UNGA: Oceans and the law of the sea

Statement by Ambassador Odd-Inge Kvalheim at the General AssemblySeventy-fifth Session, 38th and 39th plenary meetings, Oceans and the law of the sea, 8 December 2020.

Norway has had the honour of coordinating the informal consultations on draft resolution A/75/L.40 on sustainable fisheries. I am pleased to introduce the text on behalf of its co-sponsors.

Due to the special circumstances that we find ourselves in this year, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that has rendered in person meetings impossible, this year’s resolution had to be negotiated using virtual meetings, combined with written procedures.

The draft resolution we have in front of us represents, to a large extent, a technical rollover of last year’s resolution. Delegations agreed that updates should be limited to only those necessary to prepare for forthcoming meetings as well as addressing issues with budgetary implications and mandate renewals.

On behalf of the coordinator, Andreas Motzfeldt Kravik, I would like to use this opportunity to thank delegations for their hard work and flexibility and the Secretariat for their invaluable efforts and support throughout the negotiations.


Mr. President,

Fisheries provide a vital source of food, employment, trade and economic well-being for people throughout the world. Achieving sustainable fisheries, combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, addressing fishing overcapacity, ensuring safety at sea and decent working conditions in the fisheries sector, and improving sub-regional and regional cooperation are all necessary if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 14.

The United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement was opened for signature 25 years ago. The Agreement is a cornerstone in contemporary fisheries management. It sets out a comprehensive legal regime for the conservation and sustainable use of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, with a strong emphasis on regional management. It promotes the sustainability of some of the world’s most commercially important fish stocks.

This year also marked the 25th anniversary of the 1995 FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The Code continues to be a reference framework for national and international efforts to ensure sustainable fishing and production of aquatic living resources in harmony with the environment. 

Still, one out of five fish caught around the world every year is thought to originate from IUU fishing, valued at 10 - 23 billion USD annually. The effective global implementation of the Agreement on Port State Measures, the first binding international agreement to specifically target illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is one of the most cost-effective means to curb such fishing. Let me take this opportunity to call upon states that have not yet done so to become parties to the PSMA.


Mr President,

Norway is pleased to join others in co-sponsoring the draft resolution on “Oceans and the law of the sea”. We thank Ms. Morris-Sharma for her leadership during the consultations, concluded under challenging circumstances.

This draft resolution again reaffirms the universal and unified character of the Convention, and that it sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. Norway fully subscribes to this view. The Convention provides clarity regarding the obligations and the rights of states. It represents customary law, and provides an indispensable framework for sustainable use of marine resources, protection of the marine environment, shipping safety and security, international and regional cooperation, and marine science.


Mr President,

Norway’s Prime Minster, in her statement at the General Assembly general debate, drew attention to the challenges seafarers are facing in this crisis. The International Maritime Organization on 21 September 2020 adopted a resolution entitled “Recommended Action to facilitate ship crew change, access to medical care and seafarer travel during the COVID-19 pandemic”. Norway encourages all member states to implement its recommendations.

A well-functioning Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is an important priority for Norway. Thus, it is important that all parties involved secure good working conditions for members of the Commission. Several challenging issues have been highlighted in the working group dedicated to the issues and unfortunately it appears that it will take time to find solutions. However, an important measure that would not have to await further considerations, would be strengthening the voluntary trust funds established to defray the cost of participation of the members of the Commission from developing States in the meetings of the Commission, as well as to facilitate the preparation by developing states of their submissions. We would therefore encourage all states that are in a position to do so, to make contributions to the funds. We also support the ongoing assessment of ways to enable members of the Commission to remotely participate in the work of the Commission and its sub-commissions, as long as the COVID-19 pandemic prevents the Commission from meeting in New York, and the possible use of the mentioned trust funds in this respect.

Marine scientific research is fundamental to improve our understanding and knowledge of the oceans. We therefore very much welcome the implementation plan for the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and thank the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission for preparing the plan.


Mr. President,

This year Norway, together with the Division for Ocean Affairs and The Law of The Sea, launched a programme of assistance to meet the strategic capacity needs of developing states in the field of ocean governance and the law of the sea. Norway has provided 2.2 million USD in financial support to the programme. The programme will provide, over a four-year period, capacity-development and technical assistance to a number of developing States to reinforce their capacity to implement the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and related Agreements, and to better harness the benefits of the sustainable ocean economy, including through a more effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals.


Mr. President,

Two years ago, Norway’s Prime Minister, together with 14 world leaders, making up the Ocean Panel set out to shape a transformative agenda for a sustainable ocean economy, where effective protection, sustainable production, and equitable prosperity go hand-in-hand. More than 230 world leading experts have since provided the Panel with new science, knowledge and opportunities for action. Their work is captured in the newly released report that sums up the abundant evidence of the benefits of ocean action for people, nature, and the economy. The essence of the Panel’s recommendations is that we must change our mindset when managing the oceans. The oceans can provide more food, jobs and other benefits, but this can happen only if we protect and manage the oceans properly. Our aim must be sustainable management of 100% of the oceans.


Mr President,

Norway is a steadfast supporter of the process of developing a new instrument for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. We see a need for a new regime governing marine genetic resources in these areas. This regime should be pragmatic, cost-effective and practical, and it should promote research and innovation. The regime should also secure access to benefit sharing, particularly for developing countries. With regard to area-based management tools, including marine protected areas, the new instrument should initiate increased contributions from existing sectorial and regional mechanisms to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. By doing so, the instrument would add value to the existing structures and contribute to strengthened implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.