15 June 2017
Sri Lanka Statement
27th Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea
by Mrs. Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister Counsellor
Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations
Thursday 15 June 2017
ECOSOC Chamber, UNHQ, New York
Thank you Madam Chair
Firstly let me thank you and your team for successfully conducting this meeting thus far and the Secretary General for his insightful report on developments and issues relating to the Oceans and Law of the Sea. Let me also congratulate, on behalf of my delegation, the newly elected members of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. My delegation wishes them well and great success in their appointments.
Indeed, Sri Lanka chaired the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea during an important period in the development of a new legal regime of the oceans. 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. The work of these institutions gain added importance as the Continental shelf of each country is unique to its geological surroundings and warrants careful consideration by the CLCS in order to reach just and equitable outcomes in relation to delimitation.
We are concerned with the limitations placed on the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf due to the absence of one member and the lack of nominations to fill the vacant seat. As a state currently appearing before the CLCS, it is our hope that the conditions of service of the members of the Commission including the provision of medical coverage and working conditions would be addressed in a satisfactory manner so that the members can continue their work unhindered in a proper working environment, and achieve progress in expediting their workload. However, we acknowledge and congratulate the CLCS for having concluded in this past term a record number of submissions despite these challenges.
We urge the Secretary General to take appropriate measures within overall existing resource levels to further strengthen the capacity of the Division serving as the Secretariat of the Commission, in order to ensure enhanced support and assistance to the Commission and its sub commissions in their considerations of submissions.
We sincerely wish to thank the governments of countries contributing to the Trust fund for defraying the cost of the participation of CLCS members from developing states.
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 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 support the International Seabed Authority in its work.
We also support the work of the Preparatory Committee on the development of an international legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond the national jurisdiction.
We welcome the Secretary General’s focus in his Report on climate change and related changes in the atmosphere due to ocean warming and acidification caused by human activity. As a developing state Sri Lanka is acutely aware of the impact of these depredations by humankind on our planet.
The Secretary General’s report states that “Ocean warming has been linked to extreme weather events as increasing seawater temperatures provide more energy for storms to develop at sea.”
As my Prime Minister Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe noted in his address to the plenary of the recently concluded Oceans Conference, and I quote, “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 have wrecked my country,” end Quote.
Just two weeks ago Sri Lanka was inundated with savage floods causing hundreds of deaths and hundreds of thousands of displaced people. The human misery that ensues is unbelievable. This underlines how helpless humanity is in the face of environmentally sourced disasters and how vigilant we must be in addressing these issues.
As my Prime Minister noted for nations like our own, 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.
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.
As the Secretary General notes in his Report, Capacity Building is an essential component of the global response to climate change. We fully endorse the SG’s report at Section IV (D) on Capacity Building, partnerships and financing. The need to support capacity building in developing countries is based on the idea that developed countries being those historically responsible for greenhouse gases emission levels, have a duty to help finance the cost of climate change responses in the most vulnerable countries.
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 to fill knowledge gaps in developing states. Sri Lanka welcomes the attention drawn in the Report to financial and human resource constraints especially for developing countries.
Awareness raising is also a key factor and Sri Lanka has embarked on a series of environmental actions with the objective of creating awareness among the general public on the environment and blue green economy.
Finally the 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.