Samoa is among various states in the United Nations that have called for an international framework to protect those countries being threatened by sea-level rise.
Chair of AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) and Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations, Fatumanava-o-Upolu III Dr. Pa’olelei Luteru spoke of the threats faced by nations threatened by sea-level rise as the Sixth Committee (Legal) wrapped up its review of the first cluster of topics from the International Law Commission’s annual report.
According to press briefing notes provided by the United Nations, Fatumanava emphasised the urgency of addressing the issue.
“The special needs and interests of our Small Island Developing States, given our acute vulnerabilities to sea-level rise, caused largely by the conduct of other States, must not be forgotten as the Committee continues to determine how that Convention should be interpreted,” he said.
The Samoan diplomat said the members of the AOSIS were being affected by the adverse effects of sea-level rise, especially in light of how climate change was not on the horizon when the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea came into force.
He added that they depend on international law to secure their rights in a constantly changing world and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea did not make it mandatory for States to keep baselines and outer limits of maritime zones under review, nor does it oblige them to update charts or lists of geographical coordinates once they are deposited with the Secretary-General.
Such maritime zones and the rights and entitlements that flow from them shall continue to apply, according to Fatumanava, notwithstanding any physical changes connected to climate change-related sea-level rise. He also said it is important to guarantee legal stability and reduce the risk of potential conflict arising out of sea-level rise by not changing borders and maritime zones.
The principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources is significant to preserve the maritime rights and entitlements of the Alliance’s members, he continued. More so, such preservation is a matter of equity, a principle also enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
“The special needs and interests of our small island developing States, given our acute vulnerabilities to sea-level rise, caused largely by the conduct of other States, must not be forgotten as the Committee continues to determine how that Convention should be interpreted,” said Fatumanava. “Change to our sovereignty will only happen if we as individual States freely decide it.”
Sea-level rise related to anthropogenic climate change does not threaten the sovereignty and Statehood of those States. Noting that the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States is not relevant to the question of continuity of Statehood once established, he said.
SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS