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close this bookOcean Governance: Sustainable Development of the Seas (UNU, 1994, 369 pages)
close this folderOpening addresses
View the documentH.E. Dr Mário Soares, president of the republic of Portugal
View the documentMr Maurice strong, UNEP (Dr Alicia Barcena, UNCED, on behalf of Mr Strong)
View the documentDr Joseph Warioba, Tanzania

H.E. Dr Mário Soares, president of the republic of Portugal

H.E. Dr Mário Soares, President of the Republic of Portugal, Dr Alicia Barcena, UNCED, and Dr Joseph Warioba, Tanzania

Mr President of the "Pacem in Maribus" Conference,
Hon Minister of the Sea,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

When I first met Professor Elisabeth Mann Borgese, Chairperson of the International Ocean Institute, I was impressed by her intelligence and profound knowledge. Indeed, the daughter of Thomas Mann, whom I have always admired since the time of my youth, manages to build an exceptional scientific background on a broad humanistic culture which makes her personality unique and fascinating. I then invited her to deliver a lecture in Portugal, as part of a series of conferences called "Experiences of the World" which I had the pleasure to organize together with the University of Oporto. She came and "bewitched" us. Following conversations with my old friend Mário Ruivo, to whom I am so much indebted for having given me the honour to meet Elisabeth Mann, the idea of organizing in Portugal this important XIX Pacem in Maribus Conference that was to be devoted to ocean management issues came up. I did my best to encourage that idea, for the obvious reason that Portugal and the sea have been linked together in an intimate centuries-old relationship which has laid an everlasting mark on the most outstanding events in our history and provided the mould where human adventure was to be cast.

I am extremely grateful for the honour that has been given to Portugal to welcome you here, at the "Torre do Tombo" National Archives, the home that preserves the memory of our nation? under the guidance of my old friend and illustrious historian Jorge de Macedo. I know that making this conference come into being has not been an easy task. May I therefore congratulate the International Ocean Institute, presided over by Ambassador Layashi Yaker, on the excellent preparation of this event in spite of such severe time constraints. All these efforts have made it possible, inter alia, to gather highly valuable documentation prepared by a number of world famous specialists here today and to whom I would like to extend a hearty welcome.

Stating that people are nowadays becoming more and more aware of the increasing importance of the ocean is almost a cliche. The future of the world or rather the future of mankind - heavily depends on the health of the oceans and on their natural ecological balance. Suffice it to mention that today oceans are recognized to have a decisive impact on the global changes now under way, particularly those concerning climatic and sealevel variations with serious ecological implications. These are extremely important issues that need increasing awareness and appropriate steps to be taken, if we wish mankind to avoid serious hazards, of which we need understanding so as to prevent or reduce them.

On the other hand, oceans are also increasingly important in terms of international cooperation and economic and social development of all countries, including the land-locked ones. One example of this is the participation of the Heads of Agencies and other institutions of the United Nations System in the Honorary Committee and the place that the oceans occupy on the national agendas of various states and in the concerns of the world community at large.

Broadly speaking, there is today increasing awareness of the risk that great ecological catastrophes may recur, as well as of the hazards arising from certain development models that are built into the modern industrialized societies. These do not provide sufficient protection for maintaining the equilibrium of the natural environment. Hence the urgent need to lay down an appropriate ethical and legal framework with a view to ensuring environmental protection worldwide.

Without frustrating the hopes of developing societies that are legitimately aspiring to achieve their own welfare by turning their resources to better account, it is imperative that in our time we safeguard the quality of life of peoples while protecting the rights of future generations, which naturally require new forms of solidarity and a legal framework which must be universally respected.

The concept of sustainable development respectful of ecological balance, which was advocated in the Brundtland Report and which is one of the objectives of the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) to be held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, seeks to respond to this problématique which is characteristic of contemporary societies.

"Pacem in Maribus" is therefore a highly commendable initiative trying to put forward ideas and suggestions meant to help identify new approaches to ocean management so as to strike the right balance between the requirements of development and of maintaining environmental quality, with the full participation and commitment of all parties involved.

The international community has come now to a turning point - an exciting and complex stage that is not devoid of great difficulties, contradictions, and risks. The need is being felt all over the world for a new order to be set up, now that we are entering the post-Yalta era with the world no longer being split into political and military blocs facing each other as irreconcilable enemies. A long-lasting peace, something more than the state of no-war, seems to be within men's reach. Some encouraging signs are a reinforcement of democracy and progress in the respect of human rights. However, we should not ignore all kinds of violations and atrocities such as the ones that, in 1991, horrified the international community, i.e. in East Timor, a martyrized people dominated by Indonesia in conditions of intolerable oppression.

Within this international setting, where some of the most serious regional conflicts are about to find a solution while, to our deep regret, other conflicts are emerging, it is imperative that the main issues challenging mankind at the turn of this millenary be widely disseminated and discussed with all the scientific and technical accuracy they require. It is vitally important to provide access to updated information and organize a far-ranging public debate tackling all these issues both nationwide - and worldwide.

It is precisely the normal course of the natural processes governing the habitability to live on this planet that is at stake. As shown in the very topic of this "Pacem in Maribus" Conference, there is an urgent need to analyse and redesign the ocean management schemes and mechanisms by taking an approach that should be both humanistic as to the values from which we should derive inspiration and pragmatic as to the rules governing our action. But this can never be achieved without reaching the required consensus.

May I take this opportunity to mention the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, signed in 1982 but not yet ratified by a number of countries, including Portugal. I think it is timely to bring this issue back into the spotlight, in the context of UNCED, as a contribution to its success and to enhance the credibility of the measures to be taken there, specially relating to the Convention on Climate Change.

According to the philosophy underlying the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention (the Portuguese version of which has been worked out by consensus among the seven Portuguese-speaking countries), oceans are recognized to be an area that calls for an integrated management approach: an approach requiring some very sensitive but necessary institutional adjustments to be brought at all levels so as to avoid tackling these matters from a traditional and strictly national and sectorial viewpoint.

As I have mentioned before, Portugal holds all sea-related matters near to its heart. Indeed, throughout its history, Portugal has always been committed to the sea, which explains why we are so deeply concerned with such issues. I think the very fact that a Ministry of the Sea has been re-established recently speaks for itself as clear evidence of this commitment.

This "Pacem in Maribus" Conference will, I am sure, usher in a new approach to ocean-related issues. The agenda under consideration, the high scientific expertise of participants, its wealth of reference documentation, and the intellectual creativity of its organizers guarantee success.

May I voice my deepest satisfaction with Portugal having been chosen as the venue of this Conference. We furthermore hope to host the International Exhibition, scheduled for 1998, an event that will significantly be devoted to the ocean's heritage of humankind.

I take the view that there is a need to narrow the gap - unfortunately an increasing one - between the highly industrialized countries on the one hand, and the developing countries, on the other hand, as to research, utilization, and management of oceans. The technological gap is a decisive factor in this respect. I have exchanged ideas with the Director-General of UNESCO, Professor Federico Mayor, who shares the same concerns. Hence our intention to convene jointly next year in Lisbon (and counting, of course, on the Portuguese Government's support) a Conference aimed at bringing together world famous scientists, experts in ocean sciences, and world leaders concerned with these issues. In our view, this could make an appropriate contribution to the study, clarification, and diffusion of this issue, which, as much as it worries us, at the same time fascinates us.

We are looking to see how this idea is taken in hand and in what ways it can be realized.

Before I conclude, may I reiterate my thanks for your kind invitation to address the opening ceremony of this "Pacem in Maribus" Conference, and wish you all a pleasant stay in Portugal and every success in your work.