave the United Nations, not by choice, but because the oceans have engulfed them. Highlighting that the Maldives islands bear custodianship of more than 90,000 square kilometres of Indian Ocean, she called for more climate financing to build small island developing States’ resilience. “We need to transform humanity’s current relationship with the ocean to ensure that our development does not endanger the planet’s most precious resource,” she said.
Delegates also voiced their support for ongoing efforts to develop an international legally binding instrument, within the auspices of the Law of the Sea Convention, that would govern the conservation of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdictions.
France’s delegate said that such a document on marine biological diversity would strengthen the Convention’s legal framework. He also expressed hope that negotiations on that document, stalled by the pandemic, would resume in 2022. A robust universal treaty can provide real value to protect the seas, he added.
The representative of Mexico, also supporting the resumption of negotiations for such an instrument, said that the operating structure of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf needed to be strengthened. The international community cannot ignore the fact that this debate is being held at a crossroads of humanity because of the climate crisis, he stressed. In this emergency context, speeches are only worthwhile if they are accompanied by concrete actions.
Australia’s representative, adding his support for an agreement under the Convention to address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity, also emphasized that the Convention lays down a foundation for international peace and stability that helps all States carry out their rights and freedoms and comply with their obligations. That is particularly vital in the South China Sea, he said, stressing that Australia does not accept maritime claims that are inconsistent with the Convention.
In that vein, the representative of the United States called attention to the dangerous encounters between vessels meant to advance unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea and recalled the Tribunal’s unanimous and legally binding decision rejecting those claims. Conflict in the South China Sea, or any ocean, would have serious global consequences for security and commerce, he said.
China’s delegate underscored that the rules and principles of international law should be followed in matters not covered by the Law of the Sea Convention. However, the United Nations is not the right place to discuss the South China Sea, he asserted, underlining China’s consistent position on the topic. China has always been committed to resolving disputes peacefully, he noted.
Nonetheless, the representative of Sri Lanka, pointing out that sustainably developing oceans can define a new era of opportunities for coastal countries, underlined the vital importance of the Law of the Sea Convention. Being possessed of military power no longer assures rights in the ocean because of the Convention, he said, reminding the Assembly: “The Convention is the law that rules the chartered seas of today.”
Also speaking today were the representatives of Antigua and Barbuda (for the Alliance of Small Island States), Fiji (for the Pacific Island Forum), Samoa (for the Pacific Small Island Developing States), Philippines, Bangladesh, Peru, Iran, Canada, Monaco, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Republic of Korea, Japan, Costa Rica, Germany, Viet Nam, Pakistan, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, Cuba, Nauru, Oman, Ukraine, Colombia, Iceland, New Zealand, Haiti, Greece and the Russian Federation. A representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, also spoke.
The representatives of Japan and China spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 9 December, to take action on two draft resolutions on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, consider the report of the Secretary-General on global health and foreign policy, and take up the reports of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) and the Sixth Committee (Legal).
ABDULLA SHAHID (Maldives), President of the General Assembly, said that after long‑standing constraints imposed by the pandemic, the plenary meeting on Oceans and the Law of the Sea is a much‑needed opportunity to renew the push for collective action on marine conservation and sustainability. This is especially so as Member States increase their coordination efforts for the United Nations Ocean Conference set for 27 June to 1 July 2022 in Lisbon. The ocean spans more than 70 per cent of the planet’s surface, providing incredible biodiversity, sustenance and resources to billions of people and organisms. It not only produces more than half of the world’s oxygen, but also absorbs 50 times more carbon dioxide than the atmosphere. “Yet, despite its necessity for the survival of our planet and peoples, the ocean is increasingly under threat,” he said.
Climate change, pollution, habitat destruction, invasive species and a dramatic increase in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are among the major stressors. The consequences of climate change are particularly worrisome, with small islands — or large ocean States as they could be called, — bearing the brunt of this existential threat. “We have no choice but to respond to the needs of the ocean, and to do so through a multilateral means,” he said. Through multilateralism, a legal framework on the Law of the Sea has been widely developed and recognized. The Assembly has been essential in establishing a global governance on the ocean. The upcoming fortieth anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea will be a moment to reflect on multilateral achievements in protecting the ocean under international law, he said. The United Nations Open‑ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, whose latest report is being considered today, is another useful tool. He called for greater international coordination and cooperation at the local, regional and international levels to tackle sea level rise and its impacts.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
TERJE AALIA (Norway), introducing the draft resolution “Sustainable fisheries, including through the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, and related instruments” (document A/76/L.18), said that due to the ongoing COVID‑19 pandemic, the text is very similar to the one presented in 2020. It was negotiated on the basis of virtual meetings and written procedures and represents a technical rollover of the previous text. It contains changes necessary to prepare for upcoming meetings, budgets and mandate renewals.
Highlighting that fisheries provide food, trade and economic well‑being, he stressed that combating illegal fishing, addressing overfishing and decent working conditions in the fishery sector are all necessary to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Referring to the draft resolution on oceans and the Law of the Sea that will also be introduced today, he said that it is largely a technical rollover that contains updates related to marine life and microplastics. He also underscored that plastic pollution is one of the fastest growing environmental challenges.
BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore), introducing the draft resolution “Oceans and the Law of the Sea” (document A/76/L.20), outlined the updates to the text, noting that the resolution notes with concern the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its successive reports. It also refers to the Panel’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate and the 2021 Working Group I report, the Physical Science Basis of Climate Change. In addition, the text notes the discussions at the twenty‑first meeting of the Informal Consultative Process, which focused on sea level rise and its impacts.
The text renews the mandate of the Informal Consultative Process for the next two years, he continued. The resolution welcomes the high‑level launch of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and notes the steps that have been taken to support the implementation of the Decade. The resolution also decides to devote time from the plenary meetings for this agenda item at the General Assembly’s seventy‑seventh session to the commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the adoption and opening for signature of the Convention of the Law of the Sea.
