Tajikistan + 2 more

General Assembly adopts text on emergency response to disasters, begins consideration of ocean and Law of Sea

News and Press Release
Originally published

Press Release - GA/9665
Deeply concerned about the fact that natural disasters continued to claim high numbers of casualties and cause immense material damage globally, and that the frequency and magnitude of such catastrophes were an ever increasing material and moral burden to States, the General Assembly this morning asked the Secretary-General, through the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, to formulate the modalities for the utilization of the Standby Disaster Response Unit by the relevant agencies of the United Nations system.

The Assembly took that action by adopting without a vote a text entitled "Emergency response to disasters", introduced by Turkey and Greece on Friday 19 November, by which it also expressed solidarity with the governments of both those countries as they coped with the consequences of recent earthquakes. It also noted with satisfaction the decision taken by both governments to establish a joint Standby Disaster Response Unit to reinforce and expand existing United Nations standby arrangements with no financial implications to the programme budget of the Organization.

Before adoption, Pakistan's representative said the Organization needed to reduce its response time to humanitarian emergencies, stressing support for initiatives to improve early warning mechanisms. Overlapping mandates and competing demands for limited resources exacerbated the difficulties faced in coordination activities, which were key to effective responses. The difficulties in responding to humanitarian situations had also been compounded by uneven funding to the consolidated appeals. Humanitarian relief must be provided irrespective of political or other considerations.

Also this morning, the Assembly decided to take action at a later date on draft resolutions on: Strengthening of international cooperation and coordination of efforts to study, mitigate and minimize the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster; and international assistance to and cooperation with the Alliance for the Sustainable Development of Central America. It also took note of the fact that further texts on the strengthening of the coordination of the humanitarian and disaster relief of the United Nations would be submitted at a later date.

Also this morning, the Assembly began its consideration of oceans and the law of the sea. The representative of Finland introduced the text entitled "Oceans and the Law of the Sea", the representative of the United States the draft on the

"Agreement for the implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks", and the representative of New Zealand the text on "Results of the review by the Commission on Sustainable Development of the sectoral theme of 'ocean and seas'; international coordination and cooperation."

The representative of Fiji, speaking on behalf of the South Pacific countries, expressed concern that the state of the seas in many parts of the world was still precarious. He said the Assembly was the only body which could bring together the complex and interrelated aspects of ocean governance and should therefore encourage the input and involvement of the wider ocean community. It was also crucial that it respond to the challenges posed by its responsibilities in this area. Without proper coordination and an integrated approach there was a risk of ineffective and inappropriate policy making and action based on sectoral considerations.

Statements were also made this morning on the strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations by the representatives of: Tajikistan, Uganda, Sudan, Israel, Grenada, and the observers of Switzerland, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The Vice-President of the Assembly, Li Hyong Chol (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) also informed delegations that the General Committee would hold its fourth meeting on Wednesday, 24 November, at 9 a.m. in Conference 4, to take up the inclusion of new item on the agenda entitled "Celebration of the International Day of Vesak," which for Buddhists is the most sacred day, coinciding with the full moon in May and the day, 2,500 years ago, when Buddha was born and the day he died at the age of 80. Inclusion of the item was requested in a letter dated 28 October by the representatives of Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Spain, India, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Ukraine.

The Assembly will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its consideration of oceans and law of the sea.

Assembly Work Programme

The General Assembly met this morning to continue its consideration of strengthening United Nations humanitarian and disaster relief and to begin consideration of oceans and the law of the sea. It had before it two reports, three draft resolutions, and the results of the review by the Commission on Sustainable Development of the sectoral theme of "oceans and seas". (For background on disaster relief see Press Release GA/9663 19 November).

The report of the Secretary-General on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/54/429) details developments concerning the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which entered into force in 1994. The report indicates that, since the last report (A/53/456), five States have deposit their instruments of ratification to the Convention (Nepal, Belgium, Poland, Ukraine and Vanuatu), and six States have ratified the Agreement for the implementation of the provisions of Convention relating to the conservation and management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks or acceded to it (Canada, Cook Islands, Maldives, Monaco, Papua New Guinea and Uruguay).

The report reviews the work done by the three institutions created under the Convention. The International Seabed Authority organized a Workshop on Proposed Technologies for Deep Seabed Mining of Polymetallic Nodules on August 1999, which focused on crucial technologies required for exploration and mining and on the development of technology for exploration for polymetallic nodules. Following the description of the work of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, the report states that, during its sixth session, held in September 1999, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf adopted in its final form the Scientific and Technical Guidelines (CLCS/11), which are intended to provide assistance to coastal States regarding the technical nature and scope of the data and information that they must submit to the Commission. Among other matters, the Commission continued studying the issue of the establishment of a trust fund to assist in financing the participation of its members from developing countries.

According to the report, the developments relating to legislation and delimitation treaties demonstrate the wide degree of acceptance of Convention by States that have taken steps to conform their national legislation with its provisions, as well as the growing importance of maritime delimitation in the practice of States. However, the report States, that should not lead to the conclusion that the provisions of the Convention are fully respected in all cases. In fact there are several examples of new national legislation departing from the rule set out in Convention, including those relating to prior notification or authorization for the exercise of the right of innocent passage in the territorial sea. Many maritime delimitations, in particular of the exclusive economic zone, are still pending between States with opposite or adjacent coasts. In order to assist the States, the division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea is preparing a handbook providing basic legal, technical and practical information on maritime boundary delimitation.

The importance of ensuring safe navigation through such means as adequately manned ships, a trained crew on board, proper stowage of cargo, safe routes, efficient communication systems and a crime-free environment has led to regulation at the global level, the report continues. Effective implementation and enforcement of the body of law that governs all aspects of navigation is of fundamental importance not only for the safety of navigation, but also for the protection and preservation of the marine environment. To that end, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has played a pivotal role.

Continuing the report states that, according to the Global Environment Outlook 2000 (GEO-2000) released in September 1999 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the coastal marine environment is being affected by the modification and destruction of habitats, overfishing and pollution. Many of those impacts can be traced back to land-based human activities located far from the sea. By contrast, the deep ocean is mainly unpolluted, although there is emerging evidence of environmental degradation in some areas, and a decline in many marine species. Moreover, the natural environment of coastal areas is being rapidly degraded as a result of population growth, urbanization and industrial development in developing regions. The accelerating destruction of the world’s coral reefs by pollution, the collapse of fisheries, and the introduction of alien species were issues of great concern.

According to the report, marine science, such as the development of marine resources protection and preservation of the marine development and the study of the global environment is well recognized. Over the past year, advancements have been made in the fields of marine biology, scientific instruments and equipment, programmes on marine science in the United Nations system and in marine technology.

The report stays that in the field of oceans affairs, apart from formulating international conventions, rules and standards, programmes and plans of action at the global, regional and interregional levels, the organizations of the United nations system have been particularly effective in two other areas: capacity- building; and information dissemination. Capacities of human resources and institutions are strengthened primarily through fellowship and training activities. Information, especially of global scope, is provided through a wide variety of means, ranging from Web sites, databases, publications and reports to responses to ad hoc requests.

By the terms of the draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/54/L.31) call upon all States that have not yet done so to become parties to the Convention and the Agreement, in order to achieve universal participation. The Assembly would also call upon States to harmonize, as a matter of priority, their national legislation with the provisions of the Convention, to ensure the consistent application of those provisions and to ensure also that any declarations or statements that they have made or make when signing, ratifying or acceding are in conformity with the Convention and to withdraw any of their declarations or statements that are not in conformity.

It would also encourage States parties to the Convention to deposit with the Secretary-General charts and lists of geographical coordinates, as provided for in the Convention, and would request the Secretary-General to convene the tenth Meeting of States Parties to the Convention in New York from 22 to 26 May 2000.

The Assembly would appeal to all States parties to the Convention to pay their assessed contributions to the Authority and to the Tribunal, respectively, in full and on time in order to ensure that they are able to carry out their functions as provided for in the Convention, and would also appeal to the States which are former provisional members of the Authority to pay any outstanding contributions.

