Secretary-General Issues Report on Oceans and Law of the Sea

UN Division for Oceans Affairs and the law of the SeaJune 2011: The UN General Assembly (UNGA) has released a report of the Secretary-General on “Oceans and the Law of the Sea,” ahead of the 12th meeting of the UN Open-ended Informal Consultative Process (ICP) on Oceans and the Law of the Sea.

The report (A/66/70/Add.1) was requested in UNGA Resolution 65/37 in December 2010, and is aimed at facilitating discussions on the topic of focus at ICP 12: Contributing to the assessment, in the context of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20), of progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development and addressing new and emerging challenges. The report also is submitted to the 21st meeting of States parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which took place from 13-17 June 2011, in New York, US.

The report begins with a discussion of the relationship between the oceans and seas and sustainable development, and the relevant outcomes of the major summits on sustainable development, including the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), UNGA Special Session 19, 2005 Millennium Summit, and the 2010 High-level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It then reviews the achievements and progress to date in the implementation of those outcomes in terms of: legal and policy frameworks at the global level; international cooperation and coordination; and implementation in thematic areas – conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, sustainable fisheries, control of marine pollution, climate change, and marine science and transfer of marine technology. This section also looks at progress in the implementation of outcomes with regard to small island developing States (SIDS).

The report next addresses remaining gaps in implementation and highlights challenges, including the environmental vulnerability of SIDS, and emerging issues. The emerging issues are: marine genetic resources (MGR), coral reefs management, marine debris, nutrient over-enrichment and eutrophication, geo-engineering, ocean noise, renewable energy, and environmental data exchange. Climate change also is noted as an important factor on many levels, by contributing to such phenomena as ocean acidification, sea level rise and coral bleaching.

The report closes with an observation that key areas of progress toward the sustainable development of oceans and seas have been in the development of policy and legal frameworks, such as UNCLOS, and institutions and cooperation mechanisms, such as UN-Oceans. What remains is to implement outcomes of major summits, especially at the national level. This would require increased international and inter-agency cooperation and coordination, and continued efforts to build necessary capacity, which are dependent on political will and the targeted allocation of resources, the report says. The Secretary-General also calls for the “prompt operationalization” of the regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state and marine environment. [Publication: Report of the Secretary-General: Oceans and the Law of the Sea]