In his national capacity, and associating himself with the Alliance of Small Island States, he said the pandemic continues to have an impact on ocean activities, with vulnerable ocean‑based economies, including small island developing States, being particularly affected. Underscoring the need to ensure the well‑being of seafarers, he said that since the onset of the pandemic, Singapore has facilitated over 190,000 crew changes, adding that his country has prioritized the vaccination of frontline maritime personnel.
DANIELA GAUCI, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, emphasized that recovery strategies to address the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic, should also aim to diminish impacts on oceans, fight climate change and halt biodiversity loss, as well as tackle hunger and poverty. In this respect, such strategies as well as the development of different activities under the blue economy should be based on the best science available. She recalled that four targets of Sustainable Development Goal 14 were due in 2020 but have not been achieved. To achieve the political commitments in this goal, immediate and effective action in line with the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach is required.
She went on to say that she looked forward to the resumption of the intergovernmental negotiations of the international legally binding instrument under the Law of the Sea Convention on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Turning to another long‑standing matter, she called for the issue concerning the working conditions, including regarding medical insurance coverage, of the members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to be resolved.
ASHA CECILY CHALLENGER (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said a critical regulatory gap that must be addressed through the United Nations Environment Assembly next year is combating and remediating global marine plastic pollution. Eighty‑one countries have called for the development of a new legally‑binding agreement on plastic pollution, and all Alliance member States have committed to starting intergovernmental negotiations in a transparent and inclusive manner. The agreement must highlight the urgency of marine plastic waste management and related remediation. It must also look at measures to address the excessive use of plastics and environmentally unsound management and disposal of plastic waste, such as creating more transparency during the plastic production process.
As the international community finds new global solutions for persistent and emerging challenges, it must also fully harness existing solutions, she said, adding that she was confident that the second United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon next year will provide an enhanced platform to match and scale up partnerships for realizing the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 14. The international community must accelerate the implementation of targets which have already matured in 2020. The Conference is also a useful opportunity to enhance connections with the other global goals and relevant instruments and unlock the vast co‑benefits the ocean has to offer to advance society’s economic, social and environmental objectives. More so, the Conference, as well as the concurrent United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, should address the gaps and challenges that small island developing States face in realizing the ocean’s full potential, including through ocean‑based economies. She also noted she was pleased that the ocean‑climate nexus has been also established through an annual dialogue at the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26).
SATYENDRA PRASAD (Fiji), speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, said the member States have a profound connection to and reliance on the ocean, which is at the heart of their geography, cultures and economies. The member States are in firm agreement that climate change is the single greatest threat to their livelihoods, security and well‑being. On its fiftieth anniversary, the Forum endorsed the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level Rise, signalling mutual commitment and a strong and decisive step to safeguard the homes and interests of the Pacific peoples and maintain peace and security. He emphasized that the Declaration is a formal statement on how the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea rules on maritime zones apply in the situation of climate change‑related sea level rise.
The Forum’s approach to the issue preserves maritime zones and the rights and entitlements that flow from them in the face of the crisis, he said, noting that it also upholds the Forum’s long‑standing commitment to the Convention as the global legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. Sea level rise related to climate change is a real and pressing issue, raising interrelated development and security concerns for the region. As well, other countries, including small island developing States and low‑lying States outside of the Pacific region, also require stability, security and predictability of their maritime zones. Emphasizing that the Declaration is a considered and targeted approach, he welcomed the reference by the Alliance of Small Island States to climate change-related sea level rise in their recent Leaders’ Declaration. He appealed for all Member States to acknowledge the critical importance of the issue to small island developing States and low‑lying States, as well as to the international community as a whole, and support the Declaration.
FATUMANAVA-O-UPOLU III PA’OLELEI LUTERU (Samoa), speaking for the Pacific Small Island Developing States and associating himself with the Alliance of Small Island States, said that the Special Report on the Ocean and the Cryosphere in Changing Climate highlights the fact that human influence has warmed the climate at a rate unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years, with sea level rise harming food security and nutrition. “These are no longer subjects for academic discourse,” he stressed, adding “they are existential challenges for us all.” Calling for collaborative action to prevent and reduce marine pollution, including microplastics, oil spills, discharge of waste and nuclear contaminants, he noted the Pacific small island developing States contribute less than 1.3 per cent of the mismanaged plastics in the oceans yet are the hardest hit by pollution and its impacts.
Overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing also remain a major concern, with lost revenues in the billions of dollars, he continued. Increased ocean acidification is already destroying entire reef ecosystems, affecting fish population and entire fisheries. This is the climate change-ocean nexus and why oceans need to be an integral part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. While recognizing the key role of ocean science in informing decision makers, he emphasized the importance of traditional knowledge of indigenous people and local communities as a complement to science. The upcoming seventh Our Ocean Conference in Palau, as well as the Oceans Conference in Lisbon, will present opportunities to address gaps and challenges that small island developing States continue to face. Stressing the importance of arresting sea level rise and safeguarding maritime zones, he affirmed it is further crucial to maintain and restore ecosystems, eliminate pollution and resolve overfishing issues.
AZELA GUERRERO ARUMPAC-MARTE (Philippines) said that the Philippines accounts for only three-tenths of 1 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions and yet its sea level rise is about twice to three times that of the global average. She highlighted her country’s national goal at the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow this year, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent in 2030. She also voiced her country’s supports for an intergovernmental negotiating committee towards a legally binding global agreement on marine plastic pollution. Recognizing efforts to move forward oceans-related processes within the United Nations, she emphasized that the deterioration of the health of the oceans should serve as a reminder to uphold the Law of the Sea Convention as the constitution of the oceans, particularly in addressing the drivers that apply pressure on it, including disputes over access to resources and maritime boundaries. Noting the fifth anniversary of the unanimous South China Sea Arbitration Award, she urged compliance with the Award, adding that it is a milestone in the corpus of international law and a cornerstone of a rules-based international order. Further, it is the Philippines’ contribution to ensuring that the South China Sea remains a sea of peace, security and prosperity. Highlighting increasing number of incidents in the South China Sea, amidst the pandemic, she underlined the importance of having a Code of Conduct.
