I have the honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
I would like firstly to congratulate you both on your reappointment as Co-Chairmen of the United Nations Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea and wish you every success in your endeavours this week. We thank you for the organisation of our discussions in the manner set out in the agenda which we believe will greatly facilitate the progress of this meeting.
The European Union believes that strengthening co-ordination and co-operation at all levels on issues of global oceans governance is a vital purpose of the ICP. In our view the ICP has established its value in effectively facilitating and strengthening that co-ordination and co-operation and in promoting an integrated approach to these issues during the past 4 years. We also value the ICP as a forum that is informal in nature and in which all relevant stakeholders, including international organisations and non-governmental organisations, can contribute. We look forward to the ICP continuing to play an important role in an integrated approach to oceans and law of the sea affairs and related sustainable development objectives.
Of course, more effective oceans governance also depends on improving our imperfect knowledge of the ocean environment. The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation rightly identified the need to improve scientific understanding and assessment of marine and coastal ecosystems as a fundamental basis for sound decision-making. Scientific research will necessarily play an important role in improved governance and it must therefore be encouraged, including by way of collaboration between states and relevant international organisations.
The European Union notes the recommendation of the General Assembly that discussions at this year’s ICP should be organised around the theme of “new sustainable uses of the oceans, including the conservation and management of the biological diversity of the seabed in areas beyond national jurisdiction.” This theme addresses some matters that were the subject of Decisions taken at the Seventh Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at Kuala Lumpur earlier this year and we will be offering our views later on how we believe work can be taken forward in this important area. These matters are ones for which, in our view, enhanced co-operation among all states and relevant international organisations and other actors is crucial. They are also matters on which the General Assembly, as the appropriate forum for consideration of oceans governance issues, plays a central co-ordinating role. We look forward to proceedings in the Discussion Panel and would like to express the hope that the 5th Meeting of the ICP can agree recommendations for effective action to the General Assembly.
The theme of the Discussion Panel also draws attention to all new uses of the oceans, including potentially unsustainable ones. The criterion of sustainability will surely inform our view of any such uses. However, as with existing uses of the oceans, any new or proposed uses that may threaten marine biodiversity beyond the limits of national jurisdiction should in our view also be addressed on the basis of the ecosystem approach, an increasingly important planning and management tool. The European Union is committed to achieving the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation goal of application of this approach by 2010.
The European Union welcomes the progress made in establishing a regular process for the assessment of the global marine environment. We look forward to discussions tomorrow in the Workshop convened to consider the draft document prepared by the Group of Experts that met in March to consider the scope, general framework and outline of the regular process. The European Union believes that effective action to improve the conservation and management of the marine environment must be based on reliable scientific information concerning its present state and the dangers and risks it faces. The establishment of the GMA will be very helpful for this purpose and we look forward therefore to progress on this issue this week.
The importance of an integrated approach to sustainable ocean management and policy is well established at this stage. An integrated approach is required as much in global oceans management as in arrangements made at regional and national levels. Such an approach will be greatly facilitated by the design of sound institutional arrangements and by effective co-ordination and co-operation between all relevant actors. It was for this reason that the European Union expressed its concern at the dissolution in 2001 of the Subcommittee on Oceans and Coastal Areas (SOCA), which had been established in 1993 to meet the extensive co-ordination needs identified by Chapter 17 of Agenda 21.
We therefore welcome the Secretary General’s report of progress in meeting the request of the General Assembly, reiterated last autumn, to establish an effective, transparent and regular interagency co-ordinating mechanism within the UN system (to be known as UN Oceans). We note the Secretary General’s report of the draft elements of terms of reference for UN Oceans, which have been drawn up by the task group established for this purpose. The European Union has been concerned to see that any new co-ordinating mechanism is capable of operating at two important levels – firstly through regular reviews of issues relating to ocean and seas involving the responsible institutions in order to identify and remedy gaps, inconsistencies or duplication of work, and secondly through the establishment of specific task forces, as necessary, to examine specific issues. We continue to believe that it is essential that these requirements be met of an effective co-ordinating mechanism.
We continue to believe also that the new co-ordinating mechanism should establish a continuous, regular and accountable process and hope to see these important features reflected in UN Ocean’s terms of reference.
The European Union agrees that the standing involvement of the relevant UN programmes, funds and specialised agencies is essential to the success of the mechanism and therefore welcomes the planned inclusion of international financial institutions and other institutions not previously involved in SOCA, such as the International Seabed Authority and Secretariats of multilateral environment treaties such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change. We believe that this can only lead to a more consistent and comprehensive co-ordinating mechanism.
The European Union looks forward to the work of UN Oceans and hopes that it can build upon the work of existing ad-hoc co-ordination efforts such as the Consultative Group on Flag State Implementation. We would also like to see UN Oceans work facilitate and support the regular process of Global Marine Assessment and that formal links between the two will be established (once the GMA commences) to ensure their ongoing collaboration.
Thank you, Mr. Co-Chairman.