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Speech

Mr. President, I congratulate you on your assumption of the helm of this Assembly during its Seventeenth Session. I am confident that under your astute guidance, the work of the Assembly will be effectively discharged.

I wish to commend Ambassador Jesus Silva Fernandez of Spain for his stewardship of the Assembly during its Sixteenth Session.

Let me extend a warm Jamaican welcome to all delegates attending the Seventeenth Session of the Authority, particularly those who are participating for the first time. It is my hope that you will take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy Jamaica’s renowned first-class hospitality.

We welcome Thailand and Malawi as the most recent Parties to the Convention in September 2010 and in May 2011 respectively.  This brings the total membership to 162. Indeed, the addition of Malawi and Thailand to the list of States Parties is testimony to the continued relevance and significance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and brings us one step closer to the ultimate goal of universality. I remain hopeful that this objective will be realised in the not too distant future. 

Mr. President, let me at the outset reassure you that Jamaica takes very seriously its obligations as host country of the International Seabed Authority.

We have noted the concerns raised in the Secretary-General’s report about maintenance of the facilities and acknowledge that there are areas which require attention.  The National Land Agency which manages the Secretariat building has been in close dialogue with the ISA on this matter over the last few months and, among other issues addressed, a provisional timetable has been agreed between the ISA and the NLA to effect significant repairs, including to the air conditioning and elevator systems.  We want the Secretariat to be able to undertake its functions in a comfortable environment and in a manner that is in keeping with its important responsibilities.  Similarly, we want you the delegates to conduct your sessions in pleasant surroundings.  We regret the inconveniences and will work assiduously to ensure effective arrangements for the necessary repairs and improvements.  

Mr. President, We have taken note ofthe Secretary-General’s report on the various activities undertaken by the Authority during the past year which served to highlight the growing importance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).  We commend the staff of the Authority under the leadership of the Secretary-General for their work over the past year in organizing and controlling activities in the Area so as to administer the resources of the Area.

 Since its establishment, the ISA has approved and issued eight (8) licences for prospecting and exploration in the deep seabed. While the gains of exploration are not immediately recognized, an important message is being conveyed; the path to development is multifaceted, and new, unlimited opportunities are waiting to be tapped. We must therefore move to explore other means of achieving our development objectives. It is noteworthy that a Nauruan company is one of four which have sponsored applications to the International Seabed Authority for licences to undertake exploration for polymetallic nodules or sulphides and to carry out environmental studies in the deep seabed. We note that Tonga Ocean Mining Ltd. has also sponsored an application. I am confident that this bold, unprecedented move by Nauru and Tonga will serve to inspire other developing countries including fellow Small Island Developing States like Jamaica to pursue similar initiatives.

The capacity of most developing countries to explore and take advantage of such opportunities is limited. It is no coincidence that the Eleventh Meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea held in June of last year, focused exclusively on the importance of capacity-building in ocean affairs and the law of the sea, including marine science.

Mr. President, Capacity-building lies at the core of States’ abilities particularly developing countries, to benefit fully from the oceans and their resources and to comply with the range of obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and its associated legal instruments. It is therefore of great concern to Jamaica that, as indicated in the United Nations Secretary-General’s report to the 65th Session on Oceans and Law of the Sea, no comprehensive assessment has been carried out at the global level of the capacity-building needs of States in relation to ocean affairs and the law of the sea. It is our fervent hope that this will be addressed urgently.

While the capacity-building needs vary from one country to another, one critical component is the transfer of marine technology, particularly in marine science, so that  Small Island Developing States like Jamaica may be able to avail themselves of the potentially  limitless opportunities which abound in the deep seabed.

Increased contributions by those countries in a position to do so to the International Seabed Authority’s Endowment Fund continue to be critical in assisting qualified scientists from developing countries to conduct marine scientific research in the deep seabed or participate in related activities.

Mr. President, As exploration for the wealth of the minerals in the deep-seabed continues, the protection and preservation of the marine environment and its sustainable development should be at the forefront of such efforts.  As we prepare for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio plus 20) to be held in Brazil next year, we are reminded of the importance of the resources provided by oceans to global socio-economic development. Oceans also play a significant role in regulating global climate and are also increasingly relied on as important sources of clean renewable energy. Safe, healthy and productive oceans are clearly integral to human well-being, economic security and sustainable development. For our part as SIDS, we are keenly aware of the vital roles played by oceans in the culture and economies of our countries.

The decreasing absorptive capacity of the oceans is beginning to pose an imminent threat to climate, health, food security and economic development. Recent reports of high rates of extinction and potential mass extinction of species in the world’s oceans as a result of current trends of overfishing, habitat loss, global warming, pollution and acidification are cause for grave concern. Climate change continues to impact the oceans, including melting Arctic sea ice, rising sea levels, increasing acidity, loss of marine biodiversity, increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and persistent shifts in distribution of marine species. These events collectively spell danger for our future. The responsibility to protect and preserve our oceans and carefully manage its resources is one that should not be taken lightly.

In this connection, we note with serious concern the tardiness by some contractors in providing environmental data related to the environmental and exploration work which they have been carrying out.  Undoubtedly, this hampers the Authority’s ability to effectively assess efforts to protect and preserve the marine environment in the context of ongoing exploration efforts.

Jamaica therefore once again joins with other members of the Authority in commending the landmark opinion delivered by the Seabed Disputes Chamber earlier this year, providing greater clarity on aspects of the Convention and the 1994 Agreement as it relates to obligations and responsibilities of Sponsoring States as well as persons and entities operating under their jurisdiction. The emphasis on the protection of the marine environment as recognized in the Advisory Opinion is of importance.

Mr. President, Next year, 2012, will be an important milestone in the history of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as it will mark the 30th Anniversary of the signing of the landmark Convention on the Law of the Sea.  It is recalled that when the Convention was opened for signature in Jamaica’s second city, Montego Bay, on 10 December 1982, a record 117 countries affixed their signatures, the largest number of signatures ever affixed to a treaty on its first day.

The Convention remains arguably one of the most comprehensive legal instruments ever negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations. It is our view that this milestone should be celebrated in a significant way. Jamaica will be tabling a resolution during this session with a view to encouraging the Member States of the Authority to commemorate the 30th anniversary. We will also be tabling a resolution at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, which would seek inter alia to have the UN convene a commemorative meeting on 10 December 2012. We encourage other Member States to mark the occasion in a significant way so as to raise awareness about the Convention and the International Seabed Authority and the benefits for all mankind that have been derived from accession to the Agreement. 

I must in this regard commend the Authority for the series of seminars that have been convened in recent times, the last of which was held here at ISA Headquarters in March of this year. The seminars not only served to highlight the work of the Authority; they also helped to raise the profile of the Organisation. The 30th anniversary of the signing of the Convention provides a fitting opportunity to continue this type of exercise and I encourage the Secretary-General to organize similar seminars in other regions.

Please accept my best wishes for a fruitful and productive session. Thank you Mr. President.