Government of the Federated States of Micronesia







New York, 7 May 2001

Check Against Delivery

Mr. Co-chairman,

I have the honour to make this statement on behalf of the following members of the Pacific Islands Forum which maintain Permanent Missions to the United Nations in Now York: Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and my own country, the Federated States of Micronesia.

At the outset, allow me to express the pleasure of our countries in seeing both of you back at the helm of the Oceans' Process. We agree with the assessment of the Secretary General that the Oceans' Process is an invaluable tool for the effective and constructive review of developments in oceans and the law of the sea, and thus for the results-oriented stewardship of the world's oceans and seas. Our first meeting last year made a valuable contribution towards this end in particular on the focal areas of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and marine pollution and, in our view, the success of the meeting was due in large part to the skilful, erudite and efficient manner in which you guided us in our work. Our countries once again extend to you our full cooperation and support.

Our delegations were pleased to see that the General Assembly picked up on a large number of the elements put forward at last year's Oceans', Process, in its annual review of Oceans and the Law of the Sea. Even more importantly, we are pleased to see concrete progress in some of these areas in the intervening period.

Of the utmost importance is the recent adoption by the FAO of the long awaited International Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported Fishing. We are pleased to see this Plan of Action adopt an integrated approach which involves a full range of solutions to this very serious problem The plan of action, however, is non-binding and voluntary, so its worth will need to be proved in its implementation and we consider that this is something that the General Assembly and the Oceans' Process needs to monitor closely in future.

We also welcome the efforts of the United Nations. Environment Prograrn (UNEP) to prepare for the upcoming Intergovernmental Review, of the Global Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities (the GPA), although observe that there has been concern at the low level of participation from United Nations agencies dealing with the implementation of the GPA. We hope that the Intergovernmental Review will serve to enhance the GPA and that concrete steps will be taken to build the capacity, of small island developing States to deal with land-based sources of marine pollution. In the context of the urgent need to build capacity for the sustainable management of the world oceans, we are pleased to see that that Secretary-General has responded to the request by the Oceans' Process to include a section in his annual report bringing together the capacity building activities taking place in the wide range of UN organisations, agencies and programmes. What we now need to do is to consider any gaps and overlaps in the assistance that is being provided, and to make sure that capacity building is being approached by the UN system in an integrated and wholistic rather than piecemeal and ad hoc way.

The focal areas under consideration at this year' s meeting (i) marine science and the development of marine technology, including capacity-building, and (ii) coordination and cooperation in combating piracy and armed robbery at sea are important issues to which we hope the Oceans' Process will, once again, be able to make a material contribution. We welcome in particular the opportunity to consider in detail the topic of marine science - an area of particular significance and focus in our region - and to identify ways in which States can cooperatively benefit from research and technological developments in this area.

We believe that our discussions this week should focus on Part 13. of the Convention, which sets up the regime for marine scientific research, and to identify what is necessary to make this important part of the Convention operational in practical terms. We strongly support calls for an "action plan" for this purpose, containing concrete policies and results-oriented initiatives. Clearly the standard "piecemeal approach" to marine science must give way to a more holistic approach that takes into account the needs of the various sectors that require sound marine science for their operations.

The Secretary General's annual report on Oceans and the Law of the Sea and the Co-chairs' paper well identify the issues and problems before us. Now the real challenge ahead, if we are to ensure that this meeting achieves its objective of assisting the work of the General Assembly, is to identify and list possible key components for such an action plan. We support the suggestion, made by Norway in an earlier paper (A/AC.259/2) that focal points be established and linked up with relevant actors, such as GESAMP and GOOS, and note that regional organisations could have an important role to play in this respect. In addition, we are of the view that it would be valuable to develop programmes for the competent international organisations that have implementing responsibilities under Part .13. As a group demonstrating special needs in this area, the Pacific Islands Forum countries would work diligently to ensure that any action plan would profile capacity building initiatives in a cross-sectoral manner and in a way that guarantees the position of developing countries, particularly coastal States, as active participants and beneficiaries.