The Assembly would also approve the convening by the Secretary-General of the seventh session on the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in New York from 1 to 5 May 2000 and, if necessary, an eighth session from 28 August to 1 September 2000.

Further, the Assembly it would urge States to take all practicable steps to prevent the pollution of the sea by dumping of radioactive materials and industrial wastes, and would encourage States to continue to support the regional seas programme, which has achieved success in a number of geographic areas, and to work within the UNEP to enhance cooperation in the protection of the marine environment. It would also call upon States to cooperate fully with the IMO to combat privacy and armed robbery against ships, including by submitting reports on incidents to that organization.

The Assembly it would urge all States, in particular coastal states in affected regions, to take all necessary steps and appropriate measures to prevent and combat incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea, including through regional cooperation, and to investigate or cooperate in the investigation of such incidents wherever they occur and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice, in accordance with international law.

The Assembly would also reaffirm the importance of ensuring the uniform and consistent application of the Convention and a coordinated approach to its overall implementation, and of strengthening technical cooperation and financial assistance for that purpose, and would reiterate its invitation to the competent international organizations and other international bodies to support those objectives.

The text is co-sponsored by Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Samoa, Senegal, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

The report of the Secretary-General on the Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (document A/54/461) details the recent developments and current status of that Agreement, taking into account information provided at the Secretary-General request, by States, relevant specialized agencies, organs, organizations and programmes of the United Nations system, regional and subregional fisheries organizations, other intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations.

The report contains replies from China, Turkmenistan, Oman, Tunisia, Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, Finland, Thailand, Denmark, Argentina, Japan, Mexico, Norway and New Zealand.

In its reply the World Bank, states that as a financial institution, it did not implement international agreements, although it did on occasion provide financial assistance for that purpose at the request of its member countries. In that regard, the Bank, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and with financial assistance from Iceland, was preparing an implementing guide to the Fish Stocks Agreement. The guide would provide assistance to countries seeking to introduce legislation to meet obligations contained in those Agreements, with a vie to ratifying one or both of them.

The response of the FAO underlines the high priority given by FAO to facilitating the acceptance, ratification or accession to international fishery instruments as a means of bringing them into force as soon as possible, and at the same time supporting their full and effective implementation at all levels and by all those involved in the fisheries sector. Such efforts were ongoing activities in FAO and constituted an integral part of the organization’s work programme.

Replies were also received by UNEP, the International Commission for the Atlantic Tuna, the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency, the Western Central Atlantic Fishery Commission, the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, the North-East Atlantic Fishery Commission, the Asia Pacific Fishery Commission. The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the Fishery Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, the Asian Development Bank, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Centre, the International Ocean Institute, and Greenpeace International.

The annex to the report states that, as at 30 September 1999, 59 States and one entity have signed the Agreement, and 24 States have ratified or acceded to it.

The related draft resolution on the Fish Stocks Agreement (document A/54/L.28) would have the Assembly call on upon all States and other entities referred to in Article 1 paragraph 2 (b) of the Agreement that have not done so to ratify or accede to it and consider applying it provisionally.

It would further call upon all States to ensure that their vessels comply with the conservation and management measures in accordance with the Agreement that have been adopted by subregional and regional fisheries management organizations and arrangements, and not to permit vessels flying their flag to engage in fishing on the high seas without having effective control over their activities and to take specific measures to control fishing operations by vessels flying their flag.

It would urge all States to participate in the efforts of the FAO to develop an international plan of action to address illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, in particular the Meeting of Experts and Technical Consultation of FAO scheduled for 2000, and in all efforts to coordinate all the work of the FAO with other international organizations, including the IMO.

It would encourage all States to provide assistance to developing States as outlined in the Agreement, and would note the importance of participation by representatives of developing States in forums in which fisheries issues are discussed.

It would also encourage States and other entities to integrate in an appropriate manner the requirements of the protection of the environment, notably those resulting from multilateral environmental agreements, in the management of straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks.