MD MONWAR HOSSAIN (Bangladesh), stressed that, as a country with scarce land, the sea and its resources are of great importance. Recalling his country’s national and global efforts, he emphasized that climate-induced sea level rise is going to have a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods across his nation. A one metre rise can submerge about 40 per cent of southern Bangladesh, resulting in displacement, food insecurity and economic loss. More broadly, the common future of the ocean hinges on how current efforts conserve, develop and tap into resources and services. Integrated, collaborative action will be essential to address the impact of climate change on oceans, including cross-agency action at the global level. To ensure a balance between the equitable and efficient use of ocean resources, it is imperative to ensure an early conclusion of an agreement on biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction. International cooperation must be redoubled to better address such continued threats to maritime security, such as piracy, armed robbery, kidnapping and smuggling of migrants, he said, calling on Member States to strengthen efforts and comply with such obligations as search and rescue at the sea. Improved cooperation and coordination at local to global levels can guide recovery plans to address the pandemic’s impact on ocean economies and to build back better, especially in support of developing and small island States and coastal communities.
JOSÉ MANUEL RODRÍGUEZ CUADROS (Peru) said that oceans play an essential role on the planet, regulating the climate and functioning as a marine biodiversity reserve, as well as being a source of food, employment and energy. Although the agenda of the United Nations increasingly recognizes this, efforts should be increased in that regard. The United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development is a unique opportunity to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14, as well as to increase knowledge of oceans and their importance. Data generation is fundamental to strengthening the way in which oceans and coast lines are managed. He underscored that the warming of oceans, loss of biodiversity, acidification, thawing of the cryosphere and rising sea levels all mean that there is an urgent need for strong commitment from the international community to ensure immediate action to reverse these negative trends. In addition, he pointed out that the sustainable development of marine resources has been impacted by over-exploitation. This must be corrected, he said, also emphasizing the need for progress in the conservation and sustainable use of maritime biological biodiversity.
GENG SHUANG (China) said the rules and principles of international law should continue to be followed in matters not covered by the Law of the Sea Convention. The international community must cooperate in order to meet the challenges of the maritime environment, climate change and sea level rise. Japan has unilaterally decided to discharge Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water into the oceans, disregarding the common interests of the international community, he warned, noting that decision was made without exhausting all means of safe disposal and without consulting its neighbouring countries. Further, international judicial institutions should abide by the principle of national consent and fully respect the right of all countries to choose their own method of dispute settlement. With regards to the sustainable development of global fishery, he advocated for ecological and environmentally friendly fishing, reiterating his country’s commitment to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The United Nations is not the right place to discuss the South China Sea, he asserted, underlining China’s consistent position on the topic. China has always been committed to resolving disputes peacefully, he said, pointing to the arbitration case brought unilaterally by the Philippines. In this context, he called on the Philippines to resolve the dispute through negotiations.
ZAHRA ERSHADI (Iran) said that, although her country is a signatory to the Law of the Sea Convention, it is not the only legal framework governing activity carried out in the oceans and seas. Therefore, any negotiations on related resolutions must consider the position of non-member parties. Joining consensus should not be construed as acceptance of the Convention as a legally binding instrument by her Government. Combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing should be on the agenda of all countries, she said, recommending protecting endangered coastal ecosystems in the Persian Gulf and Oman sea. The irresponsible construction of artificial islands in the Persian Gulf would unequivocally damage the habitats of rare marine species. Heavy presence of military fleets from States outside of the region has exacerbated not only safety and security, but also maritime pollution. Escalating tensions among littoral Persian Gulf States further destabilize the region and severely endanger development and prosperity. The pandemic, and unilateral coercive measures by the United States on Iran, have affected the provision of the basic needs of its people, including disruption of the freedom of navigation as a result of that country’s sanctions. Citing stolen Iranian oil as a new development, she warned that continuation of that dangerous policy exacerbates an already highly intense situation and urged the international community to condemn such unlawful acts.
ROBERT KEITH RAE (Canada) said his country will invest up to $9.5 million to advance ocean science in support of sustainable development, while also promoting gender equity in ocean science. It will continue engagement towards a legally binding instrument under the Law of the Sea Convention on managing marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Expressing concern over the Intergovernmental Panel’s report, he said Canada will double its international climate finance commitment to $5.3 billion over the next five years, with $9 million in additional support for the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance. As an ocean nation with the longest coastline in the world and projected sea level rise on all three of its coasts, Canada shares the concerns of many coastal and small island developing States. With a $976.8 million investment dedicated to domestic marine conservation efforts, the goal of protecting 25 per cent of Canada’s oceans by 2025 and working toward 30 per cent by 2030 is well underway. He encouraged all States Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity to set a goal of 30 per cent protection of the world’s oceans by 2030.
FLORIAN BOTTO (Monaco) said the two draft resolutions provide a comprehensive picture of the issues at stake, including the global health of the ocean. In the face of ocean acidification and accelerating sea level rise, he expressed concern about the very high costs of mitigation and adaptation, especially for developing countries, including small island developing States. The fight against pollution, especially plastic and microplastic pollution, is another priority. On the side-lines of the Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, his country participated in the launch of the initiative "the Mediterranean, an exemplary sea by 2030" which aims to preserve marine and coastal biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea. As well, the Informal Consultative Process, co‑chaired by Monaco and Tonga last June, has deepened understandings of extreme weather events. He expressed hope that the Intergovernmental Conference responsible for the development of the agreement for the Implementation of the Law of the Sea Convention can resume and be finalized in 2022. This agreement should complement the existing regime and ensure the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. He called for the establishment of a global network of interconnected marine protected areas, to be decided by the Conference of the Parties to the future agreement.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) underscored that urgent action is needed to address the unsustainable overfishing model. During the Climate Conference in Glasgow, the President of Ecuador announced the creation of a new marine reserve in the Galápagos Islands, where several ocean areas converge and 95 per cent of registered species are endemic. This new area will strengthen the existing marine reserve and help fight climate change by providing a larger area for capturing carbon. It will add 60,000 square kilometres to the existing reserve, increasing it from 133,000 square kilometres to 193,000 square kilometres. Further, to mark the Climate Change Conference, the Presidents of Ecuador, Colombia, Costa Rica and Panama signed a declaration to pioneer the protection of the islands of Coco, Galápagos, Malpelo and Coiba as a unique ecosystem. This initiative will create a biosphere reserve that will be one of the biggest in the world. In addition, he said that Ecuador is looking for ways to use the Law of the Sea Convention and other international instruments to conserve migratory fish stocks.
THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives), associating herself with the Alliance of Small Island States, noted that the severity of anthropogenic pressures on the oceans may cause Member States to leave the United Nations, not by choice, but because the oceans have engulfed the smallest and most vulnerable of them. The Maldives islands bear custodianship of over 90,000 square kilometres of Indian Ocean, an inalienable part of Maldivian identity, culture and thought, and lifeblood of their economy. The tourism sector accounts for 75 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and the fishing sector is a primary economic activity. Maldives has promoted global cooperation in sustainable management, co‑launching the Group of Friends to Combat Plastic Pollution on World Oceans Day last year. Highlighting the Convention’s paramount importance in safeguarding the oceans, she underscored that once maritime entitlements are determined, they will be fixed and not altered by any subsequent changes to a State’s geography due to sea level rise. Welcoming any increase in climate financing, she also stressed that current levels are miniscule compared to the estimated trillions of dollars required annually to build small island developing States’ resilience and transform energy, transport and other systems. She called for concessional, grant‑based and predictable financing. “We need to transform humanity’s current relationship with the ocean to ensure that our development does not endanger the planet’s most precious resource,” she said.
MITCHELL FIFIELD (Australia) noted that the Law of the Sea Convention provides a foundation for international peace and stability that supports all States in the exercise of their rights and freedoms, in compliance with their obligations. That is particularly vital in the South China Sea, he said, stressing that Australia does not accept maritime claims that are inconsistent with the Convention. Reiterating his country’s position that the South China Sea Arbitral Award is final and binding on the parties, he expressed concern about destabilizing actions in the South China Sea, including the militarization of disputed features, actions to disrupt other countries’ resource exploitation activities, and the dangerous or coercive use of coast guard vessels and ‘maritime militias’. He went on to express support for the development of an implementing agreement under the Convention to address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Turning to the impacts of sea level rise, he emphasized that all States will be affected in one way or another. In that context, he encouraged other States to support the interpretation of the Convention set out in the Pacific Island Forum Declaration.
EDGAR DANIEL LEAL MATTA (Guatemala) said the international legal system regulating activities in the oceans is the fundamental basis for guiding the behaviour of States at sea and for the sustainable protection of marine and coastal systems. In addition to establishing this legal framework, the Law of the Sea Convention is a key instrument within the rules‑based international system that helps maintain peace and cooperation through the definition of maritime zones, as well as its dispute settlement mechanism. The importance of the Convention lies in the fact that it has great economic and strategic impact, making it a truly international tool, he said, underscoring that it must be implemented in a way that benefits humanity as a whole. He also highlighted the consolidation of the work of the organs created under the Convention and welcomed the recent launch by the Secretary‑General of the second World Ocean’s assessment. The latter provides scientific information on the state of the marine environment to support decision‑making and actions to support the Sustainable Development Goals, especially Goal 14.
YOLANNIE CERRATO (Honduras) emphasized that the Convention is the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and the seas shall take place. The pandemic has particularly affected those with fewer resources, she said, noting that Honduras has experienced the consequences of climate change. Urging all States to counter climate change, she emphasized that the solutions the international community adopts to tackle the pandemic should have a green approach and protect the heritage of future generations. She stressed the importance of improving the scientific base to mitigate the impact of marine pollution, acidification of oceans, overfishing and rising sea levels. She welcomed the launch of the second World Oceans Assessment by the Secretary‑General and underscored the need of achieving Sustainable Development Goal 14. Outlining Honduras’ priorities, she underscored the need to eliminate the use of plastics and plastic waste in oceans. Despite the difficulties in tackling the pandemic, it is important that the second Ocean Conference is held in June, she said, highlighting the importance of reaching a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine diversity beyond national jurisdiction.
BAE JONGIN (Republic of Korea) noted that his country has been a staunch supporter of the Law of the Sea Convention and has made a series of voluntary contributions, including a Tribunal workshop for legal advisers, which will be held as soon as circumstances permit. Stressing the need to overcome the impact on oceans and ocean activities amid COVID‑19 by focusing on a sustainable ocean economy with resiliency, he expressed hope in holding the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Conference on Marine Biodiversity of Areas beyond National Jurisdiction, and the Ocean Conference next year without delay. Pointing to the unprecedented range and magnitude of threats faced by the ocean due to human activities, such as oil spills at sea, unsustainable fishing, pollution and hazardous substances, he stressed his Government’s priority on human health as well as the marine environment and ecosystem. Emphasis should also be put on transparency, scientific expertise and open and good‑faith consultations with all relevant stakeholders in compliance with international law, especially with the Convention.
KAWASE TARO (Japan), stressing that his country upholds the universality and comprehensiveness of the Law of the Sea Convention, underscored the importance of the rule of law as the basis for peace and prosperity in every part of the world’s oceans. He also announced Japan’s candidate for a judge of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea at the elections in 2023. Co‑sponsoring this year’s draft resolution “Oceans and the Law of the Sea”, he reiterated the importance of pursuing peaceful resolution of disputes with regard to the South China Sea. This is to be done without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with international law, as well as on the importance of non‑militarization and self‑restraint in the conduct of all activities. Turning to the issue of climate change‑related sea level rise, he urged that the Convention be respected as the “Constitution for the Oceans”, and highlighted the importance of establishing maritime zones and ensuring the conservation and management of marine living resources for the sake of sustainable use.
