Activities of the Legal Counsel of the
Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea Priority Issues for the Legal Counsel.
For his upcoming second year in office, the United Nations Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, decided to make ocean affairs and the law of the sea a personal priority. Through the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, Office of Legal Affairs, which, inter alia, serves as the secretariat for the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the Convention), the Legal Counsel is responsible for discharging the responsibilities of the Secretary-General under that Convention, the related Agreements and General Assembly resolutions on oceans and the law of the sea and on sustainable fisheries. This includes the oversight of substantive servicing of a number of important intergovernmental and expert meetings.
Most recently, during a very busy two months, the Division serviced four meetings on different aspects of oceans and the law of the sea.
From 6 to 9 May 2014, the Group of Experts for the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socioeconomic Aspects met in New York with a view to completing the first global integrated marine assessment of the state of the marine environment in 2014.
The United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea met in New York from 27 to 30 May 2014 to discuss "The role of seafood in global food security", pursuant to a request of the General Assembly in its resolution 68/70. The meeting featured panel presentations by experts from Governments, intergovernmental
organizations, academia, industry and non-governmental organizations. At the meeting, attention was drawn to the nutritional value of seafood as well as the role of the seafood sector as a critical source of livelihood and income, in particular for developing countries. Pressure on the current role of seafood in global food security, as well as opportunities and challenges for its future role, were also considered.
On 3 June, the Legal Counsel met with the 2014 – 2015 United Nations – The Nippon Foundation of Japan Fellows as well as the Hamilton Shirley Amerasinghe Fellow. The two Fellowships, managed by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, provide opportunities for advanced education and research in the field of ocean affairs and the law of the sea, and related disciplines, to Government officials and other mid-level professionals from developing States on an annual basis. Mr. Serpa Soares welcomed the Fellows to the United Nations and received a brief report from each of them on their backgrounds and research topics. He also spent some time talking to the Fellows about the activities of the Office of Legal Affairs and his role as the Legal Counsel of the organization.
Mr. Serpa Soares meets with Nippon Fellows.
The Meeting of States Parties to the Convention was held in New York from 9 to 13 June 2014. On the first day of the Meeting, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, accompanied by the Legal Counsel, opened a commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention. Referring to the Convention as one of the most significant and visionary multilateral instruments of the twentieth century, the Secretary-General highlighted its critical importance for the peaceful uses of the oceans, equitable utilization of their resources, the conservation of their living resources, and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment. The Secretary-General expressed concern regarding the many pressures facing the oceans and encouraged States to recommit to the task of implementing the Convention in order to protect and safeguard oceans for the benefit of all humanity, for generations to come.
Secretary-General of the United Nations at the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention
Later in the day, Mr. Serpa Soares opened a special event commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention and marking the sixth annual celebration of World Oceans Day (8 June) at the United Nations. On this occasion, Mr. Serpa Soares paid tribute to the negotiators of the Convention and underscored the work of the United Nations system in the field of oceans and seas. Mr. Serpa Soares was joined at the event and at the reception in the evening by many delegates, as well as representatives of the bodies established by the Convention, in particular: Judge Shunji Yanai, President of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea; His Excellency, Nii Odunton, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority; Mr. Lawrence Awosika, President of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf; and His Excellency, Jeremiah Nyamane Kingsley Mamabolo, President of the twenty-fourth Meeting of States Parties.
Mr. Serpa Soares opened a special event commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention
Mr. Serpa Soares also opened, on behalf of the Secretary-General, the eighth meeting of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Working Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction, which was held in New York from 16 to 19 June 2014. During his opening address Mr. Serpa Soares highlighted the momentum for oceans with ongoing discussions on the vital role of oceans in the post-2015 development agenda. He looked ahead towards the forthcoming Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in September as providing another opportunity to highlight the role of oceans in the sustainable development of some of the most vulnerable nations. This meeting of the Working Group is the second meeting within the process established by the General Assembly to prepare for the action set out in the outcome document of the Rio+20 Conference, entitled "The future we want". In that regard, States committed "to address, on an urgent basis, building on the work of the Working Group and before the end of the sixty-ninth session of the Assembly, the issue of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, including by taking a decision on the development of an international instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Mr. Serpa Soares had also addressed the first meeting of the Working Group within this process which took place in New York, from 1 to 4 April 2014.