Statement by Ambassador Gunnar Pálsson Permanent Representative

The Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the legal framework for all our deliberations on the oceans and the law of the sea. Iceland welcomes recent ratifications of the Convention which bring the total number of States Parties to 161. By ratifying and implementing the Convention, States sustain and promote a number of the most cherished goals of the United Nations. Every effort must be made to utilize existing instruments to the fullest before other options are given serious consideration, including possible new implementation agreements under the Convention.

Turning to one of the three institutions supporting the Convention, we note with satisfaction the progress in the work of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, but share the concern expressed in the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea that the heavy workload of the Commission poses additional demands and challenges to its members and to the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS). There is a need to ensure that the Commission can perform its functions expeditiously, efficiently and effectively, while maintaining its high level of quality and expertise and respecting fully the Convention and the Rules of Procedure of the Commission.

We must also safeguard the integrity of the Law of the Sea Convention. There has at times been an unfortunate lack of appreciation of the nature of the rights of the coastal State over its continental shelf. Accordingly, it was considered appropriate to include a paragraph in the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea, referring to article 77, paragraph 3, of the Convention and spelling out that the rights of the coastal State over the continental shelf do not depend on occupation, effective or notional, or on any express proclamation. The rights of the coastal State are, in other words, inherent rights and are not dependent upon a submission to the Commission or recommendations by the Commission which are technical in nature and do not address the legal entitlement of the coastal State over its continental shelf.

Iceland attaches great importance to the long-term conservation, management and sustainable use of living marine resources and the obligation of States to cooperate to this end, in accordance with international law, in particular the Law of the Sea Convention and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement. We welcome the reaffirmation of these goals in the draft resolution on sustainable fisheries.

The Fish Stocks Agreement is of paramount importance, as it strengthens considerably the framework for conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks by regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs). The effectiveness of the Agreement depends on its wide ratification and implementation. Therefore, we welcome recent ratifications of the Agreement, bringing the number of States Parties to 78. We note with satisfaction the conclusions of the Review Conference held in May this year which reaffirmed the recommendations adopted by the Conference in 2006 and proposed additional means of strengthening the substance and methods of implementation of the provisions of the Agreement.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is a key instrument in the area of ocean affairs. An important stepping-stone was reached in Nagoya last October when the States Parties agreed on a protocol on access to genetic resources and the fair and equitable sharing of benefit arising from their utilization. With this protocol in place, possibly as early as 2012, we hope that progress on genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction can be made.

The Strategic Plan for the CBD to 2020, in target 6, directly addresses the effects of fisheries on biological diversity and the way responsible fisheries should be conducted. In connection with responsible fisheries, Iceland has for many years called for action to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and supported initiatives by RFMOs and FAO to combat IUU fishing. In this context, we welcome signatures of the FAO Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, the first global treaty focused specifically on the problem of IUU fishing, and encourage States to ratify it with a view to its early entry into force.

In connection with biodiversity, I wish to note that the Arctic Council, consisting of eight member states, has recently published its contribution to the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, a report entitled Arctic Biodiversity Trends 2010. The report finds climate change to be the most far-reaching and significant driver of change in the area of bio-diversity.

Climate change is among the factors placing growing strain on the world’s oceans. Ocean acidification is a relatively new concern and in a longer-term perspective, could become a major concern for countries depending on the ocean for their livelihood.

The sustainable management and utilisation of all living marine resources is essential for food security and the alleviation of hunger, as was confirmed in the outcome document of the High Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in September. The meeting reaffirmed the need for improving capacity-building in fisheries, especially in developing countries, as fish is an essential source of protein for millions of people around the world.

In this connection, let me recall that the fisheries training program of the United Nations University in Iceland remains open to cooperation with developing countries in the area of sustainable fisheries. Furthermore, Iceland’s bilateral development cooperation is largely focused on sustainable fisheries management.

Eight years after world leaders decided in Johannesburg to launch a regular process under the United Nations for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, we welcome that the first cycle of the process has now been initiated. The Regular Process, provided it is given the high-level commitment it deserves, has the potential to contribute significantly to improving ocean governance. We look forward to the first meeting in February of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole of the General Assembly set up to oversee and guide the process.

The United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (UNICPOLOS) is another important forum for debate, facilitating the work of the General Assembly. UNICPOLOS is a unique forum for comprehensive discussions among stakeholders and a host of disciplines related to the oceans and the law of the sea, consistent with the framework provided by the Law of the Sea Convention and chapter 17 of Agenda 21. We welcome the continuation of the mandate of UNICPOLOS for the next two years and look forward to its consideration of themes relating to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) at its twelfth meeting in June.

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