On 28 September 2022, the first-ever Women in the Law of the Sea Conference ended after three days of thought-provoking presentations and discussions on the empowerment of women in the law of the sea, marine sciences and ocean affairs.
Structured around nine panels, the Conference was the opportunity to hear from leaders and experts in ocean governance and the law of the sea. The participants shared their views and perspectives on key achievements of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 40 years after its adoption. They suggested ways to advance our understanding of the barriers that women are still experiencing when choosing careers in the law of the sea, marine sciences, deep-sea research and ocean affairs.
Introducing Session IV on marine scientific research and transfer of technology, H.E. Mrs. Mathu Joyini, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations (UN), emphasized the importance of promoting gender parity in all aspects of ocean affairs. “This Conference provides a timely opportunity to celebrate the particular contribution of women to the progressive development of the law of the sea as reflected in UNCLOS and related instruments,” she said.
Opening Session V dedicated to the protection of the environment, H.E. Mr. Odd-Inge Kvalheim, Deputy Permanent Representative of Norway to the UN, emphasized the importance of collaboration towards better empowerment of women and gender equality for all stakeholders: “We must work actively towards achieving gender equality in all ocean-related sectors and the law of the sea context in general. The Women in the Law of the Sea Conference organized by the International Seabed Authority is an important step in the right direction.”
Of the 45 selected speakers, 27 were from the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States. The Conference was co-chaired by Judge María Teresa Infante Caffi of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and Dr. Annick de Marffy-Mantuano, former President of the Institut du droit économique de la mer and former Director of the Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea of the United Nations.
“Participation in the Conference shows the significance of UNCLOS to new generations who uphold the role of the law of the sea in fostering a more cohesive international community,” commented Judge María Teresa Infante Caffi.
“The participation of so many competent and enthusiastic women coming from all regions of the world is concrete evidence that UNCLOS, which stood the test of time for 40 years, will continue to regulate the activities of States on the oceans thanks to its in-built flexibility allowing the developments of new norms,” noted Dr. Annick de Marffy-Mantuano. “As Arvid Parpo said: [National interest of States] ‘must yield to the supreme interests of humankind (he wrote mankind) if we are to survive and to expand beneficial uses of the oceans,’” she added.
Invited to close the Conference, the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Ms. Fatima Rabab, commended ISA for organizing the Conference and for its pioneering report “Empowering Women from LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS in Deep-Sea Research” launched at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in June this year. Ms. Rabab stressed that “increasing the role of women in ocean science at all levels could be transformative in how the most vulnerable countries take their place in the blue economy. Harnessing the power of science, technology, and innovation – and the empowerment and inclusion of women and girls – are ambitions that must not stop at the coastline.”
The Conference was organized to mark the 40th anniversary of the adoption of UNCLOS in 1982. Through this initiative and others, including the International Gender Champions’ Impact Group on Research and Oceans for Women and the Women in Deep-Sea Research project, ISA is committed to contributing to breaking down tangible and intangible silos and barriers to empowering women and allowing them to continue their impressive work on a fair and innovative legal framework governing our oceans. The Conference proceedings will be published in early 2023.
Further information on the Women in the Law of the Sea Conference, including the programme and speaker profiles, is available here: https://www.isa.org.jm/event/women-law-sea-conference.
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