Over 90 percent of the planet\'s living and non-living resources are found within a few hundred kilometers of the coasts. On or near these coasts live two-thirds of the world\'s people. Without the sea, life on Earth would be impossible. Our planet would be a barren desert like Mars -about which, paradoxically, we probably know more than we do about the oceans.
For the human imagination, the sea has always been a symbol of vastness and freedom. Now, at the close of the second millennium, competition for scarce resources is showing this freedom to have its limits. Growing demand is placing the marine environment and resources under increasing strain. History teaches that scarcity can be the cause of conflict and war.
However, it may be hoped that the will today exists to shape our destinies otherwise.
In an historic speech on 1 November1967, Malta\'s Ambassador to the United Nations, Arvid Pardo, called for international regulations to prevent the oceans from becoming a theatre for escalating conflict between nations, to half the poisoning of our oceans through negligence, and to protect its resources from exhaustion. His words did not fall on deaf ears. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a declaration providing that all sea-bed resources beyond the limits of national jurisdiction constitute the common heritage of mankind.
Fifteen years later, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - which attracted a record 159 signatures - provided the international community with an effective legal framework covering navigational rights, territorial sea limits, rights of passage, questions of economic jurisdiction, the conservation and management of living marine resources, and procedures for the peaceful settlement of disputes.
But the value of legal instruments is dependent on how for they are respected and enforced. This planet does not belong to the adults of today and should not be managed on the basis of short-term considerations of economic gain or political power. It the signatures of our children were needed to ratify decisions that affect their future, many of the destructive actions perpetrated today would certainly cease.
Whatever we do, the ocean will survive in one way or another. What is more problematic is whether we shall preserve it in a state that ensures humanity\'s survival and well-being Time is short, and the issue is in the balance.
The United Nation has declared 1998 the International Year of the Ocean as a celebration of this source of life and civilisation. But this international year is also a reminder of the need to protect this most precious of resources, an affirmation of our commitment to safeguard the rights of future generations, for whom we hold our planet - and its life-sustaining oceans - in trust.
Courtesy: Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO)
To commemorate the occasion Pakistan Post Office is issuing a commemorative postage stamp of Rs. 5/- denomination on December 15,1998.