The Pacific Islands Forum Group is keen to flag "science for development" in our discussions in a manner that reflects our practical needs, and also to explore potential areas for positive cooperation. At the same time, we are equally aware of the value of science for science, to highly developed industrialised States. The substantive areas in which marine science is fundamental to our immediate and mid-term sustainability must be addressed, and consideration given to whether decision-makers and other end-users are receiving the scientific knowledge, information and technology necessary for the various activities taking place under the umbrella of "Marine science". In the context of the marina science research regime in the Convention, there is a need for countries undertaking marine science research not only to follow through on their obligations to share the data, but to do so in a manner that is meaningful for small island developing States and to provide assistance in relevant product development. For our countries, building capacity in marine science in a range of substantive areas, including marine fisheries, coastal and marine biodiversity, non-living marine resources and the continental shelf, and marine pollution is crucial. We hope that this meeting will discuss these issues of capacity building and technology transfer in a realistic way, focusing on what feasibly can be done now and what is practically needed. The international community needs to ensure the capacity of developing countries to participate in, and benefit from, marine science, rather than just passively look on.

A critical example of the need to "operationalise" marine science and technology transfer can be found in the context of the continental shelf issue, which is an issue of serious concern to a number of Pacific Islands Forum countries. The delimitation of the continental shelf necessitates the conduct of survey work that requires a significant commitment of resources and scientific and technical expertise. Unfortunately, however, most of the coastal States in our region lack the expertise necessary to acquire and collate this highly complex scientific data. Consequently, this lack of capacity compounds the difficulties confronting several States in our region whose deadlines for making submissions to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf are approaching fast. Obtaining the relevant scientific and technical expertise is, therefore, a priority for our countries. In this regard we look forward to exploring options for capacity building in this area during our discussions this week, as well as finding some flexibility in the current deadlines for the submission of extended continental shelf claims, as established by the Convention. We are also very pleased to see the establishment of the Trust Fund to assist developing states with aspects of the preparation of submissions to the Commission, and would like to pay special tribute to the Norwegian government for making such a substantial, contribution to this fund.

The Pacific Islands Forum countries wish to emphasise the importance of marine scientific research for fisheries conservation and management. The access by governments and industry decision makers to accurate and timely scientific information is essential to the sustainable management of marine resources in the South Pacific. Moreover, improved research, capacity building and technology transfer are needed to ensure ongoing and sustainable economic development in our region. Fisheries are of the utmost importance to the people of the Pacific. Sustainability and cooperatively managed, these resources are akey to the development aspirations of the small island developing States in the South Pacific for present and future generations. Sound marine scientific research plays a crucial role in such management, and our countries look forward to exploring mechanisms to improve marine scientific research for fisheries purposes in this forum.

That said, sound science is only one requirement for fisheries management. A cooperative approach by both coastal States and fishing States to sustainable conservation and management of these resources is also essential. It is therefore with a real sense of accomplishment that we are able to report that the Convention on the Conservation and Management of Highly Migratory fish Stocks in the Central and Western Pacific has been adopted since this process was last convened. Our countries are now focused on bringing this Convention into force as soon as possible, and are pleased that most other States involved in the negotiating process clearly share this goal. The countries of the Pacific Islands Forum call on all States and entities which have participated in the process of establishing this Convention to cooperate in good faith to make the Convention work, so that this valuable resource can be sustainably managed in the interests of all.

The fact that the small island States in the South Pacific are almost entirely coastal means that the health and well-being of our peoples, as well as our food security, depends on healthy and productive coastal and marine ecosystems, the coral reefs, mangrove forests, seagrass beds and their associated fisheries. Capacity building in marine science is therefore critical in order to:

  • assess and monitor the status and trends in coastal ecosystems and associated fisheries;

  • develop management strategies and techniques for sustainable coastal fisheries based on sound scientific and management principles;

  • gain access to the latest science concerned with global climate change and how these changes are impacting on Pacific marine and coastal ecosystems and, where feasible, provide training in how to research climate change impacts;

  • assess the impacts on coastal ecosystem biodiversity due to the impacts of global climate change and anthropogenic activities; and

  • link these activities into regional system and groupings that permit countries to share experiences and knowledge.

