Agenda item 76 “Oceans and the Law of the Sea”
Statement of the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Argentine Republic, Minister Diego Limeres
Allow me, at the outset, to thank both coordinators, Ambassador Henrique Valle of Brazil, and Mrs. Holly Köehler, of the United States, for having conducted the negotiations of the draft resolutions we have today before us. In particular, as Mrs. Köehler has just left the coordination, Argentina would like to recognize her efforts in the conduct of the negotiations of the draft resolution on Sustainable Fisheries. We would also like to welcome the colleague who will take up such responsibility, Mrs. Alice Revell, of New Zealand, whose qualifications for the task are well known to us.
As every year at this Assembly, my delegation reiterates that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is one of the major contributions to the strengthening of international peace and security, cooperation and friendly relations among all nations. At the same time, it constitutes one of the international instruments with major economic, strategic and political implications.
The Objective of the negotiators of the Convention was to solve “all matters related to the law of the sea” in one single instrument. Its provisions, thus, constitute a delicate balance of rights and obligations of States that emerged after nine years of negotiations. Such balance is to be preserved by all States, individually and as Members of international organizations with a competence in ocean affairs and other organizations. Such delicate balance is to be preserved also when addressing the new challenges of the law of the sea at the processes established in the framework of the General Assembly and at the specialized organizations which specific competence is recognized by UNCLOS.
UNCLOS is a truly “Constitution for the Oceans”, with a clearly universal character, accepted as a binding norm even by Non Parties, as it constitutes customary international law.
The Argentine delegation will make an explanation of vote in relation to the resolution on sustainable fisheries. Nevertheless, allow me to make some remarks on the issues dealt with in that draft resolution as well as in the resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea.
The question of biodiversity beyond the limits of national jurisdiction is one of the new emerging issues of the law of the sea. In June 2011, the fourth meeting of the Ad-Hoc Working Group established by Resolution 59/24 took place. Argentina is pleased that the General Assembly, following the recommendations of the Ad Hoc Working Group contained in the Annex to the draft resolution, decides to initiate a process of the General Assembly with a view to ensuring the legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, which also contemplates the possibility of negotiating a multilateral agreement under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, i.e. an implementing agreement of the applicable principles of UNCLOS. The process will take place in the Ad Hoc Working Group, and will address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, in particular, and as a whole, marine genetic resources –including the sharing of benefits-, conservation measures, capacity-building and the transfer of technology. Workshops will be organized with a view to contribute to the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group through improving knowledge of different aspects. Paragraphs 166 to 168 of the draft resolution to be adopted by this Assembly reflect such decisions, including the convening of the next meeting of the Ad Hoc Working Group in accordance with this mandate decided by the General Assembly.
Regarding the substance of this issue, my delegation wishes to reiterate that it must be duly taken into account that the expression “areas beyond national jurisdiction” comprises two maritime areas, the high seas and the Area, and that one of the objectives of the Convention was to develop the principles embodied in resolution 2749 (XXV) of 17 December 1970 through which the General Assembly of the United Nations solemnly declared inter alia that the area of the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction, as well as its resources, “are the common heritage of mankind, the exploration and exploitation of which shall be carried out for the benefit of mankind as a whole”.
Regarding the process to be initiated soon, this decision of the General Assembly is specially timely and positive, and Argentina –in coincidence with the Group of G77 and China and many other Member States- fully supports it. We call upon all Member States to actively contribute to making progress in the framework of the Ad Hoc Working Group.
This year, the 20th Meeting of States Parties to UNCLOS dealt with the question of the workload of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and adopted measures in that regard.
Argentina welcomes Decision SPLOS /229, through which the Meeting of States Parties adopted the adequate measures for the Commission to perform its functions expeditiously, efficiently and effectively. SPLOS requested the Commission to extend the duration of its sessions and those of its Sub-Commissions. Consequently, the draft resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea requests the Secretary General to adopt the pertinent and timely measures to ensure the Secretariat services it provides the Commission and its Sub-Commission. In this context, paragraph 64 of the draft resolution requests the allocation of sufficient human resources to the Division of Ocean affairs and the Law of the Sea, in particular the allocation of three new posts for the GIS, legal and administrative functions, respectively. This is a request Argentina fully supports, and we call upon all Member States to honour this commitment of SPLOS and of the General Assembly.