The text is sponsored by Canada, Norway, Papua New Guinea and United States.

The results of the review by the Commission on Sustainable Development of the sectoral theme of "oceans and seas" is contained in the Secretary-General’s report (document A/54/429). At its seventh session, the Commission emphasized the importance of international cooperation in ensuring that the oceans and seas remain sustainable through integrated management, and that while respecting the sovereignty, jurisdiction and sovereign rights of coastal States and recalling their rights and obligations in relation to the protection of the marine environment, all States can benefit from the sustainable use of the oceans and seas.

The Commission recommended that particular priority should be given to: the conservation, integrated and sustainable management and sustainable use of marine living resources, including the ecosystems of which they are part, the prevention of pollution and degradation of the marine environment from land-based and other activities, and better scientific understanding of the oceans and seas and their resources.

The Commission emphasized the need for capacity-building for action at the national level and the importance of cooperation, at the regional level, within the relevant legal framework for the conservation and integrated and sustainable management and use of regional seas. It also highlighted the needs for international cooperation and coordination to promote coordinated approaches, avoid duplication of effort, enhance effective functioning of existing organizations.

By the terms of draft resolution on the result of the review by the Commission on Sustainable Development (document A/54/L.32) the Assembly would decide, consistent with the legal framework provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to establish an open-ended informal consultive process in order to facilitate the annual review by the General Assembly, in an effective and constructive manner, of developments in ocean affairs by considering the Secretary-General's report on oceans and the law of the sea and by suggesting particular issues to be considered by it, with an emphasis on identifying areas where coordination and cooperation at the intergovernmental and inter-agency levels should be enhanced.

It would also decide that the meetings within the framework of the consultive process will be open to all States Members of the United Nations, States members of the specialized agencies, all parties to the Convention, entities that have received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the work of the General Assembly pursuant to its relevant resolutions, and intergovernmental organizations with competence in ocean affairs. Further, the meetings will take place for one week each year and in 2000 will be held from 30 May to 2 June and they will deliberate on the Secretary-General's report on oceans and the law of the sea, with due account given to any particular resolution or decision of the General Assembly, any relevant special reports of the Secretary-General and any relevant recommendations of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

The Assembly would also request the Secretary-General, working in cooperation with the heads of relevant organizations of the United Nations, to include in his annual comprehensive report to the General Assembly on oceans and the law of the sea, suggestions on initiatives that could be undertaken to improve coordination and cooperation and achieve better integration on ocean affairs. It would also request the Secretary-General to undertake measures to improve the effectiveness, transparency and responsiveness of the Subcommittee on Oceans and Coastal Areas of the Administrative Committee on Coordination and to include information on progress in that regard in his report on oceans and law of the The text is sponsored by Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Fiji, Guatemala, Israel, Lesotho, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Samoa, Solomon Islands, South Africa, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Uruguay and Vanuatu.

Statements on humanitarian assistance

KHOUSRAV ISMOILOV (Tajikistan) said that dispute the progress made in the Tajik peace process and economic reforms in his country, thousands of Tajiks continued to need humanitarian assistance. Even though humanitarian operations were significant, the reaction of the international donor community to consolidated inter-agency appeals was not encouraging.

The problem of insufficient funding was one of the major limitations to the United Nations ability to provide humanitarian assistance, he said, adding that the agreed with the concern shown over the lack of support for programmes to ship emergency food supplies and to lend medical assistance. Because of the increase in the number of large-scale disasters all over the world, and the accompanying loss of human life and material damage there should be greater use of the central emergency revolving fund.

He warned the Assembly that Tajikistan was an area ripe for a potential large-scale emergency and disaster which could spread and affect neighbouring countries. He said it was also important to continue United Nations activities to further limit the consequences of Chernobyl, which continued to be felt today even 13 years after the disaster. It was necessary to seek non-traditional ways to carry out United Nations initiatives in providing assistance as well, he added.

