Statement at SPLOS 32nd Session
I would like to start by congratulating the newly elected members from yesterday to the CLCS, and no less importantly, to thank all candidates for making themselves available. With one seat left to vote on, it must be said that we appreciate the high number of highly qualified candidates this year. We wish the Commission success in the important task ahead, and Iceland will continue to do its utmost, as a State Party, to facilitate its work.
My delegation thanks the Secretary General for the informative report that this agenda item refers to.
This year we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the remarkable achievement that is UNCLOS. It is truly amazing to think that 40 years ago, through constructive negotiations, delegations were able to construct a legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. This timeless and highly functional constitution of the ocean is now applied every day, all over the world, and is considered one of the UN’s greatest achievements. Such a success, and its continued effectiveness should not be taken for granted.
Iceland is looking very much forward to the UN Ocean conference in Lisbon later this month, under the able leadership of Portugal and Kenya. We will be represented there at the highest level, which underscores the importance Iceland attaches to ocean affairs and the Lisbon conference. We certainly also plan on active participation throughout.
Iceland, along with Singapore, will have the honour of co-chairing the interactive dialogue on the international law aspects, as reflected in UNCLOS. We count on other State Parties to the Convention to contribute to discussions at the dialogue and elsewhere, making use of every possible opportunity to uphold and defend the Convention. This is also important to remember, now that ocean affairs are being discussed in various different circles.
It is the hope of Iceland that the Ocean Conference in Lisbon, as well as other major events this year, will be a gamechanger in terms of the attention, finance and implementation the ocean deserves. SDG 14 unfortunately continues to be significantly under-funded and is therefore aptly placed on the agenda of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development this summer. On the agenda as well, will be SDG5 on gender equality and women´s empowerment. Iceland welcomes this, as the full, meaningful and effective participation of women in ocean affairs is vital for success on both the sustainable management of the ocean, as well as for gender equality.
This year has been referred to as the “Super Year of the Ocean”. We were already off to a good start, when the United Nations Environment Assembly held its most successful session since its establishment in Rio 2012. The resolution on a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution was a great achievement and we look forward to an internationally binding treaty becoming a reality.
Further on the environmental aspects, climate change remains in place as an existential threat. It is affecting the marine environment and the ocean as a carbon sink. Another side of the coin called climate change is ocean acidification, which is also caused by carbon emissions and the burning of fossil fuels. Ocean acidification is happening faster than the average in the cold, Arctic waters around Iceland.
Carbon emissions and the burning of fossil fuels are also contributing to sea level rise; a threat we can not ignore and which is not going away. It will be a challenge to deal with, in the context of UNCLOS, but Iceland is confident that together we will find solutions. Small island developing states and others in particularly vulnerable positions, should not carry the burden of a situation they have done the least to contribute to. Iceland is grateful to the International Law Commission for the important work it is doing on sea level rise.
In the context of climate change, the ocean does not only present us with challenges; it also offers solutions. Food from the ocean, often referred to as “blue food”, is both nutritious and low in carbon intensity. UNCLOS and its Fish Stocks Agreement, provide us with the legal framework on the sustainable use of ocean resources. Iceland is looking forward to further discussions on Blue Food at the Ocean conference in Lisbon – and encourages other States to join the Blue and Aquatic Food Coalition.
as we have heard this week, rapid developments are taking place in the context of the International Seabed Authority. The world is now looking at the relevant provisions of UNCLOS being operationalized. It is of the utmost importance to get it right and that effective environmental standards be applied.
Iceland is an island state with an Exclusive Economic Zone more than seven-fold the size of our land. As such, Iceland cannot overemphasize the importance of UNCLOS and its implementing agreements. Since its inception, UNCLOS has remained a key pillar of our country’s foreign and economic policy.
On that note that Iceland would like to thank all States which participated in the fourth intergovernmental conference on a new implementing agreement under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The constructive spirit and solution-oriented attitude we witnessed in March, helped move our negotiations forward.
It is Iceland’s hope and ambition that together we will be able to use the momentum gathered when we meet again in August to negotiate a well-structured, highly-functioning agreement, ensuring the near-universal participation which is needed for the agreement’s effectiveness; for the benefit of all.
It is vital to remember that UNCLOS and its existing implementing agreements are the foundation on which we must build the new BBNJ legal framework. Lastly, and importantly, Madame President; it is the hope of Iceland that when our negotiations will be concluded, we will be as proud of our new implementing agreement as we are of the agreements that came before.
I thank you.