Statement by Ambassador H.E. Dr. Palitha Kohona,

Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the United Nations 

3rd Meeting of the Ad-Hoc Working Group of the Whole on the Regular Process for Global Reporting and Assessment of the State of the Marine Environment, including Socio-Economic Aspects 

23-27 April 2012 

Co-Chairs,

Distinguished delegates, 

At the outset, I would like to congratulate the Co-Chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole for having managed this process successfully so far. I welcome the new Co chair, Mr. Goncalo Motta from Portugal.  

Sri Lanka aligns itself with the statement made on behalf of the G-77 and China by the delegation of Algeria.  

Sri Lanka, an Island nation, located in the middle of the Indian Ocean has an overriding interest in the state of the oceans and the marine environment that surround us. The ocean has influenced developments in our country significantly for millennia and will continue to be a matter of critical import to us. Sri Lanka has a coastline of approximately 1,700 km, mostly sandy beaches, and the coastal zone is of vital socio-economic importance to the nation. We, therefore, have a keen interest in participating in a process of regular marine environment assessment that will provide accurate information to facilitate the development and implementation of appropriate policies. 

Rio+20 discussions are also progressing next door. 

The world’s oceans, which cover 70% of the globe, are intrinsically connected to other ecosystems, and have impacts on human societies and on the world’s economy, and in fact, on our future. Knowledge of global warming and sea level rise are becoming deeper with every passing year. The attendant consequences of corral bleach, impacts on marine biological diversity, melting of the polar ice caps, loss of coastal lands, etc, are presenting frightening challenges. Man's own rapaciousness and negligence which has caused the collapse of major segments of the global fish stocks and ocean pollution remain to be addressed. We have seen satellite pictures of the swirling mass of rubbish in the middle of the Pacific. 

 

It was in 1992, at the first Rio Summit, that Agenda 21 recognized that managing human pressures on the oceans requires a holistic approach that considers the ecosystem as a whole. In 2002, at the second Global Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, States agreed, to establish a regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment. Subsequently, the Regular Process became operational with an Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole, and a group of experts being established. This year, our leaders will meet again in Rio to discuss a whole gamut of issues on sustainable development, of which the world’s oceans and marine systems will be an important component. Unfortunately, many of the issues that we recognized in 1992, remain to be addressed in any serious manner. 

The pressing need to manage the impacts of human activities on the world’s oceans in a manner, that will ensure a healthy ocean environment for future generations, has grown more important in the years that have passed since the world’s leaders saw the requirement for a regular process. For this purpose, we must ensure that decision-makers at all levels (local, national, regional and global), have an overall picture of how these impacts affect the oceans. They must have the information necessary to be able to make informed decisions with up-to-date scientific data. Today we have access to more scientific information than at any time in history. Our information is gathered not only from laboratories on land and visual observations, but also from ocean going research vessels and from satellites. Thousands of dedicated scientists are working on projects relating to the oceans. 

The Regular Process is fundamental to national capacity building, and information sharing, particularly of developing countries such as ours. In Sri Lanka, the coastal zone contains 25% of the land area of the country and in excess of 25% of the population. Fisheries industry constitutes an important livelihood for the people living in the coastal belt, a major source of nutrition, and has spawned many industries. More recently, the sector has also emerged as a dynamic export oriented sector providing considerable foreign exchange earnings to the country. Increasingly, the fisheries industry is emerging as a major exchange earner. The tourism industry has boomed exploiting the endless sands of the coastal belt. The coastal zone contains a variety of coastal habitats, vital to ecological functioning and maintenance of bio-diversity. In addition, the coastal habitats such as mangroves, sea grass beds, coral reefs and estuaries are among the most productive eco-systems and play a major role in supporting fisheries industry. The expanding aqua culture industry of Sri Lanka is dependent on our coastal eco system. 

In this context, the degradation of the coastal and marine environment, which includes coastal pollution, erosion, over exploitation and the threats to the sustainability of coastal habitats, has emerged as a major challenge. A likely casualty of this could be the fishing industry which is vital to the national economy. The massive tsunami waves which devastated the coastline Sri Lanka in 2004 also badly affected the fishing industry, the tourism industry and damaged many coastal ecological systems. The Coast Conservation Department of Sri Lanka has sought to address the issue through an Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan. 

Sri Lanka is committed to promoting sustainable utilization of fisheries and aquatic resources and aims to become a regional maritime hub. We are aware that both developed and developing countries possess a vast store of knowledge and expertise from centuries of experiences. Therefore the Regular Process should promote, and ensure capacity-building and transfer of knowhow and technology, including marine technology, in accordance with international rules and principles, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and other applicable international instruments and initiatives. We fully support the efforts being taken by the Ad Hoc Working Group on Marine Biological Resources beyond National Jurisdiction to explore possible measures to equitably share the wealth of the biological resources in the maritime environment and to sustainably conserve such resources. 

The enhancement of each country's capacity and applying methodologies for environmental assessment and monitoring would assist in more complete and coherent inputs and strengthen the Process' possibility of building a network of scientific activity, which is one of its fundamental building blocks. Opportunities for capacity-building should be identified, in particular on the basis of existing capacity-building arrangements. Sri Lanka also hopes to provide feedback on our national perspective regarding the Regular Process and associated matters. 

The Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole has made important recommendations to the General Assembly to advance the Regular Process. On the basis of recommendations made by the Ad Hoc Working Group, several workshops have been held to facilitate dialogue between the Group of Experts of the Regular Process and representatives and experts from States and competent intergovernmental organizations. We are appreciative of the efforts of the Group of Experts in contributing to the Regular Process. We hope that the Pool of Experts will reach their full strength through the participation of all Member States, reflecting equitable geographical distribution. We are particularly concerned on the need for such high level activity in the vast Indian Ocean region. 

I wish to conclude by reiterating the importance we attach to the Regular Process and assuring of Sri Lanka’s full cooperation in the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole.


 

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