MATIA MULUMBA SEMAKULA KIWANUKA (Uganda) said the world was witnessing a significant increase in natural disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and famines which created great economic losses. He expressed concern about the insecurity of personnel working in the field of humanitarian assistance, adding that it was a primary responsibility to give protection and provide security to all civilians working to help affected population.

He emphasized the importance of prevention. In many cases, he said, the root causes of disasters were man-made, such as in armed conflicts.

In Africa, he said, many humanitarian disasters no longer attracted worldwide attention. Africa was forgotten, despite its calamities and flows of refugees and displaced persons. Not only armed conflicts were issues of concern, he added, but also environmental degradation and in particular the lack of rain which caused desertification.

He urged all Member States, all relevant organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to strengthen United Nations efforts in humanitarian and natural relief assistance. ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) stated that Operation Lifeline had played an important role in developing humanitarian policies. Sudan was anxious to ensure delivery of humanitarian assistance without hindrance. Also, Sudan cooperated with the required investigations and research, to gauge the needs of the population and determine peoples’ needs. He stressed that his country respected those commitments, because of the tenets of its religion.

The number of aircraft devoted to delivering humanitarian assistance had increased from five to 20, he continued. His Government had announced it was ready to comply with the international community and had signed a security protocol in Rome in 1998, and in Israel during this year, so they could receive unhindered assistance. The emphasis placed by western States on providing assistance to regions closer to their own had had a serious impact on Africa. They had been reserving assistance for certain purposes, without taking priorities in account. The principles of Operation Lifeline included cooperation and compliance, to which his country had adhered. He requested that a review of the project be undertaken.

With regard to the existing situation in Sudan, he said the report had referred to continuing disasters that occurred when humanitarian assistance was delivered to a certain area. However, the rebels in that area plundered the assistance. Several workers had been killed, both international and Sudanese, and the rebels were also holding 13 prisoners, whom they refused to release. Reference had also been made that the northern section of the country had been receiving more aid than in the South. To address that, he requested that the international community condemn activities that impeded the provision of humanitarian assistance. The Sudanese Government had done a reconnaissance of that area and had submitted a report on its findings. He appealed to the international community to contribute to a proposed health and education programme that was perceived to be able to eliminate poverty.

IRFAN YUSUF SHAMI (Pakistan) said that while its activities in the field of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance had increased, the United Nations still lagged far behind in meeting the ever-increasing demand for effective relief operations. Any effective response to a humanitarian crisis required: timeliness; effective central coordination; adequate funding; and the ability to address the root cause of the crisis. Over the past eight years, while the United Nations had attempted to develop its capabilities to respond effectively to emergencies, in many situations its responses were too late. Measures should be taken to reduce response time. Adequate resources should be made available to support United Nations initiatives to improve early warning mechanisms.

He said coordination was the key to the effectiveness of timely response. However, the multitude of actors, overlapping mandates and competing demands for limited resources exacerbated the difficulties faced by the United Nations system in coordination. The Economic and Social Council could and should provide guidelines.

Humanitarian assistance, no matter how well coordinated, was of little consequence if it was not backed by commensurate resources to mitigate the severe impact of disasters, he said. Lack of funding was a major constraint on United Nations responses to humanitarian situations. The organization’s difficulties had been further compounded by uneven levels of funding to the consolidated appeals.

He said selective responses were largely determined by geographical, political and sectoral considerations. Pakistan believed strongly that the basic principle of humanitarian action was for relief to provided irrespective of political or other considerations. Response to international appeals must be commensurate with needs and not determined by media coverage. It was essential that humanitarian personnel be allowed to discharge their duties safely and effectively.

AARON JACOB (Israel) said that since the launch of the peace process, Israeli governments had attached importance to the economic situation of the Palestinian people. His country had shown its readiness to make the necessary sacrifices to advance economic relations with the Palestinian Authority and the well-being of its people. During the past five years, there had been significant improvement in the Palestinian economy, Israel had concluded that in those periods where there had been a calm security situation the Palestinian economy had grown. A consistent and determined effort by the Palestinian Authority to fight terrorism made it easier for Israel and other parties to continue improvement of the Palestinian economic situation.

