76TH UNGA PLENARY MEETING
OCEANS AND THE LAW OF THE SEA:
Commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the adoption and opening for signature
of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Resolution 76/72)
Statement by the Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations,
His Excellency Dr Satyendra Prasad, on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum
8 December 2022
Ladies and Gentlemen\
It gives me great pleasure to join this important occasion to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on 10 December 1982. I make this statement on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum.
2. As guardians of the largest body of ocean through which we live and breathe, we are proud and strong defenders of the Convention as the “constitution” for the ocean and the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.
3. It safeguards our political, economic and development aspirations, and provides the blueprint for the rights and entitlements critical to our nation building and to the survival of our people.
4. Indeed, the Convention shapes our “Blue Pacific Continent”, which spans a combined exclusive economic zone of over 41 million square kilometres and lies at the heart of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
5. As we reflect on the Convention, we also reflect on the year that has been; a whirlwind year that has re-defined business as usual in a post-COVID stricken and increasingly uncertain world.
6. With rising geopolitical tensions and threats of war amongst major powers, UNCLOS stands tall as a cornerstone of the rules-based international legal order to which we all subscribe.
7. The importance of UNCLOS is even more critical today as the world becomes more interconnected. The value of global trade has grown exponentially over the past decades, and over 90% of traded goods in the world are carried over sea. Freedom of navigation remains an essential condition for our global supply chains and economies.
8. The establishment and maintenance of maritime zones and the rights and entitlements flowing from them is of paramount importance to us and remains a high priority for our region, as reaffirmed by Leaders at their 51st Meeting, held in Fiji in July of this year.
9. We consider that the preservation of maritime zones is an integral part of maintaining the balance of rights and obligations of UNCLOS and respecting coastal States’ jurisdiction, sovereignty, and sovereign rights in the various maritime zones.
10. Securing maritime zones against the threats of sea-level rise is the defining issue underpinning the full realisation of our Blue Pacific Continent. To this end, we continue to proudly uphold the 2021 Pacific Islands Forum Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise, firmly grounded on UNCLOS.
11. We sincerely thank all States that have formally supported this initiative, and welcome those here who will join us, and support this Declaration.
12. We note the success of the 7th Our Ocean Conference in Palau and applaud the commitments which were made to protect ocean health and security. We also note the UN Ocean Conference held this year in Lisbon and welcome the adoption of the declaration entitled “Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility.”
13. Today’s meeting follows in the heels of a number of other important and related global meetings, including the UNFCCC COP27, and last week the first session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to develop a legally binding agreement on plastic pollution, including in the
14. This week begins the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and we look forward to the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, to provide a strategic vision and a global roadmap for the conservation, protection, restoration and sustainable management of biodiversity and ecosystems for the next decade.
15.We then look towards the new year, where we will seek the successful conclusion of a new comprehensive and ambitious legal instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdictions at resumed negotiations in February.
16. As Pacific peoples, we value and depend upon our vast ocean, our island resources and the integrity of our natural environment.
17. We are at the forefront of regional tuna fisheries management, and we prioritise securing sustainable benefits from tuna resources.
18. Fisheries and aquaculture remain critical for our food security, our recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, sustainable development, economic resilience, and protecting the cultural heritage of the region.
19. While taking note of the endorsement of the partial Fisheries Subsidies Agreement (FSA) at the Twelfth World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in June 2022, we are calling on all WTO members to progress the ratification of the FSA; as well as commit to the 2nd wave of the negotiations on Overcapacity and Overfishing.
20. Embodying the three pillars of sustainable development – social, economic and environmental – we stress the important role of UNCLOS in establishing a delicate balance between the need for economic and social development through the use of the oceans and their resources and the need to conserve and manage those resources in a sustainable manner.
21. Through our 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, we commit to protect our ocean and environment, to safeguard the integrity of our natural systems and biodiversity through conservation action, and by minimising activities that degrade, pollute, overexploit, or undermine our ocean and natural environment.
22.We have strong concerns for the significance of the potential threat of nuclear contamination to the health and security of the Blue Pacific, its people and prospects.
23.Faced with a painful nuclear testing legacy, we are determined to avoid future transboundary and inter-generational impacts of nuclear contamination to our Blue Pacific.
24. As articulated under the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty, we are determined to ensure that the bounty and beauty of our land and sea remains the heritage of our peoples and our descendants in perpetuity to be enjoyed by all in peace.
25. We therefore reaffirm the importance of ensuring international consultation, international law, and independent and verifiable scientific assessments. We must strive for the highest standards not only of nuclear safety, but of environmental and marine protection.
26. In closing, we reiterate that UNCLOS must remain our compass as we voyage towards the next 40 years.
27. Faced with new circumstances, opportunities and challenges, the Blue Pacific stands ready to work with all Parties to continue to uphold the provisions of UNCLOS to foster a Blue Planet with a shared future for all.
I thank you.–ENDS
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