U.S. will be better able to guide international cooperation to protect the marine environment as a party to UNCLOS
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The vision of UNCLOS as a constitution was introduced at the beginning of this testimony, and it must be revisited here. As a constitution, UNCLOS is not meant to be an inflexible, stagnant document. Rather, its provisions must be interpreted over time, and its processes applied to our expanding environmental awareness about our world’s oceans and the resources within them. In fact, subsequent multilateral environmental agreements have both reaffirmed and expanded upon UNCLOS’s regime for the marine environment.13
The United States will be in a better position to address the existing deficiencies or limitations in the rule of law for the oceans if it becomes a signatory to UNCLOS. In its 1998 joint statement, which provides the basis for my next remarks, the environmental community urged the United States to embrace its leadership role in the world by ensuring that UNCLOS serves as a framework for securing more protective regimes for the conservation of marine ecosystems and wildlife. This role must continue beyond accession to participation and negotiation for improved international environmental practices over time. I would like to take this opportunity to briefly mention a few of these emerging and important issues.
U.S. ratification of UNCLOS will have a positive effect on the environment as the conservation of ocean wildlife, the protection of delicate marine ecosystems, and the control of marine pollution are by their very nature multilateral issues. U.S. ratification will demonstrate U.S. commitment to address these problems in a cooperative manner at a time when some view U.S. policy as generally antithetical to multilateral arrangements. The environmental community strongly favors UNCLOS and U.S. ratification would send a message of support