Pakistan urges action to improve governance of seas

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has called for urgent action to improve the governance of the oceans as their “sustenance and sustainability” was inextricably linked with the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 Agenda.

“We need to take urgent action. Improving the governance of the oceans and strengthening legal frameworks are essential to preserving international peace and security, inter-connectivity, the blue economy, and the timely achievement of the SDGs,” said Rabia Ijaz, second secretary at Pakistan’s mission, in her statement at a meeting of General Assembly.

Pakistan also emphasised the strengthening of legal frameworks to preserve international peace and security, interconnectivity, the blue economy, and the timely achievement of the SDGs.

The diplomat told the meeting that the world currently faced a global emergency of the Oceans which were under relentless threat from human activities.

“Sea levels are rising, coastal erosion is worsening, marine pollution is increasing, marine biodiversity is rapidly declining, and the Ocean is warmer and more acidic,” Ijaz said.

Experts say oceans are a neglected area of global governance despite the United Nations’ 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 193 member states agreeing in 2015 to a global goal to sustainably manage and protect marine resources.

The diplomat noted that since its inception, UNCLOS has played a fundamental role in promoting legal order and peace in the oceans, as well as ensuring the harmonious and judicious use of ocean resources for all mankind.

“Pakistan also attaches great importance to the work of the three bodies established under UNCLOS — the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) and the International Seabed Authority (ISA),” Ijaz said.

She said it was essential to balance the need for resource extraction with the preservation of the marine environment and stressed the need for developing a robust and comprehensive regime for exploitation before the commencement of the mining anywhere in the “area”.

She also underlined the need for addressing the question of the possible hazardous impact on marine ecosystems which necessitated continuous negotiations in “good faith” in light of the best available science.

Ijaz said that as the coordinator of the Group of 77 and China for this year, Pakistan appreciated the progress made during the IGC-4 and IGC-5 to finalise the draft treaty under UNCLOS on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) and look forward to reconvening of the next session.

She stressed the principle of the common heritage of mankind should guide and underpin the new legal regime for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

She told the meeting the idea of a so-called blue economy recognised the seas and oceans as main drivers of economic development with great potential for innovation and growth.

“Pakistan’s interest in the concept emanates from a coastline of over 1000 kilometres, an extended continental shelf, an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of around 290,000 square kilometres and two major ports — Karachi and the newly built deep seaport at Gwadar.”

Ijaz said the Indian Ocean offered the promising potential for mutual cooperation and collaboration. But geostrategic competition and the pursuit of military dominance by some nations could gravely jeopardise that potential, she added.

The diplomat said the international community needed to be cognizant of the fact that any military conflict in South Asia could endanger stability in a region that was critical for global trade and global peace and security.

“We are also concerned at the politicization of the issues related to the South China Sea. The resolutions of the disputes related to the South China Sea are between the countries concerned. Those outside the region should respect the negotiations and the process through which the parties concerned wish to resolve their disputes.”

Ijaz reiterated Islamabad was fully committed to the 2030 Agenda, including goal number 14 pertaining to the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and was open to cooperating and collaborating with friendly nations for this purpose.

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