Rarotonga, Cook Islands, 21 August 2023 - The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) received a Cook Islands delegation at its 58th session held at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York last week.
The first presentation by the Cook Islands delegation was delivered during the plenary session of the Commission and included a pre-recorded video statement by Prime Minister, the Honourable Mark Brown, addressing members of the Commission. The second and third presentations, more detailed and technical in nature, were delivered to members of the Sub-commission by the Cook Islands delegation, present in New York.
The functions of the CLCS are to consider and make recommendations on the data and other material submitted by coastal states concerning the outer limits of the continental shelf in areas where those limits extend beyond 200 nautical miles, and to provide scientific and technical advice if requested by a coastal state. The CLCS process allows the Cook Islands to ensure legal certainty over its seabed rights beyond 200 nautical miles.
The Cook Islands, as a coastal state and party to UNCLOS, made its first submission concerning the Manihiki Plateau in 2009. That first submission unfortunately concluded with fundamental technical and procedural divergence of views with the recommendations approved by the then Commission.
A revised submission is the avenue available to a coastal state under UNCLOS when it disagrees with the recommendations of the CLCS. By making a revised submission, the Cook Islands is now looking forward to a robust and comprehensive consideration from the CLCS on the newly submitted data and information.
Through the series of presentations to the Commission, the Cook Islands have now fully engaged with the process, and the dialogue will continue with the members of the Sub-Commission over the course of the next few months.
While the process is still in its early stages, the Cook Islands remain positive and confident of a successful outcome this time around. The establishment of the extent of the continental shelf represents the opportunity to further Cook Islands' knowledge and discovery of the deep ocean. As stated by Prime Minister Brown during his address at the first presentation, "We have always been proud voyagers and stewards of our ocean, ensuring that we proceed with caution to enable both the conservation and the sustainable use of our marine resources."
Read Prime Minister Brown's full statement here: mfai.gov.ck/sites/default/files/2023-08/Prime_Minister_Mark_Brown_Opening_Statement_CLCS.pdf
The Cook Islands delegation to the Commission presentation was led by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) Director of the Treaties, Oceans and Multilaterals Division, Sandrina Thondoo, and supported by Vaipo Mataora GIS Manager, Infrastructure Cook Islands, and Dr. Alain Murphy, Consultant for the Government of the Cook Islands, Geolimits Consulting.
For further information on the revised submission, please contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.