ANA LORENA VILLALOBOS BRENES (Costa Rica), noting said her delegation co-sponsored the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, said that this year the international community was once again limited to technical updates; that was inconvenient particularly when the sixth Intergovernmental Panel report had called for action. Costa Rica, with the United Kingdom and France, through the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, engaged more than 50 countries to commit to protect at least 30 per cent of the world's land and 30 per cent of the world's oceans by 2030. Her country, together with Chile and the Dominican Republic proposed an update to paragraph 66 of the resolution on the oceans that refers to the work of the International Seabed Authority. The General Assembly should express itself on the difficulties due to the impact of COVID‑19 that the International Seabed Authority faced in continuing its work. However, she was unable to express this concern in the interest of maintaining consensus, she said. The proposal was to follow up and update the task of regulating mineral exploitation. It is essential that the International Seabed Authority's work be able to rely on sufficient scientific information to establish these environmental safeguards before any seabed mineral exploitation is authorized and proceeds. However, the fact that the International Seabed Authority has been required to act under waiver provisions that give it a two-year deadline, when there are still restrictions on holding face-to-face meetings at its headquarters, is something that should cause concern to this General Assembly, she said.
GUENTER SAUTTER (Germany), recalling that all maritime claims must be based on the Law of the Sea Convention, raised concerns about unlawful and sweeping assertions in the South China Sea and ongoing intimidation and coercion against the rights of other States to access resources in their exclusive economic zones. He called on States to make claims in line with the Convention, resolve disputes peacefully and respect the freedoms of navigation and exclusive economic zones. These rights and freedoms are paramount for international trade and transport links, marine scientific research, naval missions and economic prosperity, he said, expressing concerns about recent attempts to restrict them in the South China Sea and the Black Sea, among others. He also reaffirmed support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters, including those around Crimea. Reiterating that the right of innocent passage pertains to all categories of ships, he said unilaterally established ship reporting requirements on vessels exercising this right are inconsistent with international law.
BRICE FODDA (France), aligning himself with the European Union, said all the activities of the seas should be carried out within the framework of the Convention. It outlines the responsibilities of coastal States. Its references to safe transit and passage rights are important. The provisions of part two and part four of the Convention should be fully respected. Maritime borders should be implemented with respect for national law. The Convention’s legal frameworks could be strengthened. He voiced his support for the development of an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. It supports continued efforts to ensure negotiations go on in 2022. A robust universal treaty can provide real value to protect the seas. Another major challenge is climate change and the rising sea levels. He noted his concern regarding the impact of climate change on small island developing States. Pragmatic solutions need to be identified. In February of next year, France will make its own contribution to the seas and the oceans by organizing the “One Ocean” Summit, he said.
HAI-ANH PHAM (Viet Nam) said that, as the health and resilience of the oceans play a major role in the well‑being of humankind, sustainable use and conservation are crucial in efforts to build back better from the pandemic and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Alongside other United Nations bodies, the Security Council can and should continue contributing to maritime safety and security, highlighted in the open debate in August this year. Stressing that maintaining peace, stability, maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation in and over flight above the South China Sea is the common concern of the region and the world, he called on all parties to fully uphold their legal obligations under the Convention — including respecting diplomatic and legal processes and fully complying with the Convention in determining maritime claims, without resorting to expansion and militarization. Viet Nam is determined to work with ASEAN and China to fully and effectively implement the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and negotiate an effective and substantive Code of Conduct consistent with international law, particularly the Law of the Sea Convention, he said.
THOMAS CARNAHAN (United States), calling attention to dangerous encounters between vessels to advance unlawful maritime claims in the South China Sea, recalled the Tribunal’s unanimous and legally binding decision rejecting those claims. Conflict in that Sea or in any ocean would have serious global consequences for security and for commerce, he said, adding that when a State faces no consequences, it fuels greater impunity and instability everywhere. Regarding climate change, the international community must apply every lever available. This included ocean‑based solutions to bend down the emissions curve and to improve resilience, including dramatically reducing emissions from the international shipping sector, he said, noting that the Climate Conference in Glasgow established a yearly dialogue for the Parties to advance ocean‑based climate solutions. As for ocean plastic pollution, he noted that plastic production, use, and disposal account for roughly 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, which are projected to continue to grow in the future without action. Member States must ensure that a global legal instrument to combat plastic pollution helps countries most in need with the financial resources to implement the agreement. Further, the new agreement on high seas marine biodiversity will provide an unprecedented opportunity to coordinate the conservation and sustainable use of such biodiversity across management regimes, including to establish high seas marine protected areas, he said.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), stressing oceans are a vital element not only for those who inhabit coastal areas but for humankind as a whole, called for strengthening the relevant legal framework. While examining submissions, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf needs to give due regard to the rules of procedure; it should not consider a submission made by any of the States concerned in the dispute until prior consent is given by all States that are parties to such a dispute. He urged all delegations to take a progressive approach during the next session and noted that it is essential to focus on achieving a good‑quality result that will enable to reach a consensus solution. The idea of a global economy recognizes the seas and ocean as drivers for economic development with great potential for innovation and growth, he stressed, adding that Pakistan’s interest in it emanates from a coastline of over 1000 kilometres and exclusive economic zone of 290 thousand square kilometres, the Karachi port and the newly built deep seaport at Gwadar. Pakistan is also an important stakeholder in the Indian ocean security framework which includes countering piracy, human trafficking and narcotic smuggling, he underscored, noting that the Indian Ocean represents an increasingly important avenue for global trade.
