What is the Continental Shelf Programme?
The Continental Shelf Programme, a programme of GRID-Arendal, began with a Feasibility Study in 2003 following a resolution of the UN General Assembly calling on UNEP’s GRID network to coordinate work on marine data related to Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The full resolution text is given in the chapter about our history below.
The Continental Shelf Programme was established to assist developing States and SIDS to complete the activities required to delineate the outer limits of the continental shelf. States are faced with the costly and complex work of data identification, collection, analysis and submission preparation. Due to limited technical and financial capacity many developing States and SIDS will not be able to complete the submission process without considerable external support, both technical and financial.
The Programme will assist with the technical complexities of the data requirements that are the main challenge in preparing a submission. In addition, when requested, the Programme can provide additional services. The Continental Shelf Programme is designed to:
- store, handle and facilitate geo-scientific marine reserach data to support Article 76 submissions;
- assist in the processing and interpretation of the data;
- provide in-country Article 76 task forces with access to training and workshops;
- support the technical and legal foundations of a submission;
- promote the establishment of national/regional/central databanks at the completion of the project;
- build long-term capacity in information technology as applied to marine science data management and compliance with UNCLOS;
- raise awareness of the submission process.
The Continental Shelf Programme has been supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs since its establishment, and has from 2006 received NOK 9 mill annually. This covers the core activities of the programme and initial support to developing states including services from the One Stop Data Shop that are free of charge.
When it comes to more extensive support the Programme needs to recover some of the costs. This is normally done through development of project proposals with the developing countries that then are presented for bilateral funding or funding from the UN Trust Fund.
The Continental Shelf Programme is committed to assisting States in sourcing adequate funds to prepare a comprehensive submission.
The UN has given a ten year time limit (from the State's UNCLOS ratification date) for submission to the Comission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. For early signatories of UNCLOS the deadline is May 2009 (this includes many developing states)