Beyond its efforts to reduce security closures to an absolute minimum, Israel had undertaken a number of pro-active initiatives to strengthen the Palestinian economy. He cited his Government’s policy of easing access for Palestinian workers to the Israeli labour market; working to strengthen the Palestinian private sector by encouraging investment in its enterprises, among other measures; transferring tax revenues amounting to $2 billion in accordance with the Paris Economic Annex to the Interim Agreement, a sum which represented about 60 per cent of the budget of the Palestinian Authority; making an additional commitment to provide $15 million to Palestine in the future, and establishing an industrial parks project that was expected to provide up to 50,000 jobs in the future.

He said other initiatives included the Bethlehem 2000 project, and the Safe Passage which would eventually enable the free flow of goods, labour and capital between the West Bank and Gaza.

On the issue of Israeli Palestinian development cooperation, he referred to the function of MASHAV -- the Center for International Cooperation of his country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry -- and said the underlying principle stemmed from Israel’s belief that peace would be secured only when it was rooted in the lives of the peoples in the region.

He said the burgeoning Israel-Palestinian peace process, and the agreements signed between the two parties, had brought a rapid expansion of development activities as donor support for the newly-established Palestinian Authority was viewed as an investment in the success of peace. Opportunities for future cooperation in the Middle East were endless, and Israel and the Palestinian Authority had already benefited in their ongoing cooperation.

LAMUEL A. STANISLAUS (Grenada) said that Hurricane Lenny, currently sweeping through several islands in the Caribbean, was unusual for its late arrival, as well as in the height of its sea-level rise and huge waves, which completely destroyed the coastal area in his country where the population was concentrated. The destruction included the fishing fleet on which the island’s economy was dependent. However, few lives had been lost, because of the early warning systems presently being used. He hoped that the international community would find it appropriate and expedient to assist the small island developing States at this time of need.

JENO STAEHELIN, Permanent Observer of Switzerland, said that humanitarian coordination was a great concern. It was thus necessary to underline the different responses that should be given by States, on the one hand, and by humanitarian actors, on the other. Regarding natural disasters, States should incorporate in their programme strategies for disaster prevention, and should include financing programmes for humanitarian assistance. For armed conflicts, in order to create a safe environment for humanitarian personnel it was necessary to respect the rules of the international law. In particular, States should establish additional measures concerning the elimination of landmines and the trafficking of small arms, while the parties to a conflict should provide the right conditions for humanitarian assistance.

In that context, he said, the dissemination of a culture of peace was important. Humanitarian crises could be solved only through multifaceted involvement. In that context, a plan for coordination, requiring preparation and planning was essential. Economic and financial institutions played an important role and should become aware of their obligations and act accordingly. The waste of resources and duplication of effort were issues of concern. Therefore, it was necessary establish closer links between the various and different mandates involved. To that end, a change in culture was needed. Each mandate should be understood and respected.

GEORGE PACLISANU, observer of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said there had been an exceptional increase in security risks for humanitarian personnel. In that context, the tragic irony was that the international community had come to accept causalities among humanitarian workers more easily than those suffered by the military. An impediment to the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts was the international community’s apparent lack of consistency in managing crises, since unequal attention had been paid to dire humanitarian emergencies.

He stressed that political problems needed political solutions. Humanitarian endeavours could not substitute for those, but only serve as a palliative to contain politically unstable situations. In that regard, it was vital for humanitarian institutions to preserve the strictly non-political and impartial character of their mission.

However, humanitarian organizations were able to offer protection and assistance to millions of people every day. In that context, the twenty-seventh International Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent had been convened in Geneva at the beginning of the current month. That Conference had stressed: the power of humanity in challenging inequalities; preparing for, and efficiently responding to emergencies; and searching for common solutions to the humanitarian consequences of conflicts and disasters. A detailed Plan of Action for the coming four years had been adopted.

