30th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the opening for signature of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. At this occasion, Commissioner Maria Damanaki said: 

"The opening for signature of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea thirty years ago was a turning point in ocean governance.

The European Union has ratified the Convention in 1998 and we strongly believe that it is an important factor for global stability, peace and ensuring sustainable development.

Today, the EU, on the basis of the UNCLOS, is promoting a holistic approach to the governance of seas, oceans and coasts, with the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach underpinning our policies. In that vein, fighting against climate change and protecting biodiversity, ensuring maritime safety, maritime security and freedom of navigation, promoting decent work in maritime sectors and better understanding the sea, achieving a sustainable fishing activity, maintaining a safe, resilient and healthy marine ecosystem, including on the high seas are of paramount importance for the EU. 

I for one believe that the next step should be the launching of negotiations on a new UNCLOS implementing agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. After all, at the third UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio, ambitious commitments for the oceans were agreed upon by States, and these included a decision to develop an international instrument under the Convention by 2014. 

As one of the parties to the Convention, we are pleased that, thirty years after it was opened for signature, it is almost universally accepted and has 164 contracting parties. Let me call on those who have not yet signed to do so as soon as possible: it will be to the greater good of us all. 

A lot remains to be done in the domain of ocean governance. EU policies, including our "Blue growth" strategy emphasise that ocean resources not only have much to offer a growing global population in terms of basic needs such as food and energy, but can also relieve pressure on dwindling land and freshwater. We need to ensure that harvesting these resources does not prevent their enjoyment by the generations that follow us. And we need to help those, such as the indigenous people of the Arctic or the small islands states, whose way of life is being threatened by increasing human activity and our changing climate, to adapt to the oceans of tomorrow."

Last update: 17/04/2013 |  Top