Dr Balakrishnan said that the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean “must be conducted under the aegis of international law”, in particular the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
He added that Singapore believes that UNCLOS is the “legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out”.
“Thanks to its drafters’ far-sightedness, the framework provided by UNCLOS is dynamic and highly adaptable in order to respond to emerging issues.”
Dr Balakrishnan also called for UN member nations’ efforts to be based on data and science.
“This will help us take more effective set of measures to conserve the ocean and to build consensus for global action.
“For example, the international community is only starting now to appreciate the ocean-climate nexus, in particular, how climate change affects the ocean’s health and how the ocean regulates the climate.”
Dr Balakrishnan also said that multilateral cooperation must be the foundation of the UN’s efforts.
“Member States must seize the opportunity that this Conference presents to reaffirm our commitment to placing a rules-based multilateral and coordinated approach at the heart of our management of the oceans.”
He noted the ongoing negotiations on the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) treaty.
“The BBNJ treaty will be grounded in UNCLOS and will strengthen multilateral cooperation, conservation and sustainability in the use of our global commons,” said Dr Balakrishnan, adding that Singapore is honoured to serve as the President of the BBNJ Intergovernmental Conference.
He called on all delegations to work towards the conclusion of an “ambitious and future-proof” BBNJ treaty as soon as possible.
“Singapore is a tiny island, maritime city-state. Our history, our people, our economy are inseparable from the ocean. Our survival, our prosperity depend on the oceans,” he said.
“In fact, the same applies to all people, even those from landlocked states. The ocean provides food, jobs and livelihood. It enables global trade, and it plays a vital role in the climate systems and the water cycle, and is an important reservoir of biodiversity.”