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Developing states make it in time for the last redistribution of territory since colonial times

May 13th 2009 is the date for one of the major milestones in defining the new world ocean political map. It was until yesterday that most of the states signatories of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) had time to submit their dossiers with information on the limits of the continental shelf, the outermost maritime zone in which coastal states have sovereign rights over the seabed and its precious resources (i.e. oil, gas and mineral deposits) and its environmental richness (i.e. unique ecosystems and biodiversity).

Out of a total of 43 states that managed to submit their dossiers 31 are developing countries and 18 of them received assistance from the UNEP Shelf Programme, which is managed by the Norwegian foundation GRID-Arendal based in Southern Norway. The assistance was mostly related to the intricate technical work that needs to be done in order to figure out the position of the outer limits of the continental shelf according to Article 76 of the UNCLOS. Their technical dossiers will be evaluated by a UN body, the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), in order to become definitive.

Furthermore 37 states, 27 of them developing, submitted preliminary information on the position of those limits in order to be granted more time to finish the complete dossier. Their final analysis of the position of the limits of the continental shelf once evaluated by the CLCS, will secure their sovereign rights and obligations over vast extensions of the sea bottom. 21 out of the 27 developing states that submitted preliminary information received also assistance from the UNEP Shelf Programme which is mostly funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This successful marathonian international cooperation effort to beat the clock ticking towards 13 of May 2009 reinforces the principles of the UNCLOS, dubbed the “Constitution of the Oceans”. The UNCLOS is the reference legal framework for maritime activities established towards the maintenance of peace and security, optimum utilization and sharing of living and non-living resources and preservation of the marine environment from human pressures.

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For more info:

Morten Sørensen, Head, Marine Programme, GRID-Arendal, Tel: +47 91 12 47 00, E-mail:

Janet Fernandez Skaalvik, Head off Communications, GRID-Arendal, Tel: +47 41 49 94 72, , E-mail: , Skype: janet.skaalvik

Thursday 14 May 2009
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