Ultimately, the maintenance of healthy coastal ecosystem will depend on implementing effective management of human activities in these ecosystems and in setting aside a significant proportion as marine protected areas as a key tool for integrating conservation and use. Assistance is therefore needed in building capacity in the marine science that governs the designation, planning and management of marine protected areas.

The fact that the breeding grounds for nine different species of whales are found in the South-Pacific means that our region is critically important to the survival of these species. The countries of the Pacific Islands Forum are deeply concerned at the serious depletion of great whale stocks in the South Pacific region and believe that a serious commitment needs to be made to halt and reverse this devastating trend. To this end, the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme is currently assisting whale conservation in the region through its Regional Marine Mammal Conservation Programme, which we hope will usefully assist the effective implementation of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. We urge other States to support this important work.

There is an urgent need for improved and coordinated scientific focus on identifying and managing risk to biodiversity and the environment of the deep oceans. The Pacific contains as many as thirty thousand seamounts which we are now discovering are extremely rich in biodiversity, with high levels of endism . Increased effort is required in order to learn more about these unique deep ocean habitats and to ensure that they are managed in a sustainable way.

For hundreds to thousands of years, Pacific island countries have developed traditional and customary management practices to ensure the sustainable use of their coastal resources. Unfortunately, however, many of these practices are being eroded and discarded, resulting in major losses in intellectual property. We therefore believe that marine science could also play an important role in assessing the scientific principles, behind these traditional and customary practices, with the view to incorporating the most valuable practices into national and regional laws.

Coral reefs are particularly important for Pacific countries. For many people outside, the Pacific is synonymous with white coral sands and beautiful reefs of tourist brochures. But these ecosystems are vital for the culture of Pacific islanders providing them with food, cultural objects, shoreline protection and in producing the sand and rock that form the base for many countries. The latest report on the status of coral reefs of the word in 2000 stated that Pacific reefs were generally healthy, but there are serious threats on the horizon. Anthropogenic pressures are building with rising populations and economies and rapidly growing international markets for live food fish and aquarium species are resulting in damaging raids from the outside on Pacific reef resources. But probably the most serious threat is global climate change which threatens the climate of the islands, breeding cycles of commercial species and sea level rise could obliterate whole cultures and countries. Therefore the Pacific Islands Forum request special assistance to ensure food security for the peoples by developing strategies to sustainably manage fisheries resources on coral reefs and the Forum calls on all countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases to prevent the losses of our islands and cultures.

On the topic of piracy, we note that while this is a problem that appears to be confined to one or two different regions, it is nonetheless a matter of grave concern. The resurgence of this ancient problem not only erodes the effectiveness of the legal order established by the Convention but, on a practical level, also affects the well-being, safety and security of navigation and those involved in it. We share the concern of others that the incidence of piracy is underrated and that, consequently, the problem is likely, to be more serious than it first appears.

Mr. Co-chair,

The Oceans' Process last year stressed the importance an integrated approach at all levels, bringing together all the relevant sectors and reminded Governments of their responsibility to establish such integrated approaches to avoid the fragmentation of decision making on oceans issues. I am pleased to be able to inform you that the Pacific Islands Forum countries are currently developing a regional integrated oceans policy which will, in part, look at improving coordination and cooperation amongst our regional organisations and will hopefully provide a more coherent framework for looking at the priority needs of the region. The Oceans Process is pursuing a similar agenda of integration and improved coordination and cooperation at the international level. We hope this improved coordination and cooperation within the UN system will result in an UN system that is better equipped to meet the sorts of needs we face at the regional level, as this is key to our future prosperity.

Thank you, Mr. Co-chair.