The 57th General Assembly of the United Nations in 2002 called upon the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to expand the capacity of existing centres within the Global Resource Information Database (GRID) network to assist developing States and small island developing States in their compliance with Article 76 of UNCLOS. The decision of the General Assembly reads as follows;
... “Calls upon the United Nations Environment Programme, working within the Global Resource Information Database (GRID) system for data and information management, to expand on a voluntary basis the capacity of existing GRID centres to store and handle research data from the outer continental margin, on a basis to be mutually agreed with the coastal State, and complementary to existing regional data centres, giving due regard to confidentiality needs and in accordance with Part XIII of the Convention, and making use of existing data management mechanisms under the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and the International Hydrographic Organisation, with a view to serving the needs of coastal States, and in particular developing countries and small island developing States, in their compliance with article 76 of the Convention;”
The background for the resolution was the awareness of the technical and economical difficulties facing developing States and small island developing States in their compliance with the provisions of Article 76 of UNCLOS regarding the delineation of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles. The definitions and criteria set fort in Article 76 refers to parameters typically related to marine geoscientific research data.
Due to the high cost of acquiring these data, it is of vital importance to utilize existing data, as far as possible, for continental shelf delineation, environmental control and sustainable resource management.
Current estimates indicate that up to 60-80 coastal States may be entitled to an extended continental shelf. The vast majority of these are developing States and small island developing States.
In accordance with Resolution 57/141, UNEP, through its GRID Centre in Arendal, Norway, initiated a study to report on how UNEP might comply with the request from the General Assembly. The objective of this study was to clarify the specific needs of developing States and small island developing States and to design a plan for the implementation of a facility within GRID that would meet these needs. The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs supported this study.