The eleventh meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea (Consultative Process or ICP 11) opens today, 21 June 2010, at UN Headquarters in New York. During the week, delegates are expected to discuss capacity building in ocean affairs and the law of the sea, including marine science. Recommendations from the meeting will be forwarded to the General Assembly for consideration at its 65th session.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LAW OF THE SEA AND THE CONSULTATIVE PROCESS
On 1 November 1967, Malta’s Ambassador to the UN, Arvid Pardo, asked the nations of the world to recognize a looming conflict that could devastate the oceans. In a speech to the General Assembly, he called for “an effective international regime over the seabed and the ocean floor beyond a clearly defined national jurisdiction.” The speech set in motion a process that spanned 15 years and saw the creation of the UN Seabed Committee, the signing of a treaty banning nuclear weapons on the seabed, the adoption of a declaration by the General Assembly that all resources of the seabed beyond the limits of national jurisdiction are the common heritage of mankind, and the convening of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. These were some of the factors that led to the convening of the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea during which the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was adopted.
UNCLOS: Opened for signature on 10 December 1982, in Montego Bay, Jamaica, at the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS sets forth the rights and obligations of states regarding the use of the oceans, their resources, and the protection of the marine and coastal environment. UNCLOS entered into force on 16 November 1994, and is supplemented by the 1994 Deep Seabed Mining Agreement and the 1995 Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of UNCLOS relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (UNFSA).
GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 54/33: On 24 November 1999, the General Assembly adopted resolution 54/33 on the results of the review undertaken by the UN Commission on Sustainable Development at its seventh session on the theme of “Oceans and seas.” In this resolution, the General Assembly established an open-ended informal consultative process to facilitate the annual review of developments in oceans affairs. The General Assembly decided that the Consultative Process would meet in New York and consider the Secretary-General’s annual report on oceans and the law of the sea, and suggest particular issues to be considered by the General Assembly, with an emphasis on identifying areas where intergovernmental and interagency coordination and cooperation should be enhanced. The resolution further established the framework within which meetings of the Consultative Process would be organized, and decided that the General Assembly would review the effectiveness and utility of the Consultative Process at its 57th session.
ICP-1 to 3: The first three meetings of the Consultative Process identified issues to be suggested and elements to be proposed to the General Assembly, and highlighted issues that could benefit from attention in its future work. The first meeting of the Consultative Process (30 May-2 June 2000) held discussion panels addressing fisheries, and the impacts of marine pollution and degradation. The second meeting (7-11 May 2001) focused on marine science and technology, and coordination and cooperation in combating piracy and armed robbery at sea. The third meeting (8-15 April 2002) held discussion panels on the protection and preservation of the marine environment, capacity building, regional cooperation and coordination, and integrated oceans management.
GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 57/141: On 12 December 2002, the 57th session of the General Assembly adopted resolution 57/141 on “Oceans and the law of the sea.” The General Assembly welcomed the previous work of the Consultative Process, extended it for an additional three years, and decided to review the Consultative Process’ effectiveness and utility at its 60th session.
ICP-4 and 5: The fourth meeting of the Consultative Process (2-6 June 2003) adopted recommendations on safety of navigation, the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems, and cooperation and coordination on oceans issues. The fifth meeting (7-11 June 2004) adopted recommendations on new sustainable uses of oceans, including the conservation and management of the biological diversity of the seabed in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
ICP-6: The sixth meeting of the Consultative Process (6-10 June 2005) adopted recommendations on fisheries and their contribution to sustainable development, and considered the issue of marine debris.
ICP-7: The seventh meeting (12-16 June 2006) enhanced understanding of ecosystem-based management, and adopted recommendations on ecosystem approaches and oceans.
ICP-8: The eighth meeting (25-29 June 2007) discussed issues particularly related to marine genetic resources. Delegates were unable to agree on key language referring to the relevant legal regime for marine genetic resources in areas beyond national jurisdiction and, as a result, no recommendations were adopted. However, a Co-Chairs’ summary report was forwarded to the General Assembly for consideration.
ICP-9: The ninth meeting (23-27 June 2008) adopted recommendations on the necessity of maritime security and safety in promoting the economic, social and environmental pillars of sustainable development.
ICP-10: The tenth meeting (17-19 June 2009) produced a Co-Chairs’ summary report collating outcomes its discussions on the implementation of the outcomes of the Consultative Process, including a review of achievements and shortcomings in its first nine years, which was forwarded to the General Assembly for consideration.
