Please accept heartiest congratulations on your assumption of the Presidency of the Assembly during its Nineteenth Session. I am confident that under your able stewardship, the work of the Assembly will result in a fruitful and productive outcome. I also commend Ambassador Milan J.N. Meetarbhan of Mauritius for his commendable stewardship of the Assembly during its Eighteenth Session last year.
On behalf of the Government of Jamaica, I take the opportunity to convey a warm welcome to all delegates attending the Nineteenth Session of the International Seabed Authority, in particular those who are attending for the first time. It is my sincere hope that you will continue to enjoy the warm hospitality for which Jamaica is renowned.
Jamaica is pleased to welcome the most recent States party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – Ecuador, Swaziland and Timor Leste – whose accession has brought the total number of members of the Authority to 165. The addition of these three countries, from three different continents, serves as testimony to the continued relevance and significance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Their accession has renewed hope for the realization of the ultimate goal of universality of the Convention.
I thank the Secretary-General for his comprehensive report on the activities of the Authority over the past year as well as impending developments. I commend him and the staff of the Authority for their commitment and dedication to the work of the Authority, particularly in light of the great increase in its workload as a consequence of the growing interest in the potential benefits of the deep seabed and as the Authority moves into new phases of activity.
As the seat of the Authority, Jamaica is extremely pleased to witness the developments relating to the deep seabed. Undoubtedly, we are entering an exciting phase, with the more than doubling of the number of contracts for exploration in the last three years alone. Based on current projections, this trend is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. There has long been an appreciation of the benefits to be derived from the oceans in terms of food security and moderating global climate; their role in sustainable development; and as a source of wide-ranging development opportunities. It is therefore increasingly clear, that this resource, which covers the majority of our planet, has to be managed in an equitable and sustainable fashion, ensuring that all are able to derive the expected benefits.
While buoyed at the remarkable developments in relation to global marine space as an island state, we are gravely concerned as alarm bells continue to sound on the myriad threats being posed, largely by human activity, to the world’s oceans. Among the most debilitating threats are the effects of climate change and ocean acidification as a consequence of the continued spike in green house gas emissions into the atmosphere; coral bleaching; and damage to fragile ecosystems. As the global temperature rises and fish stocks dwindle, further threatening livelihoods and food security, it is clear that our oceans are more at risk now than ever before. Not surprisingly, these threats continue to multiply. We must use all the available resources at our disposal to reverse this undesirable trend before it is too late.
Jamaica is however heartened by the outcome of last year’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20 – where the international community demonstrated renewed political commitment to enable the sustainable use of the oceans and their resources for present and future generations. If we are to secure “The Future We Want” however, we have to protect and conserve this expansive area of the Earth’s surface. Looking beyond Rio+20 to the post-2015 development agenda, we must maintain the political momentum; oceans must remain central to our discourse as we contemplate actions and strategies which are geared towards securing our future. This is all the more urgent, Mr. President, as next year in 2014, the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States will be held in Samoa when it is expected that activities related to the oceans will be central to the discussions.
Knowledge of the deep sea has increased, but it is widely acknowledged that there is still much to learn about this unconquered frontier. I am encouraged by the collaborative approach of the scientific community in gathering global datasets which will increase our knowledge and facilitate better decision-making. While we are aware that ocean research is a costly exercise, often beyond the capacity of any one nation, we recognize that such undertakings are critical to successfully addressing urgent and relevant matters concerning our oceans. The efforts of the Authority to acquire environmental baseline studies from exploration contractors throughout their fifteen-year tenure must be continued, as we seek to protect the marine environment from any harmful activities associated with developments in the Area.
Research and training are two sides of the same coin. Training of marine scientists is a key imperative in order to ensure that experts in the field are up to speed with important developments in marine scientific research. The training opportunities provided by exploration contractors onboard their vessels are ideal, particularly for experts from developing countries who would otherwise not have such opportunities available to them. In this context, I thank the Governments of the People’s Republic of China, The United Mexican States, Japan and Norway for their contributions to the Authority’s Endowment and Voluntary Trust Funds, which will facilitate the participation of qualified marine scientists from developing countries in marine scientific research programmes and participation in ISA meetings. I also take this opportunity to encourage those States Parties in a position to do so, to make voluntary contributions to the Fund.
I also commend the Authority for the steps that are being taken in the elaboration of a mining code, having completed regulations for prospecting and exploration of polymetallic nodules, polymetallic sulphides and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts. As mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report, the journey continues towards the development of regulations for exploitation. Jamaica supports, in principle, the notion of a provisional licensing system while work begins forthwith on a formal exploitation code. It is noted that efforts will get underway in 2014 to restructure the Secretariat to meet the demands of its evolving role and increased workload. It is hoped, however, that such restructuring will be covered by the arrangements to be made for exploitation and will not entail any substantial increases for Member States.
I also take the opportunity to congratulate once again, the Governments of China and Japan for the approval of their respective plans of work for exploration for cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts.
On a related note, Mr President, given Jamaica’s recent foray in rare earth exploration in the terrestrial sphere, we are encouraged by the technical studies being undertaken by the Authority which will assist the international community to. We look forward to progress in this regard and to learning more of the technical and scientific potential of rare earth deposits.
You will recall that 2012 marked the 30th Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in Montego Bay. A series of activities was held across the globe to mark this important milestone, including here at the Authority and also at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. On behalf of the Government of Jamaica, I extend heartfelt appreciation to the Secretary-General and the staff of the Authority for their generous support and the cooperation provided to the National Planning Committee, which staged a number of activities throughout the year to mark the occasion. Two such activities, you will recall, included a Special Ceremony in Montego Bay, the “birthplace” of the Convention, to unveil a commemorative plaque as a permanent memorial in honour of the Convention and its achievements, as well as an essay competition among high schools to sensitise our youth to the benefits of the Convention not only to Jamaica, but to humanity as a whole. The winner of the competition, as part of his prize, attended the Special 30th Anniversary Session held at the UN Headquarters last December. While I am pleased with our collective efforts at raising awareness of the Convention, we cannot afford to become complacent; as the Secretary-General states “the journey continues.”
It is our view that 2014, which marks the 20th Anniversary of the Entry into Force of the Convention and establishment of the International Seabed Authority, provides another opportunity for us to continue the process of public sensitization and awareness, particularly of the young, the future custodians of the common heritage of mankind. It would be a disservice to the framers of this seminal piece of multilateral legislation, some of whom are here in this room, for us to miss this opportunity. I would therefore encourage the Authority to ensure that the occasion is marked in a significant way. As always, the Government of Jamaica will be pleased to work along with you in this regard. Perhaps, one such activity could be the holding of a special commemorative session of the Assembly, to which youth delegates from all member states will be specially invited guests and have the opportunity to make a contribution to the debate to mark this very important milestone.
In concluding, Mr. President, I wish to place on record the commitment of the Government of Jamaica to fulfilling its host country obligations. Through the National Land Agency, the Government has been working closely with the Secretariat in maintaining the infrastructure of the Headquarters building. Our aim is to ensure a pleasant working environment for the staff of the Authority, befitting an international organisation. The Government has also been working with the relevant agencies and entities to ensure the proper functioning of the Jamaica Conference Centre. We note that there have been improvements in this regard. I want to assure you and the distinguished members of this Assembly that we take our responsibility as host country seriously. As such, we are and have always been willing to work in close collaboration with the Authority to ensure full implementation of the Host Country Agreement and stand ready to facilitate and assist in any endeavour to achieve this end through a continued process of dialogue.
And so, Mr. President, allow me once again to place on record, our appreciation for the sterling service rendered by the Secretary-General and the staff of the Authority. On a sad note, Mr. Vijay Kodagali, a long-serving member of the Secretariat passed away earlier this year. I extend sincere condolences to the family of Mr. Kodagali. We salute his dedication and commitment, over the years, to the advancement of the work of the Secretariat which has contributed to the realization of the dream of Dr. Arvid Pardo, of leveraging the use of the deep seabed and its resources for the common heritage of mankind. May his soul rest in peace.
Thank you Mr. President.