Statement by H.E. Ambassador Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations in New York under agenda item 76: ‘Oceans and Law of the Sea’, 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 08 December 2020

Mr. President,

I congratulate the President and other members of the Bureau of States Parties, as well as the Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea, for the excellent manner they have carried forward their work despite the Covid-19 challenges.

The pandemic has had impact on the implementation of UNCLOS and related discourses; as we have seen, the 2nd Ocean Conference and the 4th/final round of BBNJ negotiations have been delayed. Besides, it has also seriously impacted other areas, including the ocean economy.  International shipping which accounts for 80 percent of the world’s trade, decreased substantially. Seafarers have been heavily affected; and as have been the world’s 9.4 million fishermen – with 90 percent of them in the developing countries –who are unable to work.

Mr. President

We take note of the Secretary-General’s report A/75/70 reflecting on the adverse impact of sea level rise and its mitigation measures; and his report A/75/157 on the impact of bottom fishing on the deep sea vulnerable marine ecosystem and its fish stock.

The rise in sea-level threatens the very survival of many low-lying coastal states and small island developing countries. It would exacerbate existing vulnerabilities relating to water and food security, health and livelihoods, impeding timely and effective achievement of the 2030 Agenda.

The dominant causes behind sea-level rise are primarily human induced activities, and its solution too lies with us. As cited in the Second World Assessment, release of pollutants from manufacturing industries, agriculture, tourism and shipping, continue to put pressure on the ocean.  The SG’s report also highlighted the adverse impacts of bottom fishing on vulnerable ecosystem and long-term sustainability of the deep-sea fish stock.

We appreciate the various measures and actions taken by the states and regional organizations to mitigate those impacts. We also stress on the importance to make environment-friendly deep-sea fishing technology accessible to the developing countries.

Mr. President,

Bangladesh is a low-lying coastal country with 19 coastal districts, that are home to around 42 million people; and they are very vulnerable to climate extremes and sea level rise as well as cyclones, tidal surge and permanent inundation. To address these vulnerabilities, we adopted the Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan in 2009. We are also at the final stage of enacting our Maritime Zones Act, to ensure efficient utilization, conservation and scientific management of our marine resources.

Bangladesh has recently lodged an amended submission to the Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) for determination of our outer continental shelf in the Bay of Bengal. The amendment has been made to give effect to the judgment of the ITLOS and the award of the Annex VII Arbitral Tribunal in the maritime delimitation proceedings with our neighboring countries. The determination of outer continental shelf will enable Bangladesh to explore the natural resources, which is critical for achieving our development agenda. We hope the Commission will soon be able to resume its work.

Mr. President,

The ocean is our global ‘commons’.  Our common future will thus be significantly determined by the way we conserve, develop and tap into oceanic resources and services.  I wish to make a few points in this regard:

First, to address the climate induced sea-level rise, we call for the timely and effective implementation of the various provisions of the UNCLOS, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement, in a coordinated manner to tackle this global challenge.

Second, to ensure a balance between the equitable and efficient utilization of ocean resources, the conservation of marine resources, and the protection and preservation of the marine environment, it is imperative to ensure early conclusion of the [BBNJ] international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ). We hope that the 4th Session of the BBNJ scheduled to take place in August 2021, will come up with a productive outcome in this regard.

Third, we need to redouble international cooperation to address the continued threats to maritime security including those caused by large movements of refugees and migrants by sea, mostly in perilous situations. In this regard, we call States to comply with their obligations for search and rescue at sea, and to work towards addressing root causes of such irregular movements.

Fourth, capacity building and technical assistance remain crucial for the implementation of legal and policy framework for the oceans and seas, particularly for the developing states.  We appreciate the report of the Secretary-General on the work of the nine DOALOS administered voluntary trust funds, that assist developing states in implementing the provision of UNCLOS and supports them in other processes.

Fifth, to recover from the impacts of Covid-19 on ocean economy and build back better, we must encourage and foster integrated cooperation and coordination at international, regional and local levels, especially in support of the developing and small island states, and coastal communities.

Finally, we would like to congratulate the coordinators of the resolutions on the law of the sea and sustainable fisheries under this agenda item. Bangladesh supports both the resolutions and will cosponsor them.

To conclude, Mr. President, we would like to reiterate our commitment to UNCLOS which remains the principal instrument for all activities in the oceans and seas. We call upon all remaining States to join the Convention to achieve universality.

I thank you.