Statement delivered by 

Ms Laila Shareef, Second Secretary 

on Oceans and Law of the Sea

11 December 2018 

Thank you Mr President,

My delegation welcomes the Report of the Secretary-General, submitted under this agenda item, as well as the Resolutions adopted that represent important developments related to Oceans and Law of the Sea. We also thank Singapore and Norway for their able leadership in the consultations leading up to these texts.   

The Ocean is under threat. Pollution, overfishing, warming temperatures, and acidification are threatening the health and wealth of the Ocean. Scientists have repeatedly warned us that unless there is a dramatic shift in human behaviour, we may alter oceanographic processes that moderate the global climate. We need to take action now to save the Ocean.    

Actions against marine plastic pollution are a good starting point. Plastic pollution has become the key challenge of the generation due to a recent shift in production and consumption patterns. For a country, such as the Maldives, with hundreds of islands, and thousands of kilometres of coastline, marine plastic pollution threatens the coral reefs, fish stocks, and beaches that are the lifeblood of our two main industries: fisheries and tourism.   

That is why President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, within weeks after assuming office, has launched a campaign against plastic pollution. The President’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and several other government agencies have now banned single-use plastics in their offices. The President’s initiative has received the support of the private sector, especially in the tourism industry, which we believe is vital in reducing plastic pollution in the country.   

Yet, the Ocean is too large for a single country, especially for a small State, such as the Maldives, to make a dramatic change in marine plastic pollution. It requires global cooperation to ensure that every country, every locality, and every community in every corner of globe take actions to stop the menace of plastic pollution.

Mr President,   

Marine plastic pollution is just one dimension of the constellation of threats that the Ocean faces. The most serious of all is global warming and sea-level rise. The ipcc Special Report published in October this year suggests of catastrophic trouble ahead for marine ecosystems if we fail to take dramatic action immediately to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Staying below this critical temperature threshold would provide sids more space for adaptation, but we still face the potential of irreversible losses of marine and coastal ecosystems at 1.5°c. In fact, 70-90% of coral reefs will be severely degraded at 1.5°c of warming, increasing to 99% at 2°c. We look forward to the findings of an extension of the ipcc Report directly related to ocean systems next year.  

Global warming poses an existential threat for the Maldives, which is one of the lowest-lying countries in the world. It is for that reason that the Maldives has been persistent, since 1989, in our advocacy for stronger actions against sea-level rise. In November 1989, the Maldives hosted the first ever Small States Conference on Sea-Level Rise and charted a way forward for mitigating against the threat. But almost 30 years later, the world has failed to act.

We are now in a position where we need to seriously evaluate the possible legal implications of sea level rise. It has implications on maritime boundaries, internal and external migration, and most importantly, it poses an existential threat to low lying countries like ours. Therefore, my delegation welcomes the inclusion of this topic in the programme of work of the International Law Commission. We encourage the Commission to consider this topic urgently.  

Mr President,  

We can protect and promote the health of the Ocean only if we are able to regulate the large swaths of the deep blue ocean waters, which are currently ungoverned. The Maldives welcomes the convening of the first meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument under unclos on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction. This is a significant milestone in ocean governance, culminating from decades of groundwork. The Maldives has engaged constructively in these discussions with the objective of finalizing the instrument as soon as possible, and we are confident of reaching that goal. We wish to reiterate the importance of having the special circumstances of sids being reflected in this Instrument, as has been in other instruments under unclos.  

Our work in oceans and law of the sea is only as good as the best available science we have. In this regard, it is crucial to promote research in this area, and also facilitate capacity building and transfer of marine technology for developing countries to effectively engage and supplement the going efforts. The Maldives has been a strong advocate of the un Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, from 2021-2030. We take note of the progress that has been made in engaging stakeholders to formulate the plan, and encourage all Member States to engage constructively in tailoring a framework, which will deliver country driven results.  

Mr President,  

The world’s Oceans literally connect us together and sustain life, as we know it. From the top of the Himalayas to the sandy beaches of the Maldives just above the sea, our future is bound to the health of the marine environment. I ask you to join us in protecting this valuable intergenerational resource.  

I thank you.