MAITÊ DE SOUZA SCHMITZ (Brazil) noted the loss of two of Brazil’s most prominent experts in the realm of oceans and law of the sea with the passing of Rear Admiral Jair Alberto Ribas Marques, who contributed to the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, and Fabio Hazin, who contributed to international negotiations related to fisheries. The Ocean Conference in Lisbon comes at a timely moment to strengthen and mobilize partnerships in support of the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 and the delivery of the 2030 Agenda. As well, Brazil is strongly committed to the ongoing negotiations on a legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Underscoring the significance of enhancing maritime safety, including oil spills at sea, she said that it was important that States enhance their cooperation in inquiries relating to such incidents, in line with article 94 of the Convention. More importantly, States must share information on the maritime traffic of ships that fly their flags and that sailed in the impacted maritime areas, she said.
RENÉ ALFONSO RUIDÍAZ PÉREZ (Chile) said that the Convention provides a framework for cooperation and collaboration among States on oceans and the sustainable use of its resources. Its legal framework provides a legal maritime zone and protects the rights of coastal States. The International Seabed Authority lays out important guidelines that provide a legal framework for the highest environmental protections of the seabed. He expressed concern with the implementation of the Convention’s part XI, which lays down a regime relating to mining minerals on the seabed outside any State's territorial waters. Chile, along with Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, have highlighted the impact of deep‑sea mining on the sea subsoil and the marine environment. The pandemic has prevented States from negotiating; in‑person meetings are needed but not possible at this time. He called on all States parties to discuss alternatives, adding his regrets that a fourth conference on an international legally binding instrument to conserve and sustain the use of biological diversity marine areas beyond national jurisdiction could not continue because of the pandemic. He added his support for efforts to ensure negotiations will go on in March 2022. Another important issue is the pollution of the oceans by plastic, he said, noting that Chile now has national policies banning the use of plastic bags.
Mr. MARTINSEN (Argentina), highlighting the political, economic and environmental repercussions of the Law of the Sea Convention, said its provisions are a delicate balance of different rights that need to be preserved while addressing new challenges. The management of resources that go beyond national jurisdiction needs to be framed by global institutions that represent the international community as a whole, he said, reaffirming his country’s commitment to the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and its resources. Argentina is actively involved in fighting illegal fishing and overfishing and has 190 measures in place to mitigate the effects of climate change. Voicing concern about the growing trend in General Assembly resolutions to legitimize regional fishing organizations that claim to adopt measures, he said that exceeds the sphere of application of those entities. General Assembly resolutions should not be used or interpreted by these organizations to give themselves any kind of authority, he stressed.
JONATHAN SAMUEL HOLLIS (United Kingdom) noted that the ocean functions as a gigantic carbon sink, having absorbed around a third of the carbon dioxide emitted and more than 90 per cent of excess heat. Moreover, the health of the ocean underpins the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people around the world. As such, action to protect and restore the ocean is essential in climate change response. Regarding the particular concerns of the member countries of the Pacific Island Forum and the Alliance, he said his Government is carefully considering their Declarations and will also continue to engage with the work of the International Law Commission on that issue. The United Kingdom continues to champion the “30 by 30” target under the Convention on Biological Diversity to protect at least 30 per cent of the global ocean by 2030, he reported. Indeed, evidence indicates that achieving that target will not only help to reverse adverse ecological impacts and preserve fish populations but will also help to increase resilience to climate change and sustain long-term ocean health.
KAJAL BHAT (India) said the transfer of marine technology and effective global partnerships is necessary for capacity‑building, given the diversity of needs and challenges. Sharing scientific knowledge would help in developing sustainable ocean‑based economies and lay the foundation for equitable participation for all States. In focusing on such areas, her country is working towards becoming a significant contributor to “blue growth” as part of a long‑term strategy in marine and maritime sectors in addition to research and development partnerships. Citing other national to global efforts, she said India has partnered with such agencies at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and has launched a campaign, Swachh Bharat/Clean India, to rejuvenate waterways in cities and villages. She also said she anticipated progress in discussions on the impact of rising sea levels and on conservation and the sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Calling for a free, open and inclusive order in the Indo‑Pacific region, she stressed “we cannot allow our seas to turn into zones of conflict.” Reiterating the importance of freedom of navigation and over flight, she said decisions of international judicial bodies are meant to be respected.
MOHAMMAD KURNIADI KOBA (Indonesia), regarding the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries, emphasized the importance of the term “to prohibit” instead of “to eliminate”, in paragraphs 130 and 131. He also observed that oceans are an important carbon sink, bearing most of the burden of anthropogenic global warming. As such, he voiced support to strengthening discussion and cooperation on the nexus of climate change and oceans within the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. For its part, Indonesia has developed a number of concrete measures including establishing an ocean sector roadmap for climate solution, rehabilitation of mangroves as well as enhancement of ocean pollution control from sources such as marine litter and plastic debris. Sea level rise response needs to be rooted in cooperation at the local, national, regional and multilateral levels. Moreover, building national resilience, implementing strategic policies, and fostering collaborative practical activities is important. In that context, he emphasized the importance of dialogue and cooperation in the region including through the implementation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Outlook of the Indo‑Pacific’s objectives and principles.
YUSNIER ROMERO PUENTES (Cuba) said ocean issues and the law of the sea should be under the oversight of the General Assembly. He highlighted the great importance of decreasing vulnerability of the social and economic consequences of the effects of climate change, in particular its impact on the oceans for the developing — especially the least advanced — countries, small island developing States and low altitude coastal countries. It is necessary to counter these effects to the benefit of humanity and oceans, he said, calling on developed countries to provide assistance and technology to developing nations. Cuba has made great efforts in implementing the national strategies for sustainable development and protection of the marine environment with a view of achieving consistent application of all provisions of the Convention. Moreover, Cuba takes all measures necessary to counter sea‑related crimes, including illegal trafficking of drugs or persons and piracy. It is of vital importance for future generations to preserve the resources of maritime biodiversity, he asserted, warning that the regime of exploitation of these resources will have a direct impact on many developing countries, many of which are small island States.
