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High-level Commemorative Meeting to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Adoption of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

Friday, 29 April 2022

Statement by H. E. Mr. Mohamed Siad Doualeh

Ambassador, Permanent Representative

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Djibouti

to the United Nations

Before the United Nations General Assembly on the

High Level Commemorative Meeting of the

General Assembly to mark the

40th anniversary of the Adoption of the

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea


Friday, 29 April 2022


Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  It is an honor to participate on behalf of the Republic of Djibouti in this event to commemorate the Fortieth Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. 


Djibouti lies at the confluence of some of the world’s most vital maritime routes; and, as a seafaring nation since time immemorial, the Law of the Sea – as it has developed over the centuries – has always been of great importance to the Djiboutian people.  Indeed, Djibouti is proud to have been one of the original signatories of the Montego Bay Convention on 10 December 1982.


UNCLOS is universally – and rightfully – lauded for having codified a legal regime that comprehensively addresses the most significant issues that face the world’s oceans and coastal States.  But, I would submit, one of the Convention’s greatest achievements is underappreciated.  I refer to the drafters’ wise decision to imbed into the legal architecture that they erected a recognition that cooperation, both internationally and – critically, regionally – is essential for facilitating responsible and peaceful uses of the seas. 


The Convention’s focus on cooperation permeates its rules governing a host a disparate matters.  It can be seen, for instance, in Article 41’s provisions governing sea lanes and traffic separation schemes in straits used for international navigation; and in Article 43’s requirement that user States and States bordering a strait should, by agreement, cooperate in the establishment and maintenance of navigational and safety aids and other improvements in aid of international navigation.


Or, consider just one of the provisions concerning cooperation that are included in Part XII, the Part of the Convention pertaining to the protection and preservation of the marine environment.  Article 197 stipulates that “States shall cooperate on a global basis and, as appropriate, on a regional basis, directly or through competent international organizations, in formulating and elaborating international rules, standards and recommended practices and procedures consistent with this Convention, for the protection and preservation of the maritime environment, taking into account characteristic regional features.” 


Additional rules regarding cooperation are found in the Parts of the Convention governing marine scientific research and the development and transfer of marine technology.


Given the paramount importance of cooperation in combatting illicit uses of the oceans, the Convention unsurprisingly imposes critical obligations of cooperation in respect of these areas as well.  Article 100, for instance, requires that “All States shall cooperate to the fullest extent possible in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State.”  Article 108 similarly provides that “All States shall cooperate in the suppression of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances engaged in by ships on the high seas contrary to international conventions.”


These last obligations of cooperation are of particular importance to Djibouti, in light of the regrettable maritime security issues that have plagued the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.  Djibouti is therefore pleased to have played a significant role in developing the Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden, which Djibouti and 20 regional States adopted on 29 January 2009, and which is known as the Djibouti Code of Conduct.  The Code, which reaffirms that “international law, as reflected in UNCLOS, sets out the legal framework applicable to combating piracy and armed robbery at sea,” memorializes the signatories’ agreement to cooperate in regard to the investigation, arrest and prosecution of those reasonably suspected of committing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships; the interdiction and seizure of suspect ships; the rescue of ships, persons, and property; and the conduct of shared operations.


Since the adoption of the Djibouti Code of Conduct – and building on its success in facilitating cooperation – 16 regional States adopted, in January 2017, the Jeddah Amendment to the Code of Conduct.  This expanded the Code’s coverage to include cooperation in regard to other activities impacting the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the importance of which has become increasingly clear, namely: illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; trafficking in arms and narcotics and psychotropic substances; illegal trade in wildlife; illegal oil bunkering; crude oil theft; human trafficking and smuggling; and illegal dumping of toxic waste.  

Specifically, the signatories to the Jeddah Amendment express their intention, consistent with their available resources and related priorities, their respective national laws and regulations, and applicable rules of international law, to “cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of transnational organized crime in the maritime domain, maritime terrorism, IUU fishing and other illegal activities at sea.”  As set out in the Jeddah Amendment, this cooperation takes the form of, among other things, sharing and reporting relevant information; interdicting ships suspected of engaging in such illegal activities; and ensuring that persons responsible are apprehended and prosecuted.


In giving these undertakings, the signatories once again acknowledged that the Convention provides the essential legal context, reaffirming that “international law, as reflected in UNCLOS, sets out the legal framework applicable to maritime economic development, maritime governance and maritime law enforcement, including combatting piracy, armed robbery at sea and other illicit maritime activity.”


And, I must add, the Indian Ocean is not the only region where States have given effect to the Convention’s obligations in respect of regional cooperation.  As the Jeddah Amendment itself records, it is inspired by parallel efforts to promote regional cooperation elsewhere, including the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia, adopted in Toyko in 2004, and the Code of Conduct concerning the repression of piracy armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in west and central Africa, adopted in Yaounde in 2013.


Such efforts, I would suggest, play a vital role in advancing the cause of promoting peaceful and sustainable uses of the globe’s maritime spaces.  As UNCLOS enters its fifth decade, let us redouble our efforts to fully realize the Convention’s noble objectives, including through the mechanism of regional cooperation that lies at the heart of its effective implementation.


Thank you very much.