In early June 2016, the United Nations Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, dedicated three full weeks almost entirely to oceans and the law of the sea. It is recalled that, among other, the United Nations Legal Counsel, supported by the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, is the focal point of UN-Oceans, the inter-agency mechanism that seeks to enhance the coordination, coherence and effectiveness of competent organizations of the United Nations system and the International Seabed Authority.
Mission to Lisbon, Portugal from 1 to 3 June 2016
From 1 to 3 June 2016, Mr. Serpa Soares travelled to Lisbon to represent the Secretary-General at the “Oceans Meeting”, a series of events organized by the Government of Portugal. The “Oceans Meeting” focused on the importance of the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes a stand-alone goal for the oceans (SDG 14), as well as for a sustainable oceans economy. The “Oceans Meeting” was a follow-up event to the very successful “Blue Week” in support for the oceans, organized by the Government of Portugal between 4 and 9 June 2015. At the Ministerial Meeting, Mr. Serpa Soares delivered a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General. The outcome of the Ministerial Meeting was a solemn declaration. The Ministerial Meeting was followed by an international conference which covered topics ranging from challenges to the economy of the sea to ocean science and innovation. Mr. Serpa Soares participated in this conference in his capacity as Legal Counsel and Focal Point for UN-Oceans and delivered a keynote address.
Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, at the Oceans Meeting in Lisbon
World Oceans Day, 8 June 2016
On 8 June 2016, Mr. Serpa Soares participated in the events on the occasion of World Oceans Day. In keeping with well-established tradition, the Secretary-General released a statement on this occasion. In his capacity as Focal Point for UN-Oceans, Mr. Serpa Soares, accompanied the Secretary-General to Gantry Park in Long Island City where the Secretary-General, together with H.E. Mr. Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., the President of the Republic of Palau, welcomed the Polynesian Voyaging Society. The Polynesian voyagers have sailed the world by canoe using ancient navigation skills covering 50,000 miles on their 37-months voyage. Representing the crew of the “Hōkūle‘a canoe”, Mr. Nainoa Thompson, the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s Master Navigator, delivered pledges from countries and communities committed to saving the world’s oceans to the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General, President Remengesau of Palau, Master Navigator Thompson, Legal Counsel Serpa Soares and other dignitaries at Gantry Park
Later in the day, Mr. Serpa Soares opened the traditional World Oceans Day Reception at the United Nations, offering welcoming remarks. This year’s World Oceans Day Reception provided an opportunity to celebrate our joint commitment to ensuring the health of our oceans, which are vital to the health of our planet. On the night of 8 June 2016, the Empire State Building was again lit in the World Oceans Day colours - white, light blue, blue and purple, representing the different layers of ocean waters, with the unlit part of the building below representing the ocean abyss.
Mr. David Gely of Blancpain, Mr. Serpa Soares, Ms. Elizabeth Wilson of the Pew Charitable Foundation, Master Navigator Nainona Thompson and DOALOS Director Ms. Gaby Göttsche-Wanli at the World Oceans Day Reception
Meeting with the Nippon Fellows 9 June 2016
Through the “United Nations – Nippon Foundation Programme” 120 individuals from 70 developing States have been trained in ocean affairs and law of the sea issues. The programme is one of the most successful programmes of its kind and a very good example of how seemingly “small” and “low-budget” training programmes can make a significant difference in building the capacity of diplomats, civil servants or academics of developing countries, thereby strengthening the rule of law. All fellows complete a three-months practicum in OLA’s Division for Oceans Affairs and the Law of the Sea (DOALOS) and do a six-months research phase at an academic partner institution during which they are expected to complete a thesis on a topic of particular relevance for their respective State or region. This year’s group of fellows includes also three “Strategic Award” recipients from Timor Leste and Somalia (the fellows from Somalia being funded from a separate trust fund project). The Legal Counsel met with the Fellows on 9 June 2016.
Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, with the 2016 Nippon Fellows
Opening of the ICP on Oceans and the Law of the Sea 13 June 2016
On 13 June 2016, Mr. Serpa Soares welcomed delegates to the 17th meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. The General Assembly decided that this year’s meeting would focus on “Marine debris, plastics and micro-plastics”.
In his capacity as Focal Point for UN-Oceans, Mr. Serpa Soares delivered a statement on the work of UN-Oceans on behalf of its members, under agenda item 4 entitled “Inter-agency cooperation and coordination”, to the ICP meeting on Oceans and the Law of the Sea on 16 June 2016.
Mr. Serpa Soares at the opening of the ICP meeting
Opening of the 26th Meeting of SPLOS 20 June 2016
On 20 June 2016, Mr. Serpa Soares made a statement at the opening of the 26th Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea . The annual Meeting of States Parties considers the report of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and deals with budgetary and administrative matters of the Tribunal, as well as with issues concerning the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The Meeting also hears information reported by the Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority and by the Chairman of the Commission. In addition, the Meeting considers the report of the Secretary-General under article 319 for the information of States Parties on issues of a general nature, relevant to States Parties, which have arisen with respect to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
United Nations Legal Counsel, Mr. Serpa Soares, and the President of the 26th Meeting of the States Parties to UNCLOS, Ms. Georgina Guillén Grillo of Costa Rica