In April, the UN General Assembly marked the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Convention is one of the most significant multilateral instruments ever created. It represents a milestone for international cooperation and governance. As the “Constitution of the Oceans” the Convention sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.
It has provided predictability and a basis for peaceful uses of the ocean, maritime security, international cooperation, and friendly relations among states. The Convention promotes economic and social advancement for all peoples of the world, through just, equitable and sustainable utilization of the ocean. In this regard, its provisions both reflect the ecological unity of the ocean and are carefully designed to respond to the interests of all States Parties, including developing States.
The marine environment and biodiversity are facing significant and complex challenges in the coming years, including acidification, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, pollution, and illegal discharges. Furthermore, a changing climate will lead to a decrease in sea ice, accelerating sea level rise, extreme sea level events and more frequent extreme weather.
Norway remains confident that the Convention is the appropriate framework for successfully addressing these emerging challenges for the ocean of the present and future and is committed to working within this framework towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular SDG 14.
Let me take this joyous opportunity 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.
The Convention is founded on the prerequisite that all States have the ability to participate in international processes and exercise their sovereign rights at sea. Such participation is also fundamental to ensure the efficiency and legitimacy of the architecture that the Convention establishes. To achieve this, it is, firstly, paramount that States cooperate and share their experiences to further strengthen the capacity of developing countries, and to ensure equal access. Capacity building measures therefore remain a main priority for Norway. For example, Norway has supported successful capacity building projects within the mandate of the International Seabed Authority to increase awareness of developing states in different regions of their rights and possibilities under the Convention.
Secondly, Norway contributes to the different trust funds of the UN Division of Ocean Affairs in order to ensure full and meaningful participation of all states and their representatives.
For 2023, Norway hereby pledges to support the Voluntary Trust Funds for the purpose of defraying the cost of participation of members from developing countries to attend meetings of the Legal and Technical Commission and Finance Committee of the ISA, and the Commission on the Limits of the International Continental Shelf with 10 000 USD respectively.
Norway is pleased to join others in co-sponsoring also the draft resolution on “Oceans and the law of the sea”. We once again thank Ms. Natalie Morris-Sharma of Singapore for her effective leadership during the consultations, and noting with pleasure its in-person format this year.
This year’s resolution represents a change from the mere factual updates of the recent year’s resolutions, including several substantive changes.
In particular I would like to highlight the updates related to the UN Environment Assembly decision to convene an intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment. Plastic pollution is one of the fastest growing challenges of our time, and Norway places the highest priority on achieving an ambitious and robust agreement.
I would also like to highlight the important negotiations taking place at the International Seabed Authority in Kingston. In the omnibus-resolution, the General Assembly importantly welcomes the progress on the draft regulations for exploitation of mineral resources in the area. Early adoption of the new regulations is important to ensure that future exploitation of mineral resources in the area comports with robust environmental standards. Norway welcomes the progress achieved at the in person meetings in Kingston in 2022, and encourages the Authority to continue its work on the draft regulations as a matter of priority. Norway is committed to doing its part in this endeavour.
Norway welcomes the substantial progress achieved in the latest round of negotiations on a new international legally binding instrument under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. More than ever, we need a framework to enhance coordination in ocean management and to set out more detailed rules and procedures for the use of environmental impact assessments and area-based management tools, including marine protected areas. We therefore welcome the convening of an IGC5.2 in February 2023 in order to finalize our negotiations. Norway will work to ensure a strong and robust instrument that can stand the test of time.
In 2018 Norway’s Prime Minister, together with 13 other world leaders, established the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. Two years ago, they launched their ambitious ocean action agenda, combining effective protection, sustainable production and equitable prosperity. They committed to sustainably managing 100 % of the ocean areas under their jurisdiction by 2025. In November 2021 they were joined by the United States represented by President Biden, and in 2022 by President Macron of France and the British Prime Minister.
To deliver results, the Panel’s recommendations and actions must be implemented. Each country is now therefore working to ensure that political decision-making leads to effective action. In this respect, engangement by countries beyond the panel members on the action agenda is vital.
In closing, let me mention the program of assistance that Norway and the DOALOS launched in 2020. The intention is to provide capacity-development and technical assistance to 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. We are thankful to DOALOS for their efforts in relation to this program, of which more information can be found on their web page.