Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf Concludes Fifty-Seventh Session
NEW YORK, 16 March (Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea) ― The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf held its fifty-seventh session at United Nations Headquarters, from 23 January to 10 March.
This was the last session of the Commission in its current composition, before the expiration of the term of office of its members on 15 June.
To allow for a finalization of several recommendations, the plenary part was exceptionally held for three weeks, from 30 January to 10 February and from 6 to 10 March. The remaining four weeks of the session were devoted to the technical examination of submissions at the geographic information systems laboratories of the Division, with priority being given to the examination of recommendations adopted by subcommissions at the fifty-sixth and fifty-seventh sessions.
The following submissions were considered by the Commission and its subcommissions during the fifty-seventh session: the submissions made by the Russian Federation in respect of the Arctic Ocean (partial revised submission); Brazil in respect of the Brazilian Equatorial Margin (partial revised submission); France and South Africa jointly in respect of the area of the Crozet Archipelago and the Prince Edward Islands; Kenya; Mauritius in respect of the region of Rodrigues Island (partial submission); Nigeria; Palau in respect of the North Area (partial amended submission); Sri Lanka; Portugal; Spain in respect of the area of Galicia (partial submission); and India (partial submission). With regard to the submissions made by Sri Lanka and India, however, the Commission decided to suspend their consideration in view of objections made by third States to their consideration.
At the plenary level, the subcommissions established to examine the submissions made by the Russian Federation, France and South Africa jointly, and Kenya made presentations. Following final presentations by the respective submitting States and extensive deliberations, the Commission approved these three sets of recommendations.
With regard to the submission made by Nigeria, following presentations made by the subcommission and the submitting State, the Commission commenced its consideration of the recommendations adopted by the subcommission during the present session. However, due to time-related constraints, the Commission did not complete the consideration of the recommendations and deferred it to the fifty-eighth session.
To underscore the importance that the submitting States attach to the work of the Commission, some delegations were represented at the high-level: the delegation of the Russian Federation was headed by the Minister for Natural Resources and the Environment, Alexander Kozlov; the delegation of Kenya was headed by the Attorney General, Justin B. N. Muturi; and the delegation of Nigeria was headed by the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami.
The Commission also reviewed its working methods in order to reduce the impact that the increase in the number and complexity of revised submissions has on the overall queue of submissions. It decided that, in future sessions, unless decided otherwise, it would consider submissions according to a ratio of two original submissions to one revised submission. This approach would be periodically reviewed.
In light of this decision and in view of the progress in its work, the Commission decided that new subcommissions be established to consider the submissions made by the Cook Islands in respect of the Manihiki Plateau (revised submission), Trinidad and Tobago, and Namibia, respectively. The members of those subcommissions would be appointed at the fifty-eighth session (5 July to 22 August), which will already be attended by the members elected in 2022, whose term of office starts on 16 June 2023. The Commission also decided that a subcommission will commence the consideration of one additional revised submission, yet to be determined at that session.
Following a discussion on the conditions of service of its members, the Commission further decided to appoint one of its members to act as a liaison between the Commission and the co-coordinators of the Open-Ended Working Group established by the Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Further details of the fifty-seventh session will be available in the Statement of the Chairperson of the Commission (document CLCS/57/2).
On behalf of the States Parties to the Convention, the President of the thirty-second Meeting of Stats Parties, Vanessa Frazier, Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations, conveyed appreciation to the outgoing members of the Commission, with a special recognition for the contribution of Lawrence Folajimi Awosika and Yong Ahn Park, who have been members of the Commission since its establishment in 1997. Wanda-Lee de Landro-Clarke and Clodette Raharimananirina were also recognized by Ambassador Frazier not only for their substantive contribution to the Commission since their election in 2017, but also for representing a first step towards the goal of gender balance in the Commission, and more generally in the institutions under the Convention.
Established pursuant to article 2 of annex II to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Commission makes recommendations to coastal States on matters related to the establishment of the outer limits of their continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, based on information submitted to it by coastal States. These recommendations are based on the scientific and technical data and other material provided by States in relation to the implementation of article 76 of the Convention. The recommendations do not prejudice matters relating to the delimitation of boundaries between States with opposite or adjacent coasts or prejudice the position of States that are parties to a land or maritime dispute, or application of other parts of the Convention or any other treaties. The limits of the continental shelf established by a coastal State on the basis of these recommendations shall be final and binding. In the case of disagreement by the coastal State with the recommendations of the Commission, the coastal State shall, within a reasonable time, make a revised or new submission to the Commission.
Under rule 23 of its rules of procedure (Public and private meetings), the meetings of the Commission, its subcommissions and subsidiary bodies are held in private, unless the Commission decides otherwise.
As required under the rules of procedure of the Commission, the executive summaries of all the submissions, including all charts and coordinates, have been made public by the Secretary‑General through continental shelf notifications circulated to Member States of the United Nations, as well as States parties to the Convention. The executive summaries are available on the Division’s website at: www.un.org/depts/los/clcs_new/clcs_home.htm. The summaries of recommendations adopted by the Commission are also available on the above-referenced website.
The Commission is a body of 21 experts in the field of geology, geophysics or hydrography. They serve in their personal capacities. Members of the Commission are elected for a term of five years by the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention from among their nationals having due regard to the need to ensure equitable geographical representation. Not fewer than three members shall be elected from each geographical region.
Currently, one seat on the Commission continues to be vacant due to the lack of nominations from the Eastern European Group of States.
The Convention provides that the State Party which submitted the nomination of a member of the Commission shall defray the expenses of that member while in performance of Commission duties. A Voluntary Trust Fund for the purpose of defraying the cost of participation of the members of the Commission from developing countries has been established. It has facilitated the participation of several members of the Commission from developing countries in the sessions of the Commission.
The convening by the Secretary-General of the United Nations of the sessions of the Commission, with full conference services, including documentation, for the plenary parts of these sessions, is subject to approval by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Assembly does so in its annual resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea, which also address other matters relevant to the work of the Commission and the conditions of service of its members.
For additional information on the work of the Commission see the website of the Division at: www.un.org/depts/los/index.htm. In particular, the most recent Statements by the Chair on the progress in the work of the Commission are available at: www.un.org/depts/los/clcs_new/commission_documents.