One of the more contentious issues within the UNCED discussions on oceans was the concern, particularly of coastal and distant water fishing States, that the over-exploitation of living marine resources in the high seas, especially of highly migratory and straddling fish stocks, has an adverse impact on resources within exclusive economic zones. This issue could not be resolved in Rio, so governments instead agreed to call for an intergovernmental conference to be convened under UN auspices. The resolution establishing this conference was the last of the five major resolutions to be negotiated by the Razali Group. Razali had asked interested government delegates to hold consultations and come up with a draft resolution that could be accepted as a "package". When the resolution came before the Razali Group on Saturday, 21 November, however, it was clear that consensus had not been reached on every paragraph.
One of the major issues was the time-frame of the Conference. The EC did not want the Conference to turn into an open-ended series of conferences. In operative paragraph 1, the representative from the EC stated that it is important to try to complete the work of the Conference as early as possible and, thus, proposed that the paragraph read that the Conference "should complete its work as early as possible in advance of the 49th regular session of the UN General Assembly." Canada objected saying that even though the work should be done expeditiously, the Conference should not be "straight-jacketed".
Another issue was the location of the Conference and the Secretariat. In paragraph 7, Sweden questioned the desirability of holding the Conference at UN Headquarters and proposed holding it at FAO Headquarters in Rome. Argentina disagreed and said not only should the Conference be in New York, but the Law of the Sea office should serve as the Secretariat. Sweden then suggested that the location of the Secretariat and the venue for the Conference should be discussed at the organizational session proposed in paragraph 5. New Zealand and the US both commented that this was the first they had heard about holding the Conference in Rome and suggested keeping it in New York. Argentina, supported by Canada, also proposed putting language back in this paragraph indicating that the Conference would also consider its future work programme at this session as well. Consistent with their interventions on paragraph 1, both the EC and Japan objected to including the phrase that mentions a future work programme.
On paragraph 9, which establishes a voluntary fund for the purpose of enabling developing States to participate in the Conference, the EC objected to the reference of "Small Island Developing States" as a separate category of recipients. His group believed that these States were adequately covered by the phrase "developing States, in particular the least developed countries". Argentina and New Zealand argued that the special attention these States received during UNCED should be continued.
The final text agrees to convene the Intergovernmental Conference for three weeks in July 1993 at UN Headquarters in New York. An organizational session will be held prior to the Conference (the date was not specified) to elect officers and determine the organization of work. The Conference should complete its work "as early as possible" in advance of the 49th session of the UNGA. The Conference will take into account relevant activities at all levels with a view to promoting effective implementation of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on straddling and highly-migratory fish stocks. The Conference, drawing on scientific and technical studies by FAO, should: identify and assess existing problems related to the conservation and management of such fish stocks; consider means of improving fisheries cooperation among States; and formulate appropriate recommendations. NGOs from developed and developing countries are invited to contribute within the areas of their competence and expertise to the conference on the basis of procedures for their accreditation used in UNCED. The Secretary-General of the UN will make the appropriate Secretariat arrangements for the Conference.
[Return to start of article]