Ban highlights importance of sea tribunal as legal body commemorates its 20th anniversary

7 October 2016

Recalling the renewed focus on seas and oceans, including as illustrated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that as the global law of the sea continues to grow in relevance, so does its international tribunal.

“Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) reflects the global commitment to conserve and sustainably use the oceans and their resources by implementing international law as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Mr. Ban said today in Hamburg, Germany, at the ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

“To guarantee the capacity of the oceans to continue to provide for humanity’s many and varied needs in a sustainable manner, we must do much more to ensure the uniform and consistent application of the Convention,” he added.

In his remarks, Mr. Ban highlighted the uniqueness of the Tribunal as it can settle not only disputes among States but also between the appropriate organs of the International Seabed Authority (a body established to organize, regulate and control all mineral-related activities in the international seabed area beyond the limits of national jurisdiction) and both public and private entities acting as contractors, through its Seabed Disputes Chamber.

He added that the importance of the Tribunal was also reinforced, as evidenced through its recent confirmation, in Case No. 21, concerning the request for an advisory opinion submitted by the Sub-Regional Fisheries Commission that it can issue Advisory Opinions when an international agreement related to the purposes of the Convention specifically provides for this.

Further highlighting the importance of the Convention on the Law of the Sea, informally known as UNCLOS, Mr. Ban said that it continues to provide the overarching legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out and that it allows for the further development of specific areas of the law of the sea and is thus capable of adapting to the evolving needs of the international community.

In conclusion, the Secretary-General expressed hope that the commemoration will encourage even more States to make use of the tools available to them under the Convention to settle international disputes related to the application and interpretation of the Convention on the Law of the Sea and the use of the world’s oceans.

The International Tribunal is an independent judicial body established by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the Convention. The body is composed of 21 independent members, elected from among persons with the highest reputation for fairness and integrity and of recognized competence in the field of the law of the sea.


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