Thirty years after the adoption of UNCLOS 1982 (Part 1 of 2)
Paper Edition | Page: 7
The 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) has contributed very substantially to the development of peace, stability, the environment and the economic needs of the world community, despite many unsettled issues.
UNCLOS has been able to ensure the relative balance of the interests of coastal states as well as user states and maritime powers. Equally, it has also balanced the interests of developing and developed nations in maritime-resource management and ocean-space utilization.
In fact, it even has provisions dealing with the rights and interests of landlocked as well as geographically disadvantaged states. It has also confirmed the national unity and the sovereignty of archipelagic states, like Indonesia, although it is understood that not all archipelagos are regarded as having the same rights and obligations as archipelagic states.
It has also dealt with various other issues, such as navigation rights and obligations, enclosed and semi-enclosed seas, like the South China Sea, the regimes for straits used for international navigation, the protection of the marine environment, the conduct of marine scientific research, as well as dispute-settlement mechanisms to deal with disputes on the application of the UNCLOS provisions.
Most of the provisions relating to the establishment of mechanisms to implement the various provisions have also been established and have been working diligently within the last couple of years, particularly the International Seabed Authority (ISA) in Jamaica dealing with international seabed-area resources, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg dealing with the settlement of disputes between states in implementing the provisions of UNCLOS, and the Continental Shelf Commission (CSC) in New York dealing with the issue of the extended continental shelf beyond the 200-mile EEZ to the outer edge of the continental margin.
The International Seabed Authority in Jamaica has formulated rules and regulations dealing with the exploration of polymetallic nodules in the international seabed area, polymetallic sulfide and the metal crust on mountains on the ocean floors.
In fact, various exploration areas have been contracted to various parties, such as to Japan, South Korea, China, France, Germany, Russia, a consortium of Eastern European companies/Poland, Tonga and Nauru, all in the Clarion-Clipperton zone in the Pacific Ocean. India has also obtained exploration rights in the central plain of the Indian Ocean for polymetallic nodules, China in the Southwestern Indian Ocean for seamount metal crusts, and Russia for metallic sulfide in the central Atlantic Ocean.
In addition, various consultations in New York and other places have taken place in order to make the provisions of UNCLOS more effective, such as the Meetings of States Parties annually and the Informal Process and Consultations to discuss the UNCLOS implementation. Moreover, numerous international scientific and academic discussions with regard to UNCLOS and its implications have taken place all over the world.
At the same time, the Implementing Agreement (1994) dealing with seabed mining issues, the Implementing Agreement (1995) dealing with the management of straddling fish stocks as well as highly migratory fish species are also being implemented worldwide. One of them is the 2000 Honolulu Convention dealing with the management of straddling and highly migratory fish stocks in the West and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPFC/West and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission). Other similar
institutions have also been established and are operational in various other Oceans.
There are of course some issues which have not been clearly regulated and therefore will have to be developed through the general practices of states. For instance, the roles of tiny islands, rocks and other features in claiming maritime zones and within the context of maritime delimitation between adjacent and opposite states.
Also the application of “straight archipelagic baselines” for archipelagos which are not archipelagic states, as well as other issues of “equitable” solution in delimitation matters.
The article is based on a paper presented by the author at the 30th anniversary of UNCLOS held at the Yeosu Exposition, South Korea on Aug. 12, which was also attended by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon. Prof. Djalal is currently the advisor to the marine affairs and fisheries minister and former president of the International Seabed Authority.