PABLO ADRIÁN ARROCHA OLABUENAGA (Mexico) recognized the progress of the work of the Legal and Technical Commission in relation to the elaboration of the Exploitation Regulations and the other guidelines and norms that will regulate exploitation activities, particularly those aimed at ensuring the effective protection and conservation of the marine environment and its resources in the Area. It is crucial that, by the time exploitation activities begin in the Area, an adequate legal framework is in place to allow for the protection of the common heritage of mankind and compliance with the various obligations arising from the Convention’s part XII and its implementing agreement. Likewise, it is urgent to advance in the elaboration of a legally binding international instrument related to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. He recognized the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and said that the vacancy that will be filled tomorrow will serve to enhance its capacity to carry out its mandate. However, there is a clear need to strengthen the operability of this body so that it can function effectively and efficiently. The international community cannot ignore the fact that the debate is being held at a crossroads of humanity because of the climate crisis, he said. In this emergency context, speeches are only worthwhile if they are accompanied by concrete actions.
ENOLA GAY ANADELLA EDWARD (Nauru), associating herself with the Alliance of Small Island States, Pacific Islands Forum and the Pacific Small Island Developing States, noted that her country is highly dependent on marine resources for economic development as a big ocean State. Acknowledging the vast scope of the adverse impacts of climate change and the importance of setting baselines for the sovereignty of her country, she noted that it is also important to conclude an ambitious international legally binding instrument under the Convention on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. Looking forward to the convening of the Ocean Conference in Lisbon, she emphasized the important work for the International Seabed Authority. She also called on its member States and all stakeholders to finalize, negotiate and adopt a world class regulatory regime that allows for the responsible collection of seafloor minerals while ensuring the protection of the environment and to implement the vision of the Convention.
HAZAA MOHAMMED SAIF AL REESI (Oman), highlighting the importance of this topic for his country due to its geographic position, said the Government’s 2040 vision is to establish strategies that preserve — and guarantee the most effective use of — national marine resources. Additionally, the international community must work to safeguard marine ecosystems, contain dangers thereto and preserve biological diversity in areas both within and without of national jurisdiction. Stressing the centrality of the Law of the Sea Convention, he called on all States to respect that instrument’s provisions, in line with international law, to achieve the 2030 Agenda. He also called for international legislation to fight marine pollution and waste, as well to address plastic accumulation and oil spillage in regional areas and on the high seas. Further, he urged better transfer of technology and learning between coastal States to better protect marine ecosystems and increase such States’ ability to benefit from the blue economy.
Mr. MULALAP (Federated States of Micronesia) said that, as a nation covering over a million square miles of Pacific Ocean, it must speak out on the sustainable use and management of marine resources in its economic zone. His county’s people have lived in harmony with the ocean since their ancestors began to navigate the seas; they have relied on traditional knowledge to conserve their land and seas. The landmark Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change‑related Sea‑Level Rise is a formal statement of the collective views of Pacific Island countries. The Islands’ maritime zones, once established with the Law of the Sea Convention, along with the rights and entitlements that flow from that instrument, shall continue to apply regardless of any physical changes that are related to climate change sea level rise. He expressed alarm over the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which notes that climate change sea level rise could be as high as one metre by the end of this century. While the report points to a time in the future, recent photos on social media from the atolls and coastal planes of his country capture the challenges of sea level rise. Saltwater inundates food crop sources and ground water wells have gone bad. “Even our dead are no longer safe in their burial grounds,” he stated, emphasizing that frightened children have to wade through water just to get to their schools. Sea level rise is not the future; it is already here for his country, the rest of the Pacific Islands, and atolls elsewhere, he warned.
MYKOLA PRYTULA (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, stressed that the Convention on the Law of the Sea established the overarching legal framework within which all activities in oceans and seas must be carried out, including settling any dispute between States by peaceful means. Referencing Article 33 of the United Nations Charter and article 279 of the Convention, he said that his country has striven to peacefully resolve its dispute with the Russian Federation. The Russian Federation has engaged in numerous violations of Ukraine’s rights under the Convention and other relevant rules of international law. It has unlawfully excluded Ukraine from exercising its maritime rights in the Black Sea, Sea of Azov, and Kerch Strait; exploited Ukraine’s sovereign resources in those waters for its own ends; and has usurped Ukraine’s right to regulate within its own maritime areas in those waters. Despite the ongoing trial at the Tribunal concerning Ukraine’s coastal State rights in these areas, the Russian Federation continues to engage in a wave of violations of the Convention, including denying the immunity of three Ukraine naval vessels and 24 servicemen on board. As the Arbitral Tribunal is to consider the case on its merits after holding a hearing recently, he emphasized that the immunities of warships are the fundamental principle of international customary and maritime law. Nobody has the right to violate it, and in case of violation, one should bear full responsibility.
LUCIA TERESA SOLANO RAMIREZ (Colombia), highlighting the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on the oceans, noted that if the rules of procedure were clearer, Member States could focus more clearly on issues of substance. Colombia — although it has not ratified the Law of the Sea Convention — has always recognized its importance. She reiterated that the discussed draft resolutions should not be considered as acceptance of the provisions contained in that instrument. Colombia has developed its maritime activities in attachment to the various international commitments that it has undertaken. She expressed reservations about the mention of the Convention in the draft resolutions as the only normative framework which regulates ocean activities. Colombia does not consider it compulsory that the content of these declarations requests an intervention, she said, adding that substantive discussions should not be postponed. “The oceans cannot wait,” she asserted, urging States to move forward with the resolution on the sustainable fishing to eliminate harmful substances that contribute to overfishing and illegal fishing. In addition, Colombia is on the list to reinitiate negotiations on the instrument of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction, she said, noting that all States must protect the seas.
