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General statement delivered by Mrs. Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister, under Agenda Item 13 at the Twenty Eighth Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

Tuesday, 12 June 2018
Ms. Sonali Samarasinghe

Sri Lanka Statement

By Mrs. Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister

Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations 

28th Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

Conference Room 1, UNHQ, New York

Monday 12 June 2018

Agenda Item 13


Thank you Chair


Firstly let me thank the Secretary General for his insightful report on developments and issues relating to the Oceans and Law of the Sea. We also thank the Secretary General for his Reports contained in A/72/70/Add 1 and A 73/68 and take note of its contents. 

Island nations like our own, are particularly vulnerable to the impact of ocean environments and climate change. In the past decade or so, Sri Lanka has been devastated by nature driven tragedies. Floods, landslides, the massive Tsunami of 2004 and other disasters. The human misery that ensues is unbelievable. This underscores how helpless humanity is in the face of environmental disasters and how vigilant and responsible we must be in addressing these issues.

For Sri Lankans the oceans are life and death. The Indian Ocean, in which we are located, provides employment, food, avenues of trade and commerce. Our large coastal communities survive at ocean level. For us, rise of the seas, pollution of the oceans, depletion of fish, good coastal eco systems are not abstractions – they are the core of our existence. To address Climate change and related changes in the atmosphere due to ocean warming and acidification caused by human activity is vital.

As a developing state Sri Lanka is acutely aware of the impact of these depredations by humankind on our planet. I might mention that the Indian Ocean around us now has the second largest accumulation of floating plastic waste in the world. Cleansing the oceans, assuring maritime sustainability, is our future. The theme of this year’s World Environment Day was aptly “beat plastic pollution”. More than 8 million tons of plastic waste enter our oceans every year. One million plastic bottles are bought every minute.

As our Prime Minister reiterated at the Oceans Conference in June last year, we are deeply conscious that our fate is not in our hands alone. It is for these reasons Sri Lanka continues to strongly endorse the Paris Climate Agreement; affirm our commitment to the FAO International Plan of Action and implement the Sri Lanka National Plan of Action on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. We consistently stand behind every significant international environmental agreement, especially the Sustainable Development Goals and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

We wholeheartedly support the three key institutions established by the Convention on the Law of the Sea, namely the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and the International Seabed Authority, which have played and continue to play, critical roles in enabling developing countries like Sri Lanka, among others, reap the benefits of ocean resources, in particular, the prospective exploitation of the continental shelf, in a sustainable and equitable manner.

We express our appreciation for the Work and recent judgments of the Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and recognize its important role in clarifying key issues related to the Law of the Sea Convention. Through its judgments and advisory opinions, the Tribunal has broken new ground and contributed to the progressive developments of the law of the sea and the interpretation and application of the Law of the Sea Convention. ITLOS has also made a significant contribution to capacity building activities of developing countries. In this regard we wish to thank the Tribunal’s president and other judges of ITLOS for their invaluable contribution.

We look forward to the first of the four sessions of the intergovernmental conference to consider the recommendations of the Preparatory Committee on the elements, and to elaborate the text of an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea, on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ).

Chair, Marine environment, marine research and marine technology should be approached with the principle of inter-generational equity uppermost in our minds. Benefits derived from marine areas beyond national jurisdiction must be utilized keeping with the common heritage of mankind principle, which is the underlying rationale of the Convention of the Law of the Sea.

We remain hopeful for a successful session to launch us towards developing the instrument as soon as possible – which Sri Lanka believes must be firmly based on the legal framework of UNCLOS and also based on the targets of goal 14. In this regard Sri Lanka is closely studying the Chair’s streamlined Non Paper.

We welcome the Secretary General’s opportune focus in his Report on Migration by Sea and also Shipping and Maritime Security. Large numbers of people put their lives at risk every single day. It is important to keep in mind that the protection of migrants in vulnerable situations is essential to our humanity; even as we are in now in the throes of negotiating Global Compacts on Migrations and Refugees.

Over ninety percent (90%) of global trade is carried out by sea and the economic effect of maritime crime affects all nations. The impact of maritime crime as a threat to international peace and security is not lost on Sri Lanka and our cabinet minister participated just yesterday as a panelist at the Arria Formula meeting of the Security Council addressing the common and interlinked crimes at sea, including piracy, drug trafficking, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons.  

As the Secretary General notes in his Report, strengthening international cooperation and coordination is essential. The interlinkage between institutional and human capacity building and adequate climate finance is inextricable and this link is addressed in the Paris Agreement as well. Sri Lanka therefore reiterates the need for capacity building measures in developing states and welcomes the attention drawn in the Report to financial and human resource constraints especially for developing countries.

Finally Chair, Anthropogenic water noise is a pervasive global issue impacting species and affected ecosystems. Therefore, Sri Lanka welcomes the topic to be discussed at the Open Ended consultative Process Oceans and Law of the Sea.  Sri Lanka’s fisheries sector has been adversely impacted by seismic studies, with disruptions in schooling structure, swimming behavior, as well as an increase in aggressive behavior of some species. The head of Sri Lanka’s National Aquatic Resources Agency will be participating in a discussion panel during the meeting next week speaking on the sources and environmental and socioeconomic aspects of anthropogenic underwater noise.


Thank you