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I have the honour to speak on behalf of the five Nordic countries – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, and my own country Norway – on the occasion of this high-level commemorative event to mark the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
This 40th anniversary is undoubtably remarkable. The Convention, often referred to as the “Constitution for the Oceans”, is one of the most significant, and visionary multilateral instruments ever created. It is a milestone for international cooperation and governance, setting out the legal framework within which all activities in the ocean and seas must be carried out. It has provided predictability and a basis for peaceful use of the ocean, maritime security, international cooperation, and friendly relations among nations. And the Convention promotes economic and social advancement for all peoples of the world, through just, equitable and sustainable utilisation of the ocean.
We would like to take this opportunity to express our sincerest appreciation to the President of The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS); the Secretary General of the International Seabed Authority (ISA); and the Chair of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS); as well as the President of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), all present here today. The institutions you are leading are all integral to the international legal order of the ocean. And the Nordic countries sincerely value your leadership.
We would also like to reaffirm our appreciation to the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) for its continued efforts of support and dedication.
The Convention is widely recognised as generally reflecting customary international law. This is testament to the durability of the Convention, but also its flexible and dynamic character.
Currently under negotiation are new instruments that would further develop the Convention in response to pressing matters. Under the stewardship of the International Seabed Authority, State Parties are finalising ‘the legal framework for exploitation of marine minerals in the Area’. This will ensure the protection and sustainable use of these resources- which the Convention aptly designated as the common heritage of mankind. Our goal is to conclude the new agreement under the Convention on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) in 2022. This will be an important achievement towards the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean for both current and future generations.
The ocean, seas and coastal areas form an integrated and essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem. The Convention provides the legal framework for the sustainable use of the ocean and their resources, and obliges States to protect and preserve the marine environment. Yet, we still face many challenges:
- The marine environment and biodiversity continues to suffer from acidification, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, pollution and illegal discharges.
- Maritime crimes remain a problem.
- Climate change is leading to a decrease in sea ice, accelerating sea level rise, and more frequent extreme weather – The effects of which unfortunately strike the most vulnerable and/or less developed parts of the world the hardest.
- And the importance of ensuring gender-equality and labour rights, is often disregarded in the law of the sea context.
These are only some of the pressing issues we must resolve. But the Nordic countries are confident that the Convention is the appropriate framework for successfully addressing these, and other emerging challenges. We remain committed to working within the framework of the Convention to combat illegal activities at sea, and towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as a whole, and SDG 14 in particular.
In conclusion, let me take this joyous opportunity of the 40th anniversary to call upon States that has not yet done so, to become parties to the Convention in order to fully achieve the goal of its universal participation and protection of our ocean.