Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

220616 - 32nd Meeting of the States Parties to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the law of the Sea


16 June 2022

Statement delivered by Ms Alexandra Hutchison, First Secretary and Legal Adviser, Permanent Mission of Australia to the United Nations 

As this is the first time my delegation has taken the floor at this Meeting, let me first congratulate you and the other members of the Bureau on your respective appointments.

We especially welcome the gender balance achieved on the Bureau this year and hope to see this maintained in the future. We also thank the Secretary-General for his latest report on oceans and the law of the sea.

For 40 years, the United Nations [UN] Convention on the Law of the Sea [the Convention] has served as a remarkable achievement of multilateralism. It demonstrates the collective opportunity that can be realised when we focus on our common goals.

Now more than ever, Australia especially recognises the longstanding contribution of the Convention to international peace and security, as the very basis of the rules-based international order for the maritime domain.

The Convention provides the comprehensive legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out.

It contains clear rules for determining maritime boundaries, sovereignty and sovereign rights.

The rules and principles of general international law do not displace the provisions of the Convention, and cannot be relied upon in such a way. Nor can they be applied in a manner inconsistent with the Convention.

Australia is committed to the full and effective implementation of the Convention.

All States Parties to the Convention are obliged to fully comply with its provisions, perform their obligations under the Convention in good faith and adhere to binding and final decisions of international courts and tribunals.

Together we rely on this broader commitment and adherence to international law, by all States Parties, as the basis for international stability, equity and prosperity.

And so today, as this is the first time we are taking the floor at this Meeting, we are compelled to reiterate that Australia condemns Russia’s unilateral, illegal, and immoral aggression against the people of Ukraine.

The invasion is a gross violation of international law, including the UN Charter. Australia remains a steadfast supporter of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Forty years after the adoption of the Convention, the situation facing our oceans and marine areas is dire.

The world must grapple with an increasing number of challenges for the oceans caused by the adverse impacts of climate change.

As a member of the Pacific Family, Australia recognises that climate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific.

It is an urgent global challenge and Australia is committed to taking an ambitious and constructive role in international efforts to combat this crisis.

As the Secretary-General’s report makes clear, there is an imperative to act.

The past six years have been the warmest on record. Ocean heat and global mean sea levels are at their highest recorded values.

To this end, Australia commends the particular attention that States Parties continue to give to the issue of sea-level rise.

We are strongly of the view that law of the sea questions related to sealevel rise should be resolved within the framework of the Convention.

In 2021, Australia was pleased to join the Pacific Islands Forum Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change-related SeaLevel Rise. We continue to encourage all States Parties to support the interpretation of the Convention set out in this Declaration.

Australia proactively supports the institutions and aims of the Convention.

We support efforts by the International Seabed Authority to progress work on the legal framework for deep-sea mining in the Area.

Australia underscores the importance of robust environmental protections and a resource taxation system that ensures a level playing field between land-based and future deep-sea mineral production.

Australia also stands ready to make all efforts to support the finalisation of a treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction [BBNJ].

We look forward to the fifth, and we hope final, round of BBNJ negotiations in August.

As an implementing agreement under the Convention, BBNJ does not fill a gap in the Convention. Rather, it demonstrates that the Convention remains the very heart of the international law of the sea regime.

As a member of the BBNJ High Ambition Coalition, Australia is committed to concluding an ambitious treaty that protects our oceans and conserves marine biodiversity.

The last 40 years have reaffirmed the primacy of the Convention.

Australia remains committed to working with all States Parties to resolve these common challenges and concerns within the framework of the Convention.