Ocean Crisis Requires More Than the UN Law of the SeaNew MoU signed by Malta and The Nippon Foundation
Additional support voiced for establishment of intergovernmental panel

The Republic of Malta and The Nippon Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in Tokyo on July 30, confirming that they would strengthen their ongoing cooperation in the area of sustainable marine development. In a special address, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat praised the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the de facto “Law of the Sea,” but also pointed out aspects in which it is insufficient for providing the cross-organizational, comprehensive responses needed to address the diverse problems related to the ocean. He also expressed his support for the intergovernmental panel for comprehensive ocean governance proposed by The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa at a plenary session of the United Nations Ocean Conference in June 2017.

Exchanging the signed copies of the MoU: (left to right) Yohei Sasakawa, The Nippon Foundation Executive Director Mitsuyuki Unno, Malta’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion Carmelo Abela, and Prime Minister Muscat

The Republic of Malta is an island country located in the Mediterranean Sea, with a population of roughly 440,000 people and a land surface that is approximately half that of Tokyo’s 23 special wards. Malta has been a global leader in addressing ocean-related issues; in 1967 Arvid Pardo, then Malta’s ambassador to the United Nations, put forth the idea that with regard to offshore development, the deep seabed beyond national jurisdiction is part of the “common heritage of mankind,” which set the course for the UN’s adoption of UNCLOS III in 1982. At the UN General Assembly plenary session in September 2017, Prime Minister Muscat expressed his support for the early establishment of an intergovernmental panel.

The Nippon Foundation has been working with Malta since 2003 in international human resource development in the areas of ocean affairs and maritime law at the IMO International Maritime Law Institute, which is located in Malta. The July 30 agreement is the first MoU between The Nippon Foundation and the Republic of Malta, and is intended to bring about closer cooperation in ocean preservation. The agreement was signed by The Nippon Foundation Executive Director Mitsuyuki Unno and Carmelo Abela, Malta’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Promotion, with Mr. Sasakawa and Prime Minister Muscat in attendance. At the signing, Mr. Sasakawa expressed his concern at the current state of affairs, noting, “International society has little awareness of the major crisis threatening humanity,” but also voiced his determination for closer cooperation going forward, commenting, “The Nippon Foundation and the government of Malta are of one mind on this.”

The signing was followed by a special address by Prime Minister Muscat. He outlined the serious state of the worlds oceans, including the depletion of fishery resources caused by overfishing, accelerating warming and acidification of the ocean, and marine pollution from the inflow of more than eight million tons of plastic into the ocean annually. He went on to point out that although the Law of the Sea Convention calls for comprehensive approaches to addressing ocean problems, the reality is that organizations are fragmenting and standards are becoming increasingly complex, making it difficult to implement measures that are effective and long lasting. Given this situation, he emphasized the need for an intergovernmental panel, because continuous ocean governance is essential for countering the serious threats the ocean faces.

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