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Statement at the Thirty-first Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea


Thirty-first Meeting of States Parties to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

Agenda item 13 – Report of the Secretary-General under article 319

New York, 23 June 2021

Statement by Iceland


Mr. President,


To begin with I would like to congratulate Vladimir Jares on his appointment as DOALOS Director. This appointment is excellent news for us State Parties. Mr. Jares thoroughly knows the work of DOALOS. Since I am mentioning DOALOS, I´d also like to warmly thank our dear Secretariat, that during this meeting has taken excellent care of us and worked day and night to make sure the meeting runs smoothly and to keep all State Parties well informed.




Mr. President, my delegation thanks the Secretary General for the informative report that this agenda item refers to. We also thank for the information we´ve received at this meeting on the implementation of UNCLOS at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority with its growing importance and last but not least the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.


Iceland continues to emphasize the crucial role of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; the Constitution of the Oceans as it is commonly referred to. Its contribution to the whole of Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals, should not be underestimated. It can – and has - among other, contributed to stability, peace and security in this world. Its full and effective implementation needs to remain high on the agenda.


The same applies to SDG14, which unfortunately is known to be an under-funded Sustainable Development Goal. Achieving it and its ten targets will, however, contribute to combatting poverty and hunger to name some prominent examples of what sustainable management and utilization of marine resources can lead to. Iceland is looking forward to discussing SDG14 and how to achieve it by 2030, in Lisbon next year under the able leadership of our co-hosts, Portugal and Kenya.


Mr. President.

In the context of SDG 14; I´d like to touch upon some of its targets that have already passed their 2020 deadline. Notably, in July this year, there is an opportunity for the WTO to put an end to subsidies that contribute to overcapacity, overfishing and IUU fishing; as provided for in SDG target 14.6; by concluding a new Agreement that bans such subsidies. This is an important issue for Iceland, as we do not subsidize our fisheries and we are of the view that fisheries subsidies are harmful and represent one of the main obstacles that prevent fisheries from being managed sustainably today.


Regarding IUU fishing in general, Iceland urges State Parties to take every action possible to combat it. This is, among other, important in the context of blue foods; which Iceland has strongly advocated for appropriate attention to at the Food Systems Summit this fall.


Mr. President, Iceland has long highlighted the necessary role of science in political decision-making on the oceans, not least the use of its living resources. We hope that the UN ocean science decade which has just been launched, will help guide States in the quest towards healthier oceans. In the context of science, let me also mention the recent report of the Regular Process. We thank the great number of scientists involved in this achievement and hope the report will help States underpin firmer action to combat threats to the ocean, not least the environmental ones.


One of these threats is plastic pollution. During a successful two year chairmanship of the Arctic Council, which ended in May this year, Iceland made addressing plastic pollution one of the chairmanship priorities. Iceland is also one of the states that call for a new legally binding global agreement on plastic pollution.


Mr. President,

The interlinkages between the ocean and climate change are increasingly being recognized and for good reason. As for our part of the world: Greenhouse gas emissions contribute among other to ocean acidification – and this development is happening faster than the average in the cold, Arctic waters. Another, grave aspect of the ocean and climate change is sea level rise, which we discussed last week at the ICP21. Iceland thanks all who contributed to these discussions. It is evident that discussions like these will need to continue; specifically also on of the law of the sea. In that context, Iceland thanks the ILC for its work so far.


Mr. President.

For the proper sustainable management of our ocean, we need all hands on deck. This means we need gender equality; women in positions of power and a gender transformative approach where all people are enabled to contribute as well as to enjoy the benefits we reap from the ocean.


Mr. President.

The negotiations on an internationally legally binding Instrument under the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), are some of the most important negotiations on the Law of the Sea since the UNCLOS entered into force more than 25 years ago. Iceland has actively participated in these negotiations and has emphasized the importance of that these negotiations adopt a regional approach to governance. This ensures that decisions are taken as close as possible to those communities that are directly affected by them, and that have a direct stake in such decisions. Furthermore, Iceland has strongly emphasized that the BBNJ will be an Implementing Agreement under UNCLOS, like the UN Fish Stocks Agreement and the Part XI Agreement. The outcome of the BBNJ negotiations must complement – and not undermine – the Convention, its other implementing Agreements or other existing, relevant instruments, frameworks and bodies. In addition, it is important that the outcome of these negotiations be based on a scientific approach to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction and be adopted by consensus. We look forward to continuing the negotiations on this important Agreement when circumstances allow in 2022.


Mr. President,


The next year or so is shaping up to be a big year for the ocean, as many meetings that had to be COVID-postponed are now getting back on the programme. Let us make good use of time. We certainly don´t have too much of it. And let us remember that the Convention provides us with the appropriate legal framework to address the issues we need to act on; so that Agenda 2030, along with its SDG14 and others can be reached by 2030.



I thank you.





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