Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf Concludes Fiftieth Session

SEA/2109
20 August 2019

Commission on Limits of Continental Shelf Concludes Fiftieth Session

NEW YORK, 20 August (Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea) ― The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf held its fiftieth session at United Nations Headquarters from 1 July to 16 August 2019.  The first plenary part of the session was held from 29 July to 2 August and the second one from 13 to 16 August.  The remaining five weeks were devoted to the technical examination of submissions at the geographic information systems laboratories and other technical facilities of the Division.

Nine Subcommissions met during the fiftieth session to consider Submissions made by the Russian Federation in respect of the Arctic Ocean (partial revised Submission); Brazil in respect of the Brazilian Equatorial Margin (partial revised Submission); France and South Africa jointly in respect of the area of the Crozet Archipelago and the Prince Edward Islands; Kenya; Nigeria; France in respect of La Réunion Island and Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Islands; Sri Lanka; Portugal; and Palau.

At the plenary level, the Commission resumed its consideration of the draft recommendations in regard to the Submission made by Tonga in respect of the eastern part of the Kermadec Ridge.  Following extensive deliberations, the Commission approved these draft recommendations.  The Commission also commenced its consideration of the draft recommendations in regard to the Submissions made by France in respect of La Réunion Island and Saint-Paul and Amsterdam Islands and Côte d’Ivoire, which had been transmitted to the Commission by the respective Subcommissions.  In this context, as provided for in Annex III to the rules of procedure of the Commission, the consideration of these draft recommendations commenced with presentations made by the respective Subcommissions and submitting States.  Owing to the limited time available, the Commission was not in a position to complete the consideration of these draft recommendations and decided to resume it at the fifty-second session in January-March 2020.

During the plenary part of the session, France also presented its Submission in respect of French Polynesia made on 6 April 2018, and Mauritius its Submission concerning the Southern Chagos Archipelago region made on 26 March 2019.

Given the progress in examining the submissions before it, the Commission decided to establish new Subcommissions for the consideration of the two submissions next in line, namely the partial submission made by Spain in respect of the area of Galicia and the submission made by India.  Concerning the latter, the Commission instructed the Subcommission to examine only the information submitted in respect of the western offshore region of India in the Arabian Sea, given that the other parts of the submission concern areas under dispute.

The Chairperson informed the Commission about deliberations on matters concerning the Commission, which took place at the twenty-ninth Meeting of States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in June 2019.  The members of the Commission reiterated that not only short-term but also reasonable long-term and sustainable solutions are required.  Following a report by the Secretariat concerning the status of the Voluntary Trust Fund for the purpose of defraying the cost of the participation of the members of the Commission from developing States in its meetings, concerns were expressed regarding its funds, which would be depleted by the end of 2019, if no additional contributions are received.  This would affect the participation of some members from developing countries in the work of the Commission at its fifty-second session.  In this connection, the hope was expressed that not only additional contributions would be made but that States Parties would identify more sustainable funding and a permanent solution in this regard.

Among other issues on the agenda of the Commission was the election of its officers.  Given that, pursuant to rule 13 (Term of office) of the rules of procedure, the two-and-half-year term of office of the officers (Chair and Vice-Chairs) of the Commission will expire in December 2019 and that no plenary meetings with full conference services are scheduled for the fifty-first session, the plenary of the Commission conducted the election of officers for a term of office that will commence from 17 December 2019 and expire on 15 June 2022.  The Commission elected by acclamation Adnan Al-Azri as its Chairperson, as well as Martin Heinesen, Marcin Mazurowski, Simon Njuguna and Gonzalo Yáñez as its Vice-Chairpersons.

For planning purposes, the Commission agreed on the tentative schedule of its sessions in 2020.  Subject to the approval of the General Assembly, the fifty-second session would be held from 27 January to 13 March, with two plenary sessions from 3 to 7 February and from 2 to 6 March; the fifty-third session would be held from 6 July to 21 August, with two plenary sessions from 27 to 30 July and from 10 to 14 August; and the fifty-fourth session would be held from 7 October to 24 November, without plenary sessions.

Further details of the fiftieth session will be available in the Statement of the Chair (document CLCS/50/2).

The Commission will hold its fifty-first session from 14 October to 29 November 2019, without plenary sessions.

Background

Established pursuant to article 2, Annex II to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Commission is a body of twenty-one experts in the field of geology, geophysics or hydrography.  They serve in their personal capacities.  Members of the Commission are elected for a term of five years by the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention from among their nationals having due regard to the need to ensure equitable geographical representation.  Not less than three members shall be elected from each geographical region.  Currently, one seat on the Commission continues to be vacant due to the lack of nominations from the Eastern European Group of States.

The Convention provides that the State Party which submitted the nomination of a member of the Commission shall defray the expenses of that member while in performance of Commission duties.  However, the participation of several members of the Commission from developing countries has been facilitated by financial assistance from a voluntary trust fund for the purpose of defraying the cost of participation of the members of the Commission from developing countries.

Under rule 23 of its rules of procedure (Public and private meetings), the meetings of the Commission, its subcommissions and subsidiary bodies are held in private, unless the Commission decides otherwise.

The Commission makes recommendations to coastal States on matters related to the establishment of the outer limits of their continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, based on information submitted to it by coastal States.  These recommendations are based on the scientific and technical data and other material provided by States in relation to the implementation of article 76 of the Convention.  The recommendations do not prejudice matters relating to the delimitation of boundaries between States with opposite or adjacent coasts, or prejudice the position of States that are parties to a land or maritime dispute, or application of other parts of the Convention or any other treaties.  The limits of the continental shelf established by a coastal State on the basis of these recommendations shall be final and binding.  In the case of disagreement by the coastal State with the recommendations of the Commission, the coastal State shall, within a reasonable time, make a revised or new submission to the Commission.

As required under the rules of procedure of the Commission, the executive summaries of all the submissions, including all charts and coordinates, have been made public by the Secretary‑General through continental shelf notifications circulated to Member States of the United Nations, as well as States Parties to the Convention.  The executive summaries are available on the Division’s website at:  http://www.un.org/depts/los/clcs_new/clcs_home.htm.  The summaries of recommendations adopted by the Commission are also available on the above-referenced website.

For additional information on the work of the Commission see the website of the Division at http://www.un.org/depts/los/index.htm. In particular, the most recent Statements by the Chair on the progress in the work of the Commission are available at http://www.un.org/depts/los/clcs_new/commission_documents.

For information media. Not an official record.