On 19th September 2018, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, Mr. Miguel de Serpa Soares addressed the plenary of the judges of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, Germany, at its forty-sixth administrative session and met with the President and the judges of the Tribunal.
The Office of Legal Affairs and its Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea has maintained close relations with the Tribunal since its inception in 1996. The Legal Counsel has previously visited ITLOS in 2016, to mark its 20th anniversary.
On 20 and 21 September 2018 the Legal Counsel attended the VII Colloquium of the International Association of the Law of the Sea in Lisbon, Portugal. He delivered a keynote speech during its third session on 21 September 2018 entitled “The Protection and Conservation of the Areas beyond National Jurisdiction: Where Do We Stand?”
The Legal Counsel with President Paik at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.
In his speech the Legal Counsel discussed the international community actions to address the conservation and the sustainable use of oceans’ resources of areas beyond national jurisdiction. He elaborated on the meaning of the term “areas beyond national jurisdiction” as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea and mentioned various international instruments governing the legal framework applicable to the oceans. The Legal Counsel also emphasized the interconnection between policy, law and science. Namely, he spoke about the first ever completed World Ocean Assessment produced in 2015.
The Legal Counsel further discussed the outcome and the challenges of the first session of the Intergovernmental Conference on an Internationally Legally Binding Instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction that was just held in New York in September 2018. He noted that the collegial environment, prominent level of energy and the spirit of cooperation at the session were reflective of the high importance that the international community attaches to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, and expressed confidence that the Conference will ultimately lead to an instrument acceptable to all delegations.
In his speech, the Legal Counsel also focused on the international framework for fisheries management, both within and beyond areas of national jurisdiction and its wider role in the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development within the Sustainable Development Goals
Additionally, the Legal Counsel discussed the conservation and sustainable use of the seabed, including the role of the International Seabed Authority with regard to activities in the Area.
In closing, the Legal Counsel concluded that a coordinated and integrated approach to all ocean-related issues is crucial. He stated that the human and socio-economic factors must be placed at the forefront as we try to achieve our common objectives through full and effective implementation of the legal framework with all its available instruments.