EXPERT PANEL ON OCEAN ACIDIFICATION: The meeting took place on 3 September 2009 at UN Headquarters in New York. The aim of the meeting was to increase awareness and highlight options to avoid adverse impacts of ocean acidification on marine life and ecosystems by bringing together key stakeholders working on oceans and seas, climate change and sustainable development. The event was scheduled just weeks before the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Event on Climate Change in the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
SIXTH MEETING OF THE PARTIES TO THE AGREEMENT ON THE CONSERVATION OF SMALL CETACEANS OF THE BALTIC, NORTH EAST ATLANTIC, IRISH AND NORTH SEAS (ASCOBANS): This meeting convened from 16-18 September 2009 in Bonn, Germany. Parties agreed on a number of measures to protect and enhance populations of small whales and dolphins, including a new version of the Recovery Plan for Baltic Harbor Porpoises (Jastarnia Plan) aiming at restoring the population to healthy levels by reducing bycatch, supporting research and public awareness and establishing a network of marine protected areas. They also adopted a new Conservation Plan for the Harbor Porpoise in the North Sea, including actions related to management, monitoring, mitigation of threats, and research. In addition, participants agreed on guidelines to address the adverse effects of underwater noise on marine mammals during offshore construction activities for renewable energy production.
64TH SESSION OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY: On 4 December 2009, the General Assembly adopted resolution 64/71 on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. Section XIV of the resolution addresses the Consultative Process and notes its usefulness as a unique forum for comprehensive discussions on issues related to oceans and the law of the sea, consistent with the framework provided by the UNCLOS and chapter 17 of Agenda 21, and that the perspective of the three pillars of sustainable development should be further enhanced in the examination of the selected topics. The General Assembly decided that, in its deliberations on the report of the Secretary-General on oceans and the law of the sea, the Consultative Process at its eleventh meeting will focus its discussions on capacity building in ocean affairs and the law of the sea, including marine science.
3RD MEETING OF THE AD HOC OPEN-ENDED INFORMAL WORKING GROUP TO STUDY ISSUES RELATING TO THE CONSERVATION AND SUSTAINABLE USE OF MARINE BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY BEYOND AREAS OF NATIONAL JURISDICTION: The Working Group convened from 1-5 February 2010 at UN Headquarters in New York. After protracted discussions, delegates agreed to a package of recommendations to the General Assembly that, although largely considered not ambitious or reflective of the proposals made during the week, was accepted as the only possible outcome at this point in time. One of the recommendations calls for reconvening the Working Group in 2011.
NINTH ROUND OF INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS OF STATES PARTIES TO THE AGREEMENT FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROVISIONS OF UNCLOS OF 10 DECEMBER 1982 RELATING TO THE CONSERVATION AND MANAGEMENT OF STRADDLING FISH STOCKS AND HIGHLY MIGRATORY FISH STOCKS (UNFSA): The meeting took place from 16-17 March 2010 at UN Headquarters in New York. The event focused on preparations for a resumed Review Conference on the UNFSA.
FIFTH GLOBAL CONFERENCE ON OCEANS, COASTS AND ISLANDS: The meeting took place from 3-7 May 2010 at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization headquarters in Paris, France. The conference was organized around three thematic sessions: ensuring survival; preserving life; and improving governance. The event also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the International Year of Biodiversity 2010.
RESUMED REVIEW CONFERENCE OF UNFSA: The resumed Review Conference took place from 24-28 May 2010 at UN Headquarters in New York and focused on three substantive issues: areas in which implementation of recommendations adopted at the Review Conference in 2006 are proceeding well overall; areas in which implementation of recommendations from the 2006 Review Conference are at an early stage or where there has been little progress; and means to further strengthen the substance and methods of implementation of the UNFSA. The outcome document recommends further actions in a range of areas. One key issue addressed was the conservation and management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks, including outcomes on sharks, the ecosystem approach, excess fishing capacity and the ability of developing states to develop their fisheries. The outcome document also addresses mechanisms for international cooperation; monitoring, control and surveillance, compliance and enforcement; and developing countries and non-parties to the UNFSA. In addition, the document provides guidance on the future of the UNFSA process, establishing that the Informal Consultations of States Parties will continue and also that the formal Review Conference could resume, although not until at least 2015. The final report will be transmitted to the RFMOs’ secretariats and the UN General Assembly.