He also said that an effective humanitarian response to crises was also dependent upon the development of an open dialogue between the key players in humanitarian emergencies. That was essential to the relevance of humanitarian action, especially in volatile and rapidly changing conflict environments. In that regard, the ICRC wanted to expand its contacts with political and military organizations as well as financial institutions, such as the World Bank.

JOSÉ ANTONIO LINATI-BOSCH, Permanent Observer for the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said his territory was conscious of its duties towards human rights. The process of protecting those rights had an impact on development and helped to prevent conflicts. The Order of Malta had sent aid to countries in the Latin American and Caribbean region, as well as to Cuba. It had undertaken two different relief projects in Honduras. It had worked hard this year in protecting human rights by providing help to the injured in more than 100 countries, particularly in Kosovo and East Timor where it had helped to reconstruct towns and villages and assist displaced persons.

He expressed concern over the lack of protection for religious minorities, who were suffering persecution in different parts of the world, particularly in Asia and Africa. He said recognition of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was gradually being accepted globally and that process included the overthrow of totalitarian systems and ending racial discrimination. The contribution of United Nations and its organs was important.

ENCHO GOSPODINOV, New York Delegation of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the Chernobyl-related programmes of the Societies should continue because there was still concern for the health and psychological welfare of tens of thousands of children, as well as adults who were children at the time of the accident. Another reason for continuing the work was the experience and knowledge being gained by the Societies and other organizations involved.

Events in Japan and Korea had shown that nuclear accidents could happen again, and the international community was not yet fully equipped to cope with the human consequences of such accidents. The Chernobyl experience and knowledge were needed to ensure an adequate level of preparedness.

The International Federation, he continued, had adopted a new strategy for 2000–2010 aimed at harmonizing and improving its national and international programmes in disaster preparedness and response. In particular, emphasis would be put on ensuring that the system was responsive to local vulnerabilities and supported the development of local capacities that could be linked to other levels. He said the International Federation looked forward to closer cooperation with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and other United Nations agencies, to upgrade and develop the coordination mechanisms related to humanitarian and disaster relief assistance.

The Assembly then took up the draft resolution on emergency response to disasters (document A/54/L.17/Rev.1).

The Assembly was informed of the following additional co-sponsors: Belarus, Colombia, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Iceland, Iran, Israel, and Kuwait.

The Assembly adopted the text without a vote.

Oceans and law of the Sea

MARJA LETHO (Finland) introducing draft resolution on oceans and the law of the sea (document A/54/L.31) said the Federated States of Micronesia and Philippines had joined as co-sponsors of the text. She said the focus of the draft resolution was to recall the strategic importance of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea as the overall legal framework for action in the marine sphere. It also commented on recent developments with regard to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, and on other developments and issues relating to ocean affairs and the law of the sea.

She added that the text also took note of the major challenges, as well as of the areas of particular concern, facing the international community with regard to the seas and oceans as they were formulated in the recommendations of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Then, making a general statement on behalf of the European Union and its associated countries, she said that the natural characteristics of the oceans made it impossible to limit the resources and various uses and physical processes of the oceans within specified, politically and legally defined "boundaries". The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development had recommended that the General Assembly establish an open-ended informal consultative process that would operate through convening annual meetings. It would also identify issues to be considered by the Assembly, as well as areas where coordination and cooperation at the intergovernmental and inter-agency level should be enhanced.

She noted that a number of States that had ratified the Convention had still not adhered to the Fish Stocks Agreement and that a number of States had made declarations that appeared to exclude or modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the Convention. Moreover, national legislation not in compliance with the Convention and unilateral measures that disturbed the jurisdictional balance and claimed authority in maritime space where no such authority existed in law were unacceptable.

In reviewing the work done by the Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority, and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, she said that it was important that all parties to the Convention paid their contributions to the Authority and to the Tribunal in full and on time, and that States that were former provisional members of the Authority paid any outstanding contributions.

She also expressed her concern about the number of attacks against ships and the increased use of violence in such attacks. In that regard, regional cooperation was essential. In the field of fisheries, great importance was given to the integration of environmental, economic and social issues into sustainable fisheries management. Furthermore, she urged the widespread adoption into national fisheries the guidance offered by the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. She also stressed the need for international cooperation and coordination to reach the goals and objectives of the Convention.

