Workshop on Implementing UNCLOS in IORA Member States & Maritime Law Enforcement successfully delivered

The Foundation, in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka (MoFA), the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Secretariat, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), held its third law of the sea workshop for IORA Member States.

On 30 October – 3 November 2023, the Max Planck Foundation and its Partners successfully gathered participants from 18 IORA Member States and the IORA Secretariat in Weligama (Sri Lanka) for a three-day presentation and discussion of the Foundation’s 23 volume ‘Comparative Study on the Implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in IORA Member States’, followed by a two-day Regional Maritime Dialogue on Law Enforcement led by UNODC. Concerning the Foundation’s contributions, the workshop was held with a generous support of the German Federal Foreign Office.

Opening remarks were provided by Mr Rifa Wadood (MoFA Sri Lanka), Ms Teelotma Ghoorah (IORA Secretariat), Rear Admiral Pujitha Vithana (Sri Lanka Coast Guard), Ambassador Dr Felix Neumann (Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Sri Lanka) and Ms Siji Song (UNODC).

In addition to numerous sessions delivered by Foundation staff and UNODC consultants, the programme included presentations by invited experts and roundtable practical sessions to deepen discussions and mutual sharing of priorities and experiences among participants. Participants were provided with printed copies of the 23 volume Comparative Study on the Implementation of UNCLOS in IORA Member States.

The workshop kicked off with several sessions addressing the practices of IORA Member States concerning baselines and maritime zones, followed by a practice group exercise involving the drawing of baselines on fictious maps in a manner consistent with UNCLOS. Day one concluded with a session of maritime security in the IORA region, delivered by Captain Ranga De Zoysa (Sri Lanka Navy). Day two continued with several sessions dedicated to the similarities and differences in how IORA Member States address questions of navigational entitlements within their domestic laws implementing UNCLOS, including possible paths forward. A drafting exercise sought to develop consensus on appropriate legal texts, whilst the afternoon focused on the marine environment, protection & preservation of the marine environment and fisheries law, respectively, including a guest lecture by Ms Ganga Arachchi (Sri Lanka Attorney General Department) on pending fisheries law amendments. Day three began with a joint session on submarine cables and pipelines, including the findings of the Comparative Study followed by the experiences of Rear Admiral (Retd) YN Jayarathna (UNODC). A roundtable provided opportunities for all 18 IORA Member States participating to present their views, before a social activity involved visiting the Sri Lanka Coast Guard Headquarters and historic Galle. Finally, days four-five were led by Ms Pooja Bissoonauthsing (UNODC) and  Rear Admiral (Retd) YN Jayarathna, who took participants through three tabletop exercises to strengthen maritime law enforcement techniques and procedures, before a final quiz tested participants absorption across the five-day workshop. Closing remarks were graciously provided by Mr Rifa Wadood, Ms Melyne Aurore Tarer (IORA Secretariat) and Ms Siri Bjune (UNODC).

The Foundation looks forward to continuing cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, IORA Member States, and the IORA Secretariat on diverse issues of the law of the sea, including in the further development and consideration of a follow-up project.

The workshop was implemented within the frames of the project, The Implementation of UNCLOS: Supporting Maritime Governance in the Indian Ocean (Part IV).