JÖRUNDUR VALTÝSSON (Iceland) said that while the Icelandic economy revolves around more than fish and livestock, sustainable seafood still sustains life on the island, both through export and as the nutrient‑rich, climate‑friendly superfood it is. Highlighting the twenty‑fifth anniversary of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, he said it has greatly contributed to peace through its role in dispute settlement. He pointed to next year’s World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference, affirming that Iceland has long advocated the importance of reaching agreement on prohibiting harmful fisheries subsidies, which contribute to overfishing and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Urging the international community to turn the tide on climate change and carbon emissions, he also cited ocean acidification — a phenomenon which particularly impacts cold Arctic waters and can result in major damage to life in the ocean. His Government has set out a new, ambitious goal of being the first country in the world to become not only carbon neutral, but independent of fossil fuels by 2040. He also noted his Government prioritizes Arctic marine issues with an emphasis on plastic pollution and the blue bioeconomy, as well as climate and green energy solutions. Science is the best friend of successful ocean management, conservation and sustainable use, he said, welcoming the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which began this year.
LUKE ROUGHTON (New Zealand), aligning himself with the Pacific Islands Forum, said that complying with the obligations, and enjoying the rights, contained in the Convention on the Law of the Sea is of vital importance to the security, prosperity and sustainability of his country and its Pacific partners. Welcoming the International Seabed Authority’s work in developing a regulatory framework to govern seabed mining in the area, he said New Zealand is actively engaged and, along with other States, seeks a regulatory regime to ensure that deep‑sea mining cannot proceed unless the marine environment is effectively protected. Sea level rise and climate change pose grave threats to small island developing States and low‑lying communities around the world, especially in the Pacific region, he said, noting that New Zealand is a signatory to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change‑Related Sea‑Level Rise. Underscoring his country’s commitment to working with the international community to ensure the preservation of the maritime rights and entitlements many States rely on, he said that this issue is guided both by the need to preserve the balance of rights and responsibilities agreed in the Law of the Sea Convention and the critical importance of upholding its integrity and primacy.
WISNIQUE PANIER (Haiti), associating herself with the Alliance of Small Island States, said that the catastrophic effects of human activities disproportionately affect coastal populations and the most vulnerable categories, including small island developing States. She encouraged the international community to protect and restore the oceans as an overarching imperative of the twenty‑first century in the context of achieving the 2030 Agenda and the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. She also urged Member States to protect the integrity of the Convention on the Law of the Sea. Her country had, as early as 1894, set its maritime limit at six nautical miles, maintained by the Convention about 100 years later. The national Parliament voted unanimously on 13 July 2017, for a law creating the Maritime and Navigation Service of Haiti, the Maritime Code and the Navigation Code. Noting the conflicts related to the delimitation of maritime borders in the world, she said that the risks of major conflicts between the protagonists are low due to the diplomatic maturity and the good neighbourly relations of the actors in question.
MICHAEL STELLAKATOS LOVERDOS (Greece), aligning himself with the European Union and noting his delegation’s co-sponsorship of the draft resolution, said the Convention’s provisions are binding on all States, regardless of whether or not they are signatories, and their renewed commitment to respect the legal order of the oceans and the rule of law is more appropriate and relevant than ever before. States entering in bilateral arrangements, defining their maritime limits or conducting ocean or sea activities must respect fundamental provisions of the Law of the Sea. It is imperative that the Convention on the Law of the Sea, the principle of good neighbourly relations and the sovereignty and sovereign rights over maritime zones of all States, including those generated by islands, are respected, he said.
ALEXANDER S. PROSKURYAKOV (Russian Federation) underscored the importance of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which constitutes a comprehensive legal regime. Most of its norms, however, are customary in nature. Therefore, he encouraged those States that have not yet done so to accede to the Convention. He also stressed the importance of cooperation between States relating to the 1995 Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement, which is the tried and tested instrument for regulating fishing that occurs beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Emphasizing the importance of annual resolutions on the law of the sea, he expressed concern over the increased documentation therein. Adding a multitude of narrow provisions makes resolutions harder to understand and potentially less useful. He also stressed that, while the Russian Federation respects the norms of international maritime law — including that of peaceful navigation — military manoeuvres that jeopardize his country’s territorial integrity cannot be considered peaceful. He went on to say that Ukraine’s inappropriate statements have been repeated year after year and that its list of fabricated accusations only serves to politicize today’s meeting.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) observed that climate action, including ocean-based renewable energy, ocean-based transportation, coastal and marine ecosystems, fisheries, aquaculture and carbon storage in the seabed, have the potential to close the emission gap and mitigate climate change impacts. Sustainably developing oceans while maintaining their health can define a new era of opportunities for coastal countries. Turning to the ocean governance processes, he observed that international law has divided the seas into jurisdictional zones and functional uses, with certain consequences in the context of maritime security. For instance, a coastal State can exercise its sovereignty within its baseline and internal waters. However, that means the international community will start to see new vistas being exploited as it negotiates a new legally binding instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the framework of the Convention. That zonal approach that deals with the functional use of ocean space is overshadowed by the management of fisheries which straddle zonal boundaries, he said. Turning to the vital importance of the Law of the Sea Convention, he pointed out that being possessed of military power no longer assures rights in the ocean because of the Convention. “The Convention is the law that rules the chartered seas of today,” he said.
Right of Reply
The representative of Japan, in exercise of the right of reply, responded to the remarks made by the representative of China, saying that the water that was being referred to is not contaminated and meets regulatory standards. Japan has been transparent in its efforts in explaining this to the international community based on scientific evidence and will continue to do so.
The representative of China said that during the general debate the representatives of some countries made wrong remarks on the South China Sea issue. The United Nations is not the appropriate venue to discuss this issue. China’s position is consistent and clear: its maritime rights and interests have a full legal basis. His Government has always been committed to resolving jurisdictional disputes with any States directly concerned, he said, noting that thanks to the joint efforts of China and ASEAN countries, the situation in the South China Sea remains generally stable. As a party to the Law of the Sea Convention, China enjoys the rights conferred, he said. However, the Convention does not exhaust all the rules under the Convention; this is stated in the preamble to the Convention. Any matters not regulated by the Convention will be governed by the rules of general international law. Japan’s decision to discharge contaminated water into the oceans is irresponsible, he said, urging it to rescind its decision in order to maintain the overall interests of the international community.