J.S. CARMICHAEL (United States) introduced the draft resolution on the Fish Stocks Agreement (document A/54/L.28). He said this year, the FAO Committee on Fisheries made important progress by endorsing three international plans of action for the: Management of Fishing Capacity; Management and Conservation of Sharks; and Reducing Incidental Catch of Seabirds in Longline Fisheries. The United States urged all countries to actively implement the three plans by the timetables agreed upon.

He also underscored the urgent need for the entry into force of the United Nations Fish Stocks Agreement and the FAO High Seas Fishing Vessel Compliance Agreement as well as implementation of the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The United States would also support the International Maritime Organization in addressing the problem of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing and urged all States to do likewise. He drew attention to a technical correction in footnote 5 of the draft stating that it should contain the text: "The Convention Area for the Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Marine Living Resources as contained in the document", in addition to the text currently in the footnote.

Referring to the development of a draft convention on underwater cultural heritage in conformity with the Law of the Sea Convention, he said the United States believed that there were still substantial issues on which there must be consensus before a draft convention could be considered for adoption. Those issues included the extent of coastal jurisdiction over underwater cultural heritage in the exclusive economic zone and on the continental shelf seaward of 24 nautical miles, and the treatment of vessels and aircraft entitled to immunity. Referring to the work of Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, he said it was important that it proceed in a cautious manner in the development of the difficult issues of law, science, and the relationship of the continental shelf and the deep sea ocean floor. It was also important to keep in mind that only a minority of States had continental margins that extended beyond 200 miles.

VICTORIA HALLUM (New Zealand) introduced the draft resolution on the review by the Commission on Sustainable Development (document A/54/L.32). She said that the resolution carried forth and implemented the recommendations of the Commission on Sustainable Development’s review of the theme "oceans and seas" and was the result of a lengthy process of collaborative work among a large number of delegations. The Commission had devoted considerable time and attention to the need for improved international coordination and cooperation on ocean-related issues.

In addition, she added, the draft resolution recalled the importance of the oceans and seas for the well-being of present and future generations and emphasized the interrelated nature of all aspects of oceans and seas and their need to be considered as a whole. It also acknowledged that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea set out the legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas should be carried out and the important role played by international organizations in ocean affairs.

The crux of the draft resolution are the provisions concerning an open-ended informal consultative process to facilitate the General Assembly’s annual review of developments in ocean affairs and a number of matters relating to that process, such as participation, duration and timing, she continued. The importance of participation from developing countries, including least developed countries and small island developing States, was highlighted. She hoped the consultative process would considerably enhance the Assembly’s ability to effectively review developments in ocean affairs and the law of the sea. It should ultimately lead to better coordination of the multifaceted activities being carried out by the international community.

AMRAIYA NAIDU (Fiji) speaking on behalf of the South Pacific groups of countries, said the Pacific Ocean was the traditional provider and its bounty continued to be the principal resource for the economic survival of his group. His group was concerned that, despite all the efforts of recent decades towards effective development and management of the oceans by the international community, the state of the seas in many parts of the world remained precarious.

He considered the annual review by the General Assembly of developments in ocean affairs and law of the sea important and the South Pacific group had always taken an active and constructive part in it. The Assembly was the only body which could bring together the complex and interrelated aspects of ocean governance and should therefore encourage the input and involvement of the wider ocean community. It was also crucial that the Assembly respond to the challenges posed by its responsibilities in this area. Without proper coordination and an integrated approach, there was a risk of ineffective and inappropriate policy-making and action based on sectoral considerations.

He believed that the draft resolution provided a sound basis for the establishment of the oceans consultative process, which would further enhance the General Assembly's annual review and the South Pacific group looked forward to actively participating in its meetings. He hoped the co-chairs of the oceans consultative process would be appointed as soon as possible and suggested that one of them should have experience in sustainable development, while the other should be an international lawyer with a background in the Law of the Sea.