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close this bookThe Oceanic Circle - Governing the Seas as a Global Resource (UNU, 1998, 257 pages)
close this folder5. Ocean perspectives: institutional
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe village
View the documentCoastal communities
View the documentThe nation
Open this folder and view contentsThe region
View the documentPolicy integration: The ocean assembly
View the documentPolicy integration: Specialized agencies and programmes
View the documentA new trusteeship council
Open this folder and view contentsThe international sea-bed authority
View the documentConclusions
View the documentNotes

Policy integration: The ocean assembly

When, with the adoption and opening for signature of the Law of the Sea Convention, UNCLOS III came to its end in 1982, it was clear that there no longer existed a body in the UN system capable of considering the closely interrelated problems of ocean space as a whole. During the decade and a half that has passed since then, the need for such a body has become ever more glaring.

This problem arises from a lacuna in the Convention itself. In this respect, as in some others, the Convention is unfinished business, a process rather than a product. Unlike other treaties, which provide for regular meetings of states parties to review and, eventually, to revise such treaties, the Law of the Sea Convention severely limits the mandate of the meetings of states parties restricting it, after the establishment phase, to the periodic election of judges to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the approval of the expenses of that institution, and amendments to the Statute thereof. The mandate of the Assembly of the International Sea-bed Authority, the only other body comprising all states parties, is obviously limited to sea-bed issues.

· Theoretically, there would be three ways of dealing with the problem:

- One could, perhaps first informally and later by amendment, broaden the mandate of the meetings of states parties, enabling them to review the implementation of the convention and to formulate an integrated ocean policy.

- One could broaden the mandate of the Assembly of the International Sea-bed Authority, considering that, on the one hand, sea-bed mining is not going to require very much time for the foreseeable future, while, on the other, "the problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be considered as a whole."

- The General Assembly of the United Nations could be given the responsibility for examining, periodically, all the interrelated problems of ocean space and generating an integrated ocean policy.

The first two alternatives would have the advantage of utilizing existing and otherwise under-utilized bodies for a function for which they would be well prepared. Both would have the disadvantage of a membership that is less than universal. It should also be noted that "closely interrelated problems of ocean space" arise also within other post-UNCED Convention regimes with a different membership. The first two alternatives would not be suitable for dealing with ocean-related interactions between various convention regimes, e.g., the overlaps between the Biodiversity and Climate Conventions and the Law of the Sea.

As emphasized in the Report of the Secretary General of the United Nations,24 it is only the General Assembly, with its universal membership, that has the capability of dealing with all the closely interrelated problems of ocean space, including those arising from the interactions of various convention regimes. The disadvantage of the General Assembly, however, is that it cannot possibly devote sufficient time to these problems, which would require several weeks at least every second year.

To solve this problem, the General Assembly should establish a Committee of the Whole to devote the time needed for the making of an integrated ocean policy. Representatives of the upgraded Regional Seas Programmes, the specialized agencies of the UN system with ocean-related mandates, as well as the non-governmental sector should participate in the sessions of this Committee of the Whole - a sort of "Ocean Assembly of the United Nations," meeting every second year. The integrated policy should be prepared by DOALOS in cooperation with the CSD.