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Statement by Ms. Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister Counsellor at the Eighteenth Meeting of the United Nations Open Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea

Thursday, 18 May 2017
New York
18 May 2017

Sri Lanka Statement

by Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister Counsellor

Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations in New York

Eighteenth Meeting of the United Nations Open Ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea

Item 3

Conference Room 3, UNHQ, New York   

Thank you Co Chairs

Since this is the first time Sri Lanka takes the floor we would like to congratulate you on your appointment and to commend you for steering this meeting thus far in a successful and equitable manner. We thank the Secretary General for his report and DOALOS for its indefatigable work. We also thank the scientists and the panelists who have enriched this meeting and from whom we have learned much this week.   

Sri Lanka associates itself with the statement made by Ecuador on behalf of G77 and China and makes the following remarks in its national capacity.

As an island nation that is impacted by the health of the oceans, we express our  unwavering constructive support to the protection of the health of the oceans especially as we, the international community come together in a couple of weeks, with a common and steadfast purpose, to identify ways and means to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14.

Sri Lanka, was part of a small group of countries that pushed intensely for the oceans to be given due recognition during the negotiations (2013 - 2014) that resulted in the adoption of the SDGs.

As Sri Lanka is extensively dependent on the ocean for large-scale employment creation, wealth generation, foreign exchange earning, trade, etc, UN initiatives relating to the oceans and climate change acquire a particular importance.

Sri Lanka at this time reiterates its firm commitment to the Paris Agreement and to the 2030 Development Agenda.  

Certainly the close connection between the health of the oceans and climate change is now widely accepted and therefore Sri Lanka welcomes the topic of climate change and its effect on the oceans as the theme of this eighteenth meeting of ICP.

My delegation stands ready to do whatever is necessary within our reach, to build successful partnerships, share experiences gained at the national, regional and international levels and above all take all necessary action towards the implementation of Goal 14.

We recognize that we are bound inextricably together in humanity through our oceans and that as member states, we have common but differentiated responsibilities to preserve our oceans for future generations. Oceans provide livelihoods for coastal communities, particularly in developing countries. And yet, marine- and land-based human activities threaten our oceans and marine resources, with some 80 percent of marine pollution and litter, coming from land- based sources. The Indian Ocean also carries the second biggest accumulation of floating plastic waste in the world. The problem of this floating continent must be addressed and the long term health of the oceans must be ensured. We can stop the escalation of this pollution if we muster the requisite political will. 

Sri Lanka was also closely involved from the outset with the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea under the Presidency of Ambassador Shirley Amerasinghe of Sri Lanka, who guided it through towards the development of the new legal regime of the oceans. 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 Seabed Authority and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, 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 manner.

Sustainable fisheries is a priority for coastal states economies. At present, fisheries are the major economic resource exploited from the waters around Sri Lanka, and they account for 1.8 percent of the GDP.

Around 272,140 active fishermen are engaged in both marine and inland fisheries and 1,023,780 members of their households depend on the income generated through fishing and related activities.

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. We have begun programs to formulate and implement nationally appropriate mitigation actions to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation measures, build resilience in vulnerable sectors and communities, and fulfill national commitments on multilateral environmental agreements. Sri Lanka is actively looking to protect its 15,000 hectares of mangroves and to replant several thousand hectares more to help protect against coastal erosion. 

Last year in 2016 Sri Lanka organized a Conference and exhibition titled: Sri Lanka Next – A Blue Green Era.” One of the main agenda items was the 5th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum organized under the theme “Adapting and Living below 2°C:  Bridging the Gaps in Policy & Practice,” which explored platforms and concrete pathways for even greater partnerships by governments, civil society and business. 

Other major events during this Conference included an international research symposium under the three main themes of climate change, blue green economy and the sustainable management of natural resources and a Global Youth Forum on Climate Change.

Working in collaboration with regional organizations is vital in terms of gathering local expertise and maximizing research finding and data, and therefore we welcome the focus on regional workshops. Sri Lanka feels that opportunities should be provided to first respondent states to participate in regional workshops to enhance knowledge and awareness.

Sri Lanka reiterates the need for capacity building measures to fill knowledge gaps in developing states. Experts in many of these states were unable to contribute and provide inputs in World Ocean Assessment 1 due to the capacity gaps that exist for undertaking assessments. Attention should therefore be drawn to financial and human resource constraints especially for developing countries, LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS who are predominantly affected.

Regional and inter regional cooperation, dimensions of financing and capacity-building and science based action, must always be at the core of all our efforts if we are to be inclusive and transparent in our collective actions.

Raising awareness about these processes and assessments are therefore essential and will help harness the required determination to act, and enable developing countries who are greatly and adversely impacted by the current state of the oceans, to share in the benefits of development, prosperity and greener and more sustainable oceans.

Sri Lanka is of the view that all action in the implementation of SDG 14 must be firmly based on the legal framework of UNCLOS and its implementing agreements such as the Fish Stocks Agreement.

SDG 14 cannot be approached in isolation, as the achievements of the targets under SDG 14, will depend on the achievement of and actions taken under other SDGs, including in the areas of food security, economic growth, industrialization and infrastructure. Sri Lanka believes in the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of the SDGs, and its commitment to leave no one behind.

In this regard there must be inter-agency cooperation by the UN and its specialized agencies to augment national efforts.  

Finally we are also pleased to report that Sri Lanka is taking several steps to register voluntary commitments ahead of the June Conference.

Thank you