50 years ago, on 17 August 1967, Malta tabled a United Nations proposal which resulted in the adoption of the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) – Prof David Attard, Director of the International Maritime Law Institute (IMLI) recalled during a meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade Promotion, Carmelo Abela. Because of this initiative, Malta is considered the pioneer of UNCLOS and its outcomes.

Through its first Permanent Representative to the UN, the late Maltese diplomat Dr Arvid Pardo formalised this proposal to the UN’s Secretary General which gave birth to doctrine that states the seabed, ocean floor and sub-soil, are ‘the common heritage of mankind’, to only be used and exploited for peaceful purposes and the benefit of mankind as a whole.

This culminated in the famous three-hour speech delivered by Dr Pardo at the UN’s 1515th meeting of the General Assembly on 1 November, which triggered the later negotiations of UNCLOS, and other legal developments that subsequently earned Dr Pardo the title ‘Father of the Law of the Sea’.

Minister Abela and Prof Attard agreed that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs & Trade Promotion and IMLI will work together to organise a commemorative event marking the anniversary of Dr Pardo’s speech, and the adoption of the resolution:

The examination of the question of the reservation exclusively for peaceful purposes of the sea bed and ocean floor and the sub-soil thereof, underlying the high seas beyond the limits of present national jurisdiction, and their use of resources in the interests of mankind.

Minister Abela underscored the significance of commemorating these important anniversaries which have left an indelible mark on the history of mankind, and continue to guide us in today’s world. And how the doctrine of the ‘human heritage of mankind’ underpinned the idea of sharing our common goods, which today has extended to all issues concerning our common environment and has even been extended to include outer space.

Minister Abela and Prof Attard also discussed possible initiatives that Malta could undertake to further strengthen international maritime law.

Source: Government of Malta