Delegates Also Laud Intergovernmental Committee Drawing Up Legally Binding Agreement to End Plastic Pollution, Including in Marine Environment
Commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, delegates at the General Assembly today considered two draft resolutions that address a diverse range of challenges, including climate change, loss of marine biodiversity, and sustainable fisheries.
The Assembly adopted by consensus 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”, introduced by Norway’s delegate. By its terms, the Assembly called upon all States to apply widely the precautionary and ecosystem approaches to the conservation, management and exploitation of fish stocks.
The Assembly postponed action on the draft resolution “Oceans and the law of the sea”, introduced by Singapore’s delegate.
Expressing support for the draft resolutions, Cuba’s delegate described the texts as important steps forward in application of existing instruments on oceans at the global and regional levels. In the same vein, the delegate of the Republic of Korea said the draft resolution on “Oceans and the law of the sea” will have a crucial impact on marine diversity. Further, the resolution addresses various challenges, including climate change, loss of marine biodiversity and potential sources of harm, such as underwater noise and marine debris, he stressed.
Meanwhile, the delegate of the Russian Federation voiced concern over the volume and thematic scope of the draft resolutions, as well as the growing number of proposals. These drafts are running the risk of becoming unreadable, and thus useless to their target audiences — relevant national agencies. Along similar lines, the representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, noted that the draft resolution on “Oceans and the law of the sea” should have included a factual reference to voluntary commitments made by more than 100 States. While welcoming the resolution’s progress in addressing anthropogenic underwater noise, he expressed regret that growing scientific evidence of this phenomenon’s negative impact is still contested.
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, speakers also stressed today. Fiji’s delegate, speaking for the Pacific Islands Forum, stressed that oceanic peoples depend on the ocean as the greatest source of nourishment, livelihood, identity and economic prosperity. He commended the establishment of the intergovernmental negotiating committee to draw up a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.
Echoing that stance, the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, expressed support for the legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. She noted that “the ocean’s natural adaptive capacity is beyond its limits, resulting in the deterioration of ecosystem structures and functions, and mass mortality events causing the loss of hundreds of species”. As slow onset events are an imminent threat to small island States, sea-level rise must be addressed now, she asserted.
Describing climate-induced sea-level rise as the greatest threat to the health of oceans, Bangladesh’s delegate welcomed the adoption of the Global Ocean Observing System 2030 Strategy. Climate-induced sea-level rise may have devastating impacts on the livelihoods of people in Bangladesh, he cautioned, adding that a one meter sea-level rise can submerge 40 per cent of the southern coastal part of his country, resulting in internal displacement, food insecurity and economic losses.
“Climate scientists have forecasted that before this century ends, our islands will be inundated — erased from the world map,” warned the representative of Maldives. Discussions of transboundary harm and international accountability based on an intersectional approach are essential, he asserted, stressing the importance of the Global Ocean Observing System in adapting to climate change.
In the same vein, the delegate of the Philippines said the fate of his country — with waters encompassing over six times the size of its land — is tied to the global ocean. Climate change continues to have an impact on the ocean, as sea-level rise, ocean heat and ocean acidification broke new records in 2021, he cautioned, noting that sea-level rise in the Philippines is about two to three times that of the global average.
Numerous delegates expressed concern about the increasing number of incidents in the South China Sea, with the representative of the Philippines calling on the international community to refrain from such destabilizing activities. Similarly, Australia’s delegate warned against destabilizing actions and serious incidents in the South China Sea, maintaining that any maritime disputes should be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, particularly the Convention.
Later in the day, Judge Albert Hoffmann, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, briefed the Assembly on noteworthy developments that have occurred in three cases, including the Dispute concerning delimitation of the maritime boundary between Mauritius and Maldives in the Indian Ocean; the M/T “San Padre Pio” (No. 2) Case (Switzerland/Nigeria); and the M/T “Heroic Idun”.
Also briefing the Assembly was Michael W. Lodge, International Seabed Authority.
Following action on the draft resolution, the Assembly briefly resumed its debate on the Law of the Sea Convention, which it will conclude at a later date.
Also speaking today were the representatives of Guatemala, Canada, China, Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, United States, Monaco, Egypt, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Federated States of Micronesia, Sierra Leone, New Zealand, Germany, India, Japan, Nauru, Pakistan, Iceland, Cyprus, Haiti, Palau, Costa Rica, Argentina, Venezuela, Malaysia, Mauritius and the Russian Federation.
The representative of China spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The General Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 12 December, to take up the reports of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).