Statement on behalf of Germany at the UN General Assembly 77th Plenary Meeting UNGA debate on Oceans and the law of the sea, 9 December 2022

09.12.2022 - Speech

This Statement was delivered by Mr. Michael Hasenau

Let me first join other delegations in thanking the coordinators of the informal consultations on both resolutions, Ms Natalie Morris Sharma of Singapore and Mr Andreas Kravik of Norway, for their outstanding coordination. We also thank the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea, for its expertise, hard work and constant support to delegations throughout the consultations.

Germany fully aligns herself with the statement presented on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

Germany welcomes that this year’s Omnibus Resolution on “Oceans and the Law of the Sea” reaffirms the universal and unified character of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as THE legal framework, within which ALL activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out, and underscores the need to maintain the integrity of the Convention.

As host State to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Germany also welcomes that the Omnibus Resolution again highlights the continued and significant contribution of the Tribunal to the settlement of disputes by peaceful means in accordance with Part XV of the Convention. The resolution also underlines the Tribunal’s important contributions to capacity building in the field of the Law of the Sea, inter alia, the Summer Academy of the International Foundation for the Law of the Sea at the Tribunal, which is supported by the German Government. Germany is proud to be the host State to the Tribunal.

We therefore call on all States to make their maritime claims and conduct their maritime activities in accordance with the relevant provisions of UNCLOS and to resolve their maritime disputes peacefully, and free from coercion, in accordance with the relevant principles and rules of the Convention and its dispute settlement mechanisms, including those entailing binding decisions by international courts and tribunals, which must be respected.

In this context, we are particularly concerned by the assertion of unlawful and expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea, in disrespect of the 2016 Arbitral Award. We emphasize the lawful rights of other States in the region to access their natural resources in their Exclusive Economic Zones without being subject to intimidation and coercion. There is no other legal basis than UNCLOS for claiming any maritime zones, anywhere in the world, across all oceans and seas.

We also call on all States to respect the freedoms of navigation and overflight in the High Seas and the Exclusive Economic Zone and all other lawful uses of the oceans and seas, including the right of innocent passage through the territorial sea. These rights and freedoms are paramount for international trade and transport links, as well as for marine scientific research, naval missions and economic prosperity.

We are concerned by recent attempts to restrict the lawful exercise of these rights and freedoms in the South China Sea, the Black Sea and elsewhere, including by blurring the clear distinctions made in UNCLOS between the various maritime zones, e.g. through the use of unclear legal terminology in domestic legislation regarding the geographical scope of coastguard competences or maritime traffic security laws.

We reaffirm our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters, including those around Crimea.

Let me highlight three more points that are at the center of Germany’s attention as far as the Law of the Sea is concerned.

First, it is our concern for the health of the ocean that makes the conclusion of an ambitious BBNJ agreement a paramount goal for the German government. As part of the high ambition coalition, Germany, reiterating the statement presented on behalf of the EU and its Member States, regrets that this year’s omnibus resolution has missed the chance to reflect this year’s developments in a more positive way. Germany welcomes, however, that the negotiations will continue early in 2023, so that the momentum from IGC 5 and the valuable progress that was achieved will not be lost. Germany remains firmly committed to the BBNJ process.

Second, we follow closely the work of the Authority on draft regulations for exploitation of mineral resources in the Area. In particular, Germany is of the view that in order to ensure the effective protection of the marine environment, current knowledge and available science is insufficient to approve deep seabed mining until further notice. We are therefore calling for a precautionary pause to prevent any rash decisions at the expense of the marine environment. In our view, the International Community should not sleepwalk into an age of deep-sea mining.

Third, Germany will continue its efforts to contribute to the important work of the International Law Commission concerning the issue of Sea Level Rise. Germany fully recognizes that Sea Level Rise is an existential question for many Small Island Developing States, who rely economically on their maritime zones. Germany is of the firm opinion that UNCLOS can deliver the stability that these countries need when it comes to the Law of the Sea aspects of the issue. UNCLOS can and should be interpreted in a contemporary manner to preserve maritime zones once they have been legally established under UNCLOS, even if sea levels change. We have elaborated on this in our written contribution to the International Law Commission and invite other States to consider contributing as well.

Together we can prove that UNCLOS is indeed fit for purpose, as was often stressed in relation with the UNCLOS anniversary!

Top of page