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SECTION VIII. DISPUTE SETTLEMENT

This section deals with the settlement of disputes by peaceful means and establishing a legal framework for the settlement of disputes.

The Chair said that this was clearly an important problem and the very reason why this Conference has been convened. He also said that the only way to settle disputes is to do so in a peaceful and orderly way. The procedure should be quick and simple and, if possible, disputes should be solved before the fishing season is over. In that respect, the help of technical experts might be valuable. It was agreed this is a very sensitive area where States' interests do not always coincide, and the key point is therefore to have order.

References to proper decision-making procedures were seen by some as irrelevant here since disputes can arise regardless of the initial decisions. References to experts should be refined to make very clear that the dispute may be referred to them but the States themselves will decide to do so. Only if all other possibilities fail will mandatory settlement of disputes apply.

Another delegate said that each regional organization should adopt the procedures as it sees fit. It is not only inappropriate but also impractical to demand that each and every regional organization adopt a specified and uniform procedure for dispute settlement. The same delegate said that he had difficulty accepting the fact that the parties would be bound by the procedure since they may well prefer to choose a procedure, the finding of which is not binding, such as conciliation.

A delegate said that the text does not provide for the case where a State does not abide by its obligation to follow the organization's mechanisms. Another delegate added that a mechanism applicable independently of the regional organizations goes hand-in-hand with the peaceful settlement of disputes.

A coastal State representative said that this text will not apply to disputes pertaining to the sovereign rights of the coastal States on the living resources of their EEZs because it is already provided for in UNCLOS, but an additional provision should make that fact clearer. A suggestion was made that would make the decisions dependent on the weight a member State carries in an organization. Another delegate said this would be unacceptable because it disregards the legal equality of all States, which is a universal principle.

There was also some doubt on how experts would be designated, but the Chair said that they could also be consulted in informal procedures and the parties themselves would choose to consult them. Some States were of the view that arbitration is the procedure that should be applied unless the parties to the dispute decide otherwise.

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