Additionally, I would like to remind, once more, that the work of the Commission refers to the drawing up of the limit –i.e. to the demarcation of the limit already established in article 76-, not to the rights of the Coastal State, and that article 77 paragraph 3 of the Convention provides that “(t)he rights of the coastal State over the continental shelf do not depend on occupation, effective or notional, or on any express proclamation”. This reminder is reflected in paragraph 50 of the draft Resolution on Oceans and the Law of the Sea.
Allow me to also make a brief reference to the other two institutions established by the Convention.
This year, at its 16th Session, the International Seabed Authority is considering the proposal made by its Legal and Technical Commission to establish areas of special environmental interest. Argentina calls upon the Members of the Authority to make progress in the adoption of norms, regulations and measures for the protection and preservation of the marine environment pursuant to its competence in accordance to article 145 of the Convention. Another relevant aspect is the need that the Authority continues its marine scientific research activities entrusted to it by article 143 of the Convention. In this regard, paragraph 187 of the draft resolution calls upon international organizations and other donors to support the Endowment Fund of the ISA with a view to develop cooperative research programmes with scientists and technicians of developing countries.
We welcome the presence in this Hall, as every year, of the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, Mr. Nii Odunton.
As regards the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Argentina would like first of all, to congratulate the Judges elected at the 21 SPLOS, and to Judges Jhuji Yanai and Albert Hoffmann, recently elected President and Vice-President of the Tribunal, respectively.
In February 2011, the Seabed Disputes Chamber issued the Advisory Opinion on the “Responsibilities and obligations of States sponsoring persons and entities with respect to activities in the Area” as requested by the Council of the Authority. This is the first time these two institutions established by the Convention relate with each other pursuant to article 191 of the Convention and in compliance with the objective of watching over the common heritage of mankind. Argentina is one of the States Parties that participated in the advisory opinion, and welcomes the high participation in the proceedings. Such participation denotes the undoubted commitment of States to the regime established by UNCLOS for the Area, as well as a commitment to the institutions created by the Convention. Also, the Advisory Opinion of the Seabed Disputes Chamber shows the maturity of the Tribunal, which jurisprudence has consolidated it as the specialized Tribunal in law of the sea conceived by the Convention.
As regards the draft resolution on Sustainable Fisheries, my delegation must reiterate the need not to step aside from the rule of all law of the sea negotiations –inherited from the negotiation of UNCLOS- of proceeding by consensus. At the 65th Session, such rule was not followed with regard to one aspect of the draft resolution on Sustainable Fisheries, and my delegation had to make reference to it in its explanation of vote. We would like to remind that consensus is the only way to ensure wide acceptance of the resolutions of the General Assembly, and has to be respected in the negotiations.
At this 66th session, the Assembly examined the application of paragraphs 83 to 87 of Resolution 61/105 and of paragraphs 113 to 117 and 119 to 127 of Resolution 64/72. In that regard, it must be recalled that in accordance with article 77 of the Convention, the sedentary resources of the continental shelf are subject to the sovereignty rights of the Coastal States in the full extent of that maritime area. Therefore, conservation and management of such resources is under the exclusive powers of coastal States, which have the responsibility of adopting the necessary measures regarding such resources and their associated ecosystems that could be affected by fishing practices that can have a destructive impact, including bottom fishing. In this regard, I am pleased to remind that Argentina has adopted measures for the conservation of the sedentary resources and vulnerable marine ecosystems in the full extent of its continental shelf. Paragraph 123 of the draft resolution on Sustainable Fisheries reminds, once again, the exclusivity of the rights of the Coastal State in areas of its continental shelf beyond 200 miles. In addition to that, and regarding the measures just referred to, paragraph 124 notes both the conservation measures adopted and the efforts made by Coastal States to ensure compliance with those measures in the full extent of their continental shelf.
Also regarding fisheries, my country wishes to reiterate its concern on an increasing trend towards trying to legitimize through GA resolutions the attempts by regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) to adopt measures beyond their spatial, material and personal scope of application. Argentina objects that GA resolutions could be thus interpreted, in particular in what regards to measures that could reflect some kind of claim of authority of such organizations over vessels flying the flag of countries that neither are members of such organizations nor have consented measures of such nature. That would contradict one of the basic norms of the Law of Treaties.
Finally, Mr. President, as every year when we consider the Report of the Secretary General on Oceans and the Law of the Sea, Argentina wishes to express its recognition to the Division of Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) under the conduct of Mr. Serguei Tarassenko, for its professional and devoted work as well as for the assistance that it spontaneously provides to Member States in the matters of its competence.