International Seabed Authority (ISA) launched three new studies describing opportunities offered by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to the least developed countries (LDCs), landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) and small island developing States (SIDS). The three publications were produced by ISA Secretariat in response to priority capacity-building needs identified by LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS in 2020. The launch of these three publications took place virtually on 16 November 2021. The publications are available on ISA website.

UNCLOS tasks ISA to organize and control activities in the international seabed area beyond national jurisdictions (the Area). In that, ISA must facilitate participation of developing countries in the regime of the Area, including through the development of dedicated marine scientific research programs and the establishment of mechanisms for benefit sharing of financial and other economic benefits.

In his opening remarks, ISA Secretary-General, H.E. Mr. Michael W. Lodge, recalled that “the regime for the deep seabed under UNCLOS is one of the few international governance regimes that has been designed in such a way that the interests and needs of developing States are fully integrated.” Although UNCLOS has achieved near-universality, several States have not ratified it yet, including 15 LLDCs and 9 LDCs. “This organization and the opportunities it opens to all are yours. I urge all LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS to continue to take full advantage of the regime and claim benefits that are available to them.”

Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, stressed that LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS stand to benefit greatly from the full implementation of UNCLOS. “Benefits arising from UNCLOS extend, among others, to domains related to the protection and preservation of the marine environment, marine scientific research and the transfer of marine technology as well as exploration and exploitation of resources in the Area through the regime of the common heritage of humankind,” Mr. Serpa Soares said. “I hope that the publications launched today will help to draw attention of those States to the benefits that can be derived from the UNCLOS. In seizing the ‘ocean of opportunities’ we must uphold the promise of the 2030 Agenda to leave no one behind,” he added.

According to the LDCs Report 2020, LDCs are 30 per cent more vulnerable than other countries and face the risk of being left behind more technologically advanced countries due to the widening of the technology gap. Ambassador Perks Ligoya, Permanent Representative of Malawi to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of LDCs, reminded participants it is important that LDCs prepare and position themselves today to ensure that their young will have “access to the new emerging markets and economic sectors that have the potential to support our national and regional socioeconomic development objectives” tomorrow. Ambassador Ligoya encouraged “development partners to establish strategic partnerships to enable LDCs to acquire technology and scientific knowledge in the international seabed area to ensure LDCs are positioned to benefit from the economic and non-economic benefits attached to deep-sea exploration and exploitation of mineral resources in the Area.”

In that vein, Ambassador Magzhan Ilyassov, Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of LLDCs, addressed critical challenges the LLDCs are facing, such as the lack of access to the sea, transit restrictions and lack of awareness of the rights of LLDCs under UNCLOS. Reminding the area beyond national jurisdiction and its resources are common heritage of humankind, Ambassador Ilyassov stressed that the new publications help further the understanding of LLDCs rights and reflected on the existing facets to improve synergies between the Vienna Programme of Action and the ISA Strategic Plan.

Malta has been co-chairing the United Nations Steering Committee on Partnerships for SIDS since 2020 and has been working in favor of enhanced cooperation with and amongst SIDSs. H.E. Ms. Vanessa Frazier, Permanent Representative of Malta to ISA and the United Nations, noted that the near universality of UNCLOS is a testimony of the international support. “SIDS face considerable challenges, which cannot be surmounted single handedly. Malta, like ISA, is committed to contributing to achieving the outcomes of the SAMOA Pathway through the full implementation of UNCLOS,” she said.


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