Interview with Ambassador Hans Wilhelm Longva

Norwegian jurist and top diplomat Hans Wilhelm Longva is especially known for his diplomatic role in the Middle East. These days, the UNEP Shelf Programme benefits from his extensive and impressive career.

Hans Wilhelm Longva

GRID-Arendal:  Can you present yourself and explain your relation to the UNEP Shelf Programme?

Longva I was Director General of the Legal Department of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1995 to 2002. In that capacity I was also heading the Norwegian team to the negotiations between Russia and Norway on maritime delimitation in the Barents Sea and the Arctic Ocean. I returned to the Legal Department of our Foreign Ministry in 2008. I am now responsible for a project relating to assistance to African coastal States in the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured. GRID-Arendal plays an important role in this project, inter alia through desktop studies of the continental shelves in question based on modern Geographical Information Systems technology (GIS).

GRID-Arendal:  What's Norway's role in the delineation of the continental shelf work?

Longva According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) the outer limits of the continental shelf may either be up to 200 nautical miles, or, when the outer edge of the continental margin is beyond 200 nautical miles, up to the outer edge of the continental margin. When a coastal State intends to establish the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, it shall submit particulars of such limits to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) along with supporting scientific and technical data. The CLCS shall consider the data and other material submitted by the coastal State and make recommendations to the coastal State on matters related to the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf, notably the delineation. It is then up to the coastal State to establish the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. If this is done on the basis of the recommendations of the CLCS, the outer limits of the continental shelf thus established shall be final and binding.

The rules relating to the establishment of the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles require in-depth knowledge in several scientific and technical disciplines, notably geology, geophysics and hydrography. They also require interdisciplinary scientific and technical cooperation in the preparation of the data and materials to be used in the submissions to the CLCS. Many developing countries face challenges in preparing these submissions. This is why the United Nations General Assembly has repeatedly called upon States with the necessary financial and technical resources and relevant capacity and expertise to assist developing States in the preparation of submissions to the CLCS regarding the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles.

Norway is among the many States that have benefited from the development of the new law of the sea, which culminated with the adoption in 1982, and subsequent entry into force, of UNCLOS. We have had the means to exercise our rights to the natural resources of the seas and oceans off our coasts. Today the exploitation of the oil and gas resources on our continental shelf provides an important basis for our wealth and welfare. Our experience is of relevance to developing countries both in Africa and elsewhere. We feel a responsibility to share our experience with them. Our support to African countries that intend to establish the outer limits of their continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles must be seen in this context. The aim is to enable them to exercise their rights to the natural resources on their continental shelf and thus provide them with an important basis for economic and social development.

GRID-Arendal:  More specifically, can you explain the work done in West-Africa?

Longva Our West African partners are Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Our cooperation is based on African ownership, African cooperation and Norwegian support. The Norwegian support includes a desktop study of the continental shelf of our West African partners provided by GRID-Arendal and based on modern Geographical Information Systems technology (GIS), financing of the acquisition and processing of additional seismic and bathymetric data needed in order to support their submissions to the CLCS, management of the acquisition program, training and capacity building, and, where applicable, assistance as regards the determination of baselines and the establishment of an exclusive economic zone. In addition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and GRID-Arendal, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate and the Norwegian Mapping Authority are involved in the project on the Norwegian side.

The collection of data has now been concluded successfully and the project enters a new phase. The data will be analyzed and then the drafting of the submissions will start. During this phase there will be a close cooperation between Norwegian and African technical experts. Political decisions will also be required for the good progress of the project. These political decisions will of course be the sole responsibility of our West African partners.

GRID-Arendal:  How would you compare this project to other diplomacy projects in which you have been active during your career?

Longva The sub-regional cooperation established between seven West African coastal states and the Norwegian support to their continental shelf project represents a rather unique model of cooperation. In my view both with regard to the African ownership, the African cooperation and the Norwegian support it represents an experience, which in many cases may serve as a model for future development cooperation.

GRID-Arendal: Do you have any personal relationship with the sea?

Longva My most active personal relationship with the sea is that I enjoy swimming.


Monday 14 Oct 2013