H.E. Mr. Milan Meetarbhan, President of the Assembly of the International Seabed Authority
H.E. Mr. Nii Odunton,
Secretary General of the International Seabed Authority
Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
H.E. Ambassador Satya Nandan, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for the Law of the Sea and former Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority
Delegates to the 18th session of the International Seabed Authority
Ladies and Gentlemen
I extend a warm welcome to all the distinguished delegates attending this Eighteenth Session of the International Seabed Authority.
This Special Session marks the 30th Anniversary of the opening for signature of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which took place right here in Jamaica, – in Montego Bay, in December 1982.
Thirty years ago when the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea was opened for signature, it represented a landmark addition to international law.
A landmark decision because it was aimed at balancing the interests of developed and developing countries.
We could not have had a Convention if someone had not come up with the idea to do so.
In this regard I wish to pay special tribute to Ambassador Pardo of Malta, the originator of the idea for a legal regime to govern the use of the oceans.
We are also indebted to those who drafted the Convention, some of whom are here with us today participating in this Session.
This 30th Anniversary commemoration holds special significance for the Government and people of Jamaica.
We are humbled by the fact that just over a decade after gaining Independence, Jamaica was able to play an active role in helping to craft this landmark legislation.
We are also grateful for the confidence reposed in us in our bid to host the Headquarters of the International Seabed Authority, here in Kingston.
We view these events as part of our journey as an independent nation.
Indeed, as Jamaica celebrates its 50th year of nationhood, it is only fitting that we pay tribute to the work of a number of Jamaicans who contributed to the establishment of the International Seabed Authority.
I note in particular, the late Dr. Kenneth Rattray, former Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the International Seabed Authority and one of the founding fathers of the Law of the Sea, in whose honour this Conference room was named.
I also wish to pay tribute to the late Honourable Dudley Thompson, and to Justice Patrick Robinson, Dr. Allan Kirton, Mr. Jeffrey Mordecai, Mr. Coy Roache, and the many others of the Jamaican delegation who contributed to the process.
I must also recognize the contribution of representatives from fellow CARICOM Member States, including the late Justice Lennox Ballah of Trinidad and Tobago.
Let us also recall that in November 1993, the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, deposited the 60th instrument of ratification – the number required to bring the Convention into force.
All countries represented here can be justly proud of their own contribution to the process.
Allow me, however, to recognize the contributions of some other distinguished representatives. They are:
Professor Hasjim Djalal of Indonesia;
Mr. Jean-Pierre Lévy of France;
Judge Jose Luis Jesus of Cape Verde; and
Ambassador C.W. Pinto of Sri Lanka.
I salute the many other men and women whose contributions paved the way for administering the resources of the deep seabed, the “common heritage of mankind”.
They are the giants on whose shoulders we stand as we administer the provisions of the Convention.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has contributed much to global political and economic development.
At the political level
· international disputes have been averted;
· good neighbourliness has been forged; and
· international maritime law improved, through the application of its relevant provisions.
The economic resources of the ocean, including its rich bio-diversity have contributed much to:
· technological advancement;
· innovations in pharmaceutical;
· scientific research, and
· human and social well-being.
I also commend the focus of the Convention on the sustainable exploitation of the seabed’s natural and non-renewable resources.
This is especially important for island states, including those in the Caribbean.
Our history and socio-economic development have been closely tied to the sea.
From the days of piracy to the attempt to explore for minerals, including oil offshore, the ocean and the sea have been a source of economic potential.
This Convention has done much to level the playing field by allowing each country to sustainably exploit the resources of the world’s oceans.
It is especially heartening that this capability is being afforded to developing countries, including small island developing states.
Another significant aspect of the Convention is the provision for the utilization of deep seabed mineral resources for the common heritage of mankind.
These resources have to be protected and utilized for the benefit of all countries, regardless of size, location, geographical characteristics or level of development.
This fundamental principle provides comfort to the global community, especially given the vast importance for the sustainable development of the world’s oceans.
The Convention's emphasis on the marine environment and natural resource conservation is also of major importance to us in the Caribbean.
The protection of the fragile marine resources upon which we depend for tourism, fishing and transportation is, in large part, dependent on the provisions of this Convention.
Jamaica has demonstrated the importance it attaches to the Convention and the protection and conservation of our oceans.
This has been done through the enactment of a number of important pieces of legislation such as:
the Exclusive Economic Zone Act of 1991;
the Maritime Areas Act of 1997; and
the establishment in 1998 of the National Council on Ocean and Coastal Zone Management.
These are all in keeping with our commitment to the protection and preservation of our maritime environment.
Let me assure you of Jamaica’s continued strong advocacy and support of the International Seabed Authority and this Convention.
Let me also commend the Secretary-General and the staff of the International Seabed Authority for promoting this Special Session marking the 30th Anniversary of the Opening for Signature of the Convention.
As we look to the next thirty years, I encourage the International Seabed Authority to continue its efforts to achieve universal membership and raise public awareness of the Convention.
For our part, Jamaica has established a National Planning Committee which has been organizing activities aimed at raising awareness among the Jamaican people about the benefits of the Convention.
It is our hope that the activities planned will have some continuity long after this commemorative year has ended.
Let us ensure that the oceans and the sustainable use of its resources continue to be available to the world and its peoples.
To do any less will be a dis-service to the framers of the Convention.
We can do much to honour their work and yours by building on their achievements, over the next thirty years.
I extend my best wishes for a productive Session and an enjoyable stay in Jamaica.
I thank you.