UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

Statement by International Law Adviser Kjell Kristian Egge at the meeting of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, 17-19 June 2019.

| United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

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This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention).

This “Constitution for the oceans” with its universal and unified character, is without a doubt one of the most significant and visionary multilateral instruments of the twentieth century. This is a milestone for international cooperation. It sets out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.

Our Convention is of critical importance to the strengthening of peace, security, cooperation and friendly relations among nations. It promotes economic and social advancement, management and protection of the marine environment and sustainable development, including the Sustainable Development Goals. The theme for last week’s informal consultative process was the UN Decade of Ocean Science. One of the conclusions was that ocean science is more important than ever if we want to manage the oceans sustainably. The Conventions establishes a legal order that promotes the study of the marine environment.

The Convention is widely recognized as reflecting customary international law. In the 25 years it has been in force, the Convention has also shown its dynamic character. It has been a potent framework for addressing new challenges. One example is the Agreement for the implementation of UNCLOS relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UN Fish Stocks Agreement). Another example is the ongoing negotiations of a new implementing agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction(BBNJ).

Mr. President,

Thanks to the great work of the drafters, the Convention achieves a good balance between the rights and interest of the different States. It provides a solid framework for the recognition and sustainable management of the various maritime zones. This framework has been crucial to the management of Norway’s ocean areas and maritime resources. Capacity building and knowledge sharing is important to secure sustainable management globally. Norway cooperates with the FAO to run the “Nansen” research vessel program, which continues to map fish stocks and marine resources to support SIDS and coastal developing states in their ocean management.

Preparing the data and materials to be used in submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), maintaining its capacity while waiting for the submission to be assigned to a subcommission for examination, and meeting with the Commission when it is considering the submission is a complex and resource demanding process. Norway has provided and provides considerable technical assistance to developing countries in this regard. The aim is to enable our partner countries to exercise their rights to the natural resources in their continental shelf and thus provide them with an important basis for economic and social development. We encourages all States with the necessary resources to provide such assistance.

Norway also welcomes the International Court of Justice’s contributions and crucial role in consolidating and refining the principles of maritime delimitation. The Court has provided invaluable guidance for States engaged in the negotiation of treaties on maritime delimitation.  The Convention and the practice of international courts have been decisive when Norway has concluded maritime delimitation agreements with all our neighbors.

Mr. President,

The Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) of the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) contributes importantly to the wider acceptance and consistent application of the Convention. I would like to reaffirm Norway’s great appreciation for the services DOALOS provide to us as States Parties, to the Commission and to the current ocean processes. I would also like to drawn everyone’s attention to the important trust funds administered by the Division and to urge States, and others to consider making voluntary contributions to these trust funds.

We still face a lot of challenges. Important work remains in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, fisheries crime and maritime crime, including piracy and illicit trafficking in narcotics and people. We need to improve the management of our oceans. We need to tackle the serious threats to our marine environment from pollution, including marine debris and plastic, and from the effects of climate change. All States need to secure better implementation of the Convention’s obligations to protect and preserve the marine environment.

Last year Prime Minister Solberg of Norway established the High-Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy. As the only ocean policy body consisting of serving world leaders, this authoritative body has the determination needed to trigger and accelerate action for ocean protection and productivity. The panel will deliver its final Report in 2020. Protection and productivity will also be a central theme running through the Our Ocean conference, to be hosted by Norway in Oslo in October this year.

In closing, Mr President, let me use this opportunity to call upon States that has not yet done so to become parties to the Convention and the Part XI Agreement in order to fully achieve the goal of universal participation.

Thank you!