Commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the United Convention on the Law of the Sea
8 December 2022
Statement of Italy delivered by Amb. Gianluca Greco, Deputy Permanent Representative of Italy
We deeply appreciate the initiative to convene this commemoration and are grateful to the speakers for providing a clear picture of the current relevance of the UNCLOS legal regime, 40 years after the adoption of the Convention.
Italy aligns itself with the statement delivered by the distinguished representative of the European Union on behalf of the European Union and its Member States and by the distinguished representative of Iceland on behalf of WEOG States parties to UNCLOS and the distinguish representative of Viet Nam on behalf of the group of Countries and would like to add the following remarks in its national capacity.
Ever since its adoption, UNCLOS has established itself as the legal framework for the Law of the Sea within which all activities in the oceans and in the seas must be carried out. This is clearly reflected in the high number of ratifications (167) by States Parties from all parts of the world, either developed or developing States, maritime nations or land-locked countries.
Over time, UNCLOS has given birth to other instruments and bodies, such as the International Seabed Authority, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the agreement for Conservation and Management of Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, which have contributed to creating what we may today call the “UNCLOS system”. A system that has proved to be extremely effective, not only for the codification of international law in this field, but also for its development, thanks to the innovation and flexibility it provides and also to the case law provided by its own judicial body, ITLOS.
At the same time, since UNCLOS was adopted in Montego Bay 40 years ago, new challenges have emerged: existential environmental threats, mostly related to climate change and loss of biodiversity; the increased use of the seas for illegal activities that endanger not only the safety of navigation, but also fundamental human rights; the proliferation of unilateral maritime claims not grounded in the provisions of UNCLOS; and the unsustainable use of the resources of the oceans.
In this latter respect, precisely because of the urgency to provide an effective international legal regime for the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, Italy strongly supports the conclusion of an ambitious, effective and universal BBNJ agreement at the fifth resumed session of negotiations. At the same time, Italy supports the ongoing negotiations within the International Seabed Authority and remains convinced that deep-sea mining should not be authorized until after the adoption of a strong and adequate regulatory framework, based on sound scientific knowledge, the precautionary principle and the ecosystem approach, preventing harmful effects on the marine environment.
Let me also recall that, as the number of States Parties and the potential for disputes increase, Part XV of UNCLOS related to the peaceful settlement of disputes has become increasingly important. The work of the arbitral and judicial fora, in particular of ITLOS, cannot be underscored enough, as they ensure peaceful relations among States Parties and promote respect and compliance with the substantive obligations of UNCLOS. Only through peaceful and legal enforcement of States’ claims and rights can we ensure the peaceful and sustainable management of our seas and oceans in the long-term, with mutual benefits for all.
Italy has always been a staunch supporter of the principle of freedom in the high seas, including freedom of navigation, and is particularly committed to the achievement of SDG 14.
At the same time, we stand at the forefront when it comes to the primacy of the rule of law in international relations, especially in extraordinary times, such as those we are living in.
We will continue to uphold the principles of international law, including those enshrined in the UNCLOS system, and to contribute actively to the implementation and further development of the Law of the Sea.