The President of Malta

Diskors mill-E.T. George Vella, President ta’ Malta, fil-Kommemorazzjoni tal-50 Anniversarju tal-IOI, 14 Dicembru 2022, (Diskors bl-Ingliż)

I am very pleased to join such a highly reputed group of experts and guests to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the IOI and thank the Institute for seeking my participation at this event.

I warmly welcome the Honorary President of the IOI, a very old friend, Dr Awni Benham, with whom I had the pleasure of collaborating over the years.

Dr Benham, you are most welcome in Malta, and among us here today.

Apart from the 50th Anniversary of the IOI, today’s occasion also serves as an excellent opportunity to reflect on the Institute’s very close links between Malta and the adoption of UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

This year is a very significant one also because it marks the 40th anniversary of the adoption of UNCLOS by the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1982, and the opening for signature of the Convention.

Two names are crucial in the historical rapport between our island nation with a strong and long maritime history, the IOI and UNCLOS. It is very fitting that we applaud the work and collaboration between Professor Elisabeth Mann Borgese and Ambassador Arvid Pardo.

It is thanks to their ultimate conviction that oceans can be an important instrument of peace and that we can today speak of the successes and accomplishments made over the past decades.

This vision was further consolidated by a drive to achieve environmental justice for developing and the least developed countries through governance of the Ocean.

Their philosophy was reflected in the IOI activities and training, resulting in the IOI and its training becoming early exponents of what is now widespread and widely accepted policy thinking on the Ocean and development issues.

Nowadays the IOI is globally renowned as an early pioneer in the struggle to protect the Ocean and ocean communities of island and developing states.

Malta is proud to host the IOI and over the years has afforded diplomatic status to this flagship organisation.   

During the coming two years as non-Permanent Member of the UN Security Council, Malta will consider as one of our priority files, the one dealing with Climate Change and Oceans.

The establishment of the IOI in Malta and Maltese interests since its founding in 1972, with the first Pacem in Maribus conference and debates being held in Malta as early as 1970. The consequent maturation of this relationship over the years, has been bolstered by the continuous exchange between the IOI and policy- and decision-makers in and from Malta.

In today’s context, I wish to recall the setting up of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea. This proposal originated with Elisabeth Mann Borgese with the intention of keeping Ocean issues at the forefront of UN deliberations, and efforts to establish it came to fruition through the dedication and support of the Maltese delegation to the UN. 

Allow me to open a small parenthesis and spare a word in honour of our dear, late colleague Ambassador Saviour Borg who worked tirelessly on this, and several other related initiatives, and upon whose expertise and dedication I relied fully during my terms as Minister for Foreign Affairs between 1996-98 and 2013-2017.

Malta is truly indebted to this seasoned diplomat, who moulded in no small measure the country’s sound multilateral profile.

Over its 50-year history, IOI has trained young and mid-career practitioners in contemporary approaches to coastal and ocean management, with a strong emphasis on the moral, ethical, and legal aspects of Ocean Governance.

The IOI has mentored an international group of alumni, now numbering about 2000 world-wide and hailing from about 140 countries, some of whom now occupy leading policy-making positions in their respective countries.

Tangible benefits have accrued to Malta and its policy-makers from hosting the annual IOI Training Programme on Regional Ocean Governance for the Mediterranean, Black, Baltic and Caspian Seas, Malta, as well as the MA Degree in Ocean Governance, and also the Pacem in Maribus Conference Series and several other events addressing pertinent ocean issues and challenges.

Several Maltese alumni of the IOI have benefitted from training and capacity development events, significantly those held here in Malta. I will only mention a few cases to illustrate the extent of their results and outreach:

  • Master of Arts in Ocean Governance: graduates are presently working within the Maltese representation in Brussels; the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA); local law firms dealing with maritime issues;
  • The 5-week IOI Malta Training Programme on Regional Ocean Governance: IOI alumni from this training course are presently with: the Maritime Squadron (AFM), ERA, the University of Malta, local Ministries and Authorities;
  • The Elisabeth Mann Borgese (EMB) Research Bursary for postgraduate studies in the field of marine sciences, ocean governance and/or maritime affairs. Past prominent recipients of this award are the Hon. Dr Alicia Bugeja Said (2010-11, Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Animal Welfare, Malta), Dr Daniel Buhagiar (2013-14, winner of the Best Innovation Award at Offshore Energy Conference in 2020).

These are just some examples.

The IOI, over the years, has been privileged to benefit from the wisdom, expertise, and support of many Maltese experts in creating, implementing, and furthering its mission goals. 

In turn, the events and training initiatives that the Institute has piloted, have informed and underpinned Malta’s proposals and contributed to the country’s leadership on Ocean issues in the national, regional, and international policy debate.

Even more broadly, this Institute has remained a prominent contributor to Malta’s highly respected standing in multilateral circles and acted as a concrete and longstanding commitment to a principle-driven agenda that promotes the collective, global good. The IOI can rest assured of Malta’s continued commitment and support in fulfilling its mission in the future.

Thank you very much.

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