76TH UNGA HIGH-LEVEL COMMEMORATIVE EVENT TO MARK THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ADOPTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF THE SEA
Statement by HE Samuelu Laloniu
Tuvalu Permanent Representative to the United Nations
on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum
Friday 29 April 2022, 10am (NYT)
1. It is my great honour, on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, to deliver this statement at this special occasion to mark the 40th Anniversary of the adoption of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. We celebrate UNCLOS and its critical role in shaping and securing our global community
and indeed, our Blue Pacific.
2. Excellencies, the law of the sea has been at the forefront of the Forum agenda since its establishment over 50 years ago. However, our intrinsic ties to the ocean span millennia, delicately woven through a Pacific tapestry of cultures, shared bonds, and stewardship.
3. As guardians of the largest part of the Ocean through which we live and breathe, we are proud and strong defenders of UNCLOS as the legal order for the world’s oceans and seas. As reaffirmed by the General Assembly in its annual resolution on UNCLOS, the Convention sets out the legal
framework within which all activities in the ocean and seas must be carried out. Indeed, it is the Constitution for the oceans, promoting peace and cooperation and supporting the peaceful settlement of disputes and the rule of law.
4. Directly applying to and regulating 70 percent of the earth’s surface, but with rights, entitlements, and responsibilities for the international community, UNCLOS is the backbone that upholds legal certainty, stability, security, and predictability for our island nations.
5. It safeguards our political and development aspirations and provides the blueprint for the rights and entitlements critical to our nation building, to our development aspirations, and to the survival of our people.
6. Today, we recall the historic negotiation of a global treaty on the law of the sea, dating back to 1958. Its adoption 24 years later was a mammoth step for the entire international community, representing one of the most comprehensive and successful global diplomatic efforts of the 20th century.
7. To this end, I wish to pay tribute to the vision and courage of the founding Leaders of the Forum – the Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga, Australia, and New Zealand – who placed law of the sea as a key priority since their very first meeting in August 1971.
8. In the decade that followed, the centrality of law of the sea to the Forum was articulated in its first two Declarations issued in 1976 and 1977. Key decisions include the agreement to establish 200-mile fishing or economic zones as quickly as possible to secure the benefits from their resources for their peoples.
9. By 1979, the Forum concluded an international legally binding treaty to establish a regional fisheries agency to support the sovereign rights of our coastal states to conserve and manage living resources, including highly migratory species, in their 200-mile zone.
10. The Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency was established with a vision for our people to enjoy the highest levels of social and economic benefits through the sustainable use of our offshore fisheries resources. Pacific countries have since benefitted from the sustainable use of tuna, worth over
$3 billion a year and important for many people’s livelihoods in the Pacific.
11. Ladies and gentlemen, I highlight this important history to demonstrate our long-standing support for law of the sea. UNCLOS has continued to shape our vision and goals for the region, including through the 1985 South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, the 2010 Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape, the Blue Pacific narrative, and the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific which Pacific Leaders will consider this year.
12. Ladies and gentlemen, we applaud the universal acceptance and unified character of UNCLOS, with 168 States Parties to date.
13. Significantly, thanks to UNCLOS, the Blue Pacific enjoys our status as large ocean states covering territories with a combined EEZ size of close to 40million square kilometres, which is more than the combined size of Russia, China, the US, and the EU.
14. This has yielded major economic, social, cultural, and sustainable development opportunities. From territorial waters and exclusive economic zones, to extended continental shelf areas, these zones reflect and determine the sovereignty, sovereign rights, entitlements, and responsibilities of a State under
15. Excellencies, these sovereign rights, and entitlements – and indeed, our ocean – are under great threat.
16. Our Leaders recognise climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods and wellbeing of Pacific Island peoples. Securing our maritime zones and the rights and entitlements that flow from them against the threats of climate change-related sea-level rise is therefore a major priority for our region today.
17. Guided by UNCLOS, Forum Leaders issued on 6 August 2021 the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise.
18. The Declaration recalls with pride our long history of support for the law of the sea, underlining that coastal States, particularly Small Island Developing States and low-lying States which are specially affected by sea-level rise and climate change, have planned their development in reliance on the rights to their maritime zones guaranteed in the Convention.
19. Leaders proclaimed that our maritime zones, as established and notified to the United Nations Secretary-General in accordance with the Convention, and the rights and entitlements that flow from them, shall continue to apply, without reduction, notwithstanding any physical changes connected to climate change related sea-level rise.
20. Excellencies, we continue to offer our Declaration as a considered, moderate, and targeted solution to this global issue, and I take this opportunity once again to call on all States Parties of UNCLOS to join us through adopting similar regional as well as national practices.
21. Excellencies, we further re-emphasise the importance of strengthening Ocean governance both within, and beyond, national jurisdictions of countries, to ensure the holistic and sustainable management of the Ocean.
22. The Pacific looks forward to the expeditious finalisation this year, and subsequent adoption of an international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdictions, which establishes a robust and ambitious framework to conserve and sustainably use our marine biodiversity.
23. Following the recent success of the 7th Our Ocean Conference in Palau, we applaud the commitments of up to USD$16.35 billion towards concrete action to protect ocean health and security. We look ahead to the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, as well as to advancing the ocean-climate nexus through the UNFCCC. We also welcome the launching of an intergovernmental negotiating committee for an international legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. UNCLOS, including its provisions on the protection and preservation of the marine environment, provides a rich source of
guidance on implementing such commitments and advancing such discussions and negotiations through their respective processes.
24. Excellencies, the Pacific Islands Forum commends the work of the International Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the three organs established by the Convention.
25. We also express appreciation to the UN Secretary-General for his annual reports on oceans and the law of the sea and for the high standard of the support provided by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea to the work of the Meeting of States Parties and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental
26. Finally, we take this opportunity to call upon States that have not yet done so to become States Parties to the Convention and the Agreement relating to the Implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982.
I thank you–ENDS/CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
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