At a United Nations Meeting held in Jamaica to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the International Seabed Authority, Archbisho Bernardito Auza, the Vatican’s Permanent Representative to the UN appealied for a more responsible use of seabeds.
The Holy See expressed its appreciation that for the past twenty-five years the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has provided a substantial legal framework to regulate our oceans.
However, although the Convention has been in place for twenty-five years and in spite of the various implementing agreements, scientific evidence indicates that the state of our oceans has continued to decline.
“My Delegation hopes that the current negotiations for a new implementing agreement concerning conservation and sustainable use in areas beyond national jurisdiction and for regulations on exploitation of mineral resources in the area, along with the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, will turn the tide to restore our oceans to health and sustainability”.
The Vatican offered three points for further reflection on the way forward.
A gift entrusted to us
“The first point is our relationship with our oceans. The planet, and within it the oceans, is a gift entrusted to us for our enjoyment and stewardship. This is enshrined in the principle of the common heritage of mankind. Because it is a trust, we relate to our oceans from the perspective of care and responsibility, and not from that of exploitation and mere use. An approach focused on ensuring economic rights and benefits without fully imposing the related obligations will ensure neither sustainability nor conservation of our oceans and marine resources nor, consequently, sustained economic benefit.
“The second point is the importance of achieving a balanced approach to both economic benefits we derive from our ocean resources and the conservation and sustainability of our oceans. While economic benefits help to create the well-being of States and their people, providing food, housing, and livelihoods, obligations to safeguard the health of the oceans should not be simply relegated to secondary importance. Data from scientific research on the state of our oceans must inform every approach to the exploitation of marine resources. Greater harmony between scientific data and business activities in the ocean is imperative to achieve a balanced approach.
“In this regard, my Delegation appreciates the work of the ISA, in partnership with related organizations and scientific bodies, in improving the assessment of biodiversity and the mapping of the ocean seafloor. Data from the collaborative efforts of both the scientific and business sectors are necessary for good decision-making and good regulations.
“The third and final point my Delegation would like to raise for further reflection concerns possible conflicts of interest. As the Blue Economy continues to emerge, conflicts between States, overlapping legal instruments, business enterprises, and other users will also more likely to emerge. Conflicts of interest could result in the pursuit of the triple objectives of sustainable use and development of resources, enforcing compliance of safety and environmental regulations, and maximizing revenues.
“The challenge to decision-makers and regulators is to achieve harmony between sustainability of the oceans and marine resources, economic profitability and compliance to regulations, and, where conflicts of interest arise, to ensure that they are resolved fairly and equitably”